In this series, Crisis in the Organization, we want to cover internal communications. This may be one of those overlooked areas of management which can cause a lot of negative issues in the organization. In this post, we'll cover some key points that you want to address when dealing with a crisis as a leader.
Be intentional in telling the truth.
When you're dealing with a crisis in your organization, the biggest area that is at risk is trust within the organization. An immediate tendency for most people in a crisis is to figure out who they can trust. That needs to be you. You don't need to tell everything and you don't need to explain everything -including internal communications. That could put you in greater risk. What you have to maintain is your honesty. If you can't say something, make sure not to say it – and explain that you're not at liberty to say anything about that topic. If you don't know if something you've been told is true, avoid saying it. You want those around you to know that you are committed to their trust and that you are going to be consistent in the crisis – and that's all about being honest.
Be intentional about what you say-and what you don't say.
Whatever you say will obviously have significant effect. Plan it out for what you will say and what you won't say. Write it out. Rehearse it. Don't just go with the first thought in your head and then blurt it out. We've seen famous people do that, and it has resulted in disaster. You don't need to be “canned” so it does sound like you're reading off a notecard. Just make sure you are very clear on the critical points and stick to them. Conversely, recognize what you shouldn't say and stay far away from those areas. If you feel like you need to be strong on certain points, stay with them. Repeat them and refer to them as often as possible as long as they promote a positive, focused and committed strategy.
Be intentional about building and encouraging the team.
It is critical that you keep a positive, uplifting tone in the middle of a crisis. With that in mind, stay away from criticizing and demeaning comments. As the saying goes, “if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything.” Avoid disparaging comments about others, or you may be judged under the same criteria as you presented to others. Instead, focus on the solutions. Give people hope and encouragement. Give them opportunities to see how the situation will improve under your leadership. Show support for leaders above you in front of others, as you are able to do.
Be intentional about keeping people working with a focused commitment.
A crisis has an uncanny ability to bring everything to a halt in the organization. Inactivity allows people to start having internal communications which are unproductive and destructive. If people are “on the clock” and are working, avoid times where everyone is drifting around and not getting things done. Make it a point to ensure that everyone is occupied on the important tasks they need to complete. Give everyone a clear idea of what they should be doing and how they can improve conditions in the organization. Additionally, make sure you are staying busy and that you are sending the message that you are working on what is best for the organization as well.
Be intentional about influencing the conversations towards positive outcomes.
We all know that there is going to be negative talk. Some people love negative conversations in internal communications. They love talking about the latest gossip. Recognize that it is likely there will be some of that kind of conversation going on. Make a pre-emptive strike and address rumors and negative talk right away when you have a chance. Don't try to censor people. Do make it clear that lying, false rumors and destructive gossip is unacceptable and will be dealt with promptly and properly. You don't need to condemn people, but you do have the right to condemn the conversation that has intent to destroy the organization. If you can direct the conversation to a positive outcome without making people feel like they are being attacked, that's a great approach which directs people towards trust and focused effort.
Above all, keep your head up and lead with confidence. Whatever you say, your team and your organization needs to know that you believe in what you say.