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Leading Through Crisis - Steps to Take & Questions to Ask

Thursday, April 30, 2020
John Kennedy is quoted as famously saying, “When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” Whether linguistically true or not, the notion is an interesting one. And one that is being put to the test at companies across America Covid-19 wreaks a heavy toll. Leading through crisis takes a special eye for the opportunities that may be present to build a stronger team, all while acknowledging the damage done. To explore how to lead during this unprecedented time, let’s see what the experts have to say.
 
Coleman Ruiz, a trainer, educator, writer, and USNA graduate, recently wrote “10 Things to Keep in Mind in a Crisis.”  As the title illustrates, he provides ten key things that leaders should focus on in a crisis. A few of our favorites include:
 
 - Be patient in making decisions, yet quick, hyper-efficient, and focused, in execution
 - More than ever, stick to your process over end-state. You must be prepared to move the finish line.
 - Work to be much more horizontally aware, and/or horizontally collaborative.
 - Use pre-mortems and after-action-reviews and consider the “Most Likely Course of Action” and “Most Dangerous Course of Action.”
 
Another resource on this topic is this recent Forbes.com article by David Benjamin and David Komlos. In “The Coronavirus Is A Defining Moment For Your Company. Here Are Questions You Should Be Asking”, the authors echo many of the tips Ruiz supplies, expounding on them in terms of the evolving chaos crisis. To this, they add that “Great leaders know how to ask great questions.” For Benjamin and Komlos, great questions do the following:
 
 - Engage all the right people and catalyze great conversations,
 - Give boundaries to the challenge without biasing or unnecessarily constraining the answers,
 - Call for action, name those who will act, and convey a sense of urgency for action and results,
 - Set an aspirational stretch goal that is within reach, but only if things change.

These great questions, they say, “will generate momentum, trust and excitement out of the chaos that is otherwise overwhelming everyone right now.”
 
Now is the time to lead with transparency, determination, decisiveness, and collaboration, by asking the right questions and taking the right steps. Both of these articles provide deep and even unexpected insight into leading during a crisis. While the cost of a crisis is vast, so is the opportunity to move forward with resolve.