Leading through a crisis: 5 factors for success

Even faced with a pandemic, leaders can motivate teams by being transparent and by encouraging positive change. Here are five critical factors that leaders can use to maximize the likelihood of successful company transition in times of crisis.

1. Be honest with your team. Instead of projecting bravado and sureness about the outcome of the pandemic, be honest with your team. When faced with their fear, leaders can say “I understand that you’re afraid and unsure. Most people are.” It’s also important to share your vision about where the business is and where you want to go. “My goal is to keep the entire staff onboard without layoffs. We are going to create a pathway for success. Just hang in there.” This way, leaders will open a dialogue about the business’s prospects and let them know together you will identify a pathway to success.

2. Find new benchmarks for success. Companies are bound to face existential challenges, whether it be a downturn in the economy, a change within a particular industry or an unanticipated situational factor like COVID-19. This creates the need for business leaders and their team to identify new guideposts/markers for success. By identifying intermediate benchmarks rather than a single benchmark of success, teams can experience success on a more frequent basis and a leader can commend those successes.

3. Communicate the vision and collaborate on the solutions. My experience is combining independent consideration of strategies for problem solving, and then reviewing those strategies with my team resulted in a more efficient, effective process by which solutions were identified. The solutions were easier to implement and the team had a stronger commitment to achieving them because they participated in their creation.

4. Recognize and share success. When individuals or teams are managing significant changes, there is a greater risk for members of the team to feel anxious and/or have doubts about their abilities to implement new strategies. Hence, I positively reinforce the efforts by my team to adapt to these changes and navigate the uncertainty. Although most leaders understand the value of providing positive feedback to team members, it can be overlooked during times of transition and great stress. My experience has been that team members are more likely to flourish when they are recognized publicly for their successes.

5. Make time for human connection. In times of crisis, people are scared, sometimes lonely, and searching for ways to remain interconnected. In the absence of watercooler moments or after-hours gatherings, we instituted Zoom-equipped fireside chats. These allowed us a time to communicate weekly successes, shed light on the colleagues responsible for those successes, communicate future goals and say how we were going to achieve them. We shared the spotlight, rotating talks from me as CEO to clinicians and community liaisons, as well as outside guests. Each had a unique and personal story on how EMH had affected their lives, and how they’ve managed in the time of COVID-19.  

Ari Kalechstein is a licensed psychologist and the president and CEO of Executive Mental Health, which provides clinical psychology and neuropsychology services in California and Nevada.


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