Working with Your Executive Team in the Midst of a Team Crisis

A main reason why you put an executive team together is to create successful situations for you and your organization. That objective should be pretty obvious. We all want to win and be successful at what we do.  We just don’t focus on the potential opportunity for team crisis -and that’s understandable.

However, life happens. Not every day is a successful day and not every season in your professional life is what you had originally planned.

Another main reason why you created your executive team was for those days and times where everything wasn’t going to go smoothly. When times are great, you want the support and affirmation. When times are bad, that’s when you need the support and affirmation.  You need the assurance that you’re going to make it through the situation.

As you’re going through the tough times, here are some key points to keep in mind as you work with your executive team.

Start communicating about the team crisis with your executive team members as soon as possible – and maintain it.

How many times do we see a developing situation and decide that we don’t need to do anything? Worse yet, we realize that the situation is out of control when it’s too late to change it? From running up a credit card balance, a sore tooth, or a car that is running poorly, we let these things linger because we don’t want to “bother” anyone (or ourselves, for that matter) with the process of resolving it. Instead, we need to communicate with those people who can help us fix or resolve the situation before it gets bad.

There was a commercial for Fram oil filters back in the 1970s which fits here. A mechanic talks about the importance of changing your oil in your car  Otherwise, he explains, you run the risk of tearing up your engine if you don’t. He then looks into the camera and says, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” That same principle applies when you’re working with your team. When you see the problem, you really need to make the decision to start communicating right away when you see the crisis. Give your members the opportunity to think about solutions to stop the crisis. This approach will help you maintain clarity and peace of mind.

Avoid isolating yourself from the help you need.

Many people get into what I call the “Lone Ranger” mode of thinking when a team crisis happens. They start to think negative thoughts, such as “no one cares and no one will help me, so I just need to take care of this situation by myself.” Or they think that “I just need to get my big boy/girl pants on and just plow through this situation alone.”  Frankly, this doesn’t make sense. Sometimes we are not equipped to deal with every situation we face. Instead, we need to delegate part of the crisis management to others as they are more knowledgeable about the solutions.

The reality is that even The Lone Ranger had his buddy, Tonto. The Lone Ranger couldn’t do everything by himself and neither can you. Asking for help can be risky and even embarrassing. However, the risks and red-faced discussions are a small cost for the benefits of gaining solutions you need. Suffering in silence is just hard. Dealing with a team crisis by yourself may seem easier, but it can be expensive for your personal well-being and even your pocketbook.

Put your executive team in the best situation to help you by being honest with them and with yourself.

It’s easy to fall into the tendency of holding back the terrible details. Who wants to think about bad things? Or who wants to tell others about what’s wrong and, worse yet, how you really messed things up? It just feels easier to cover things up and avoid talking about everything involved. We seem to think that protecting our secrets will protect us from looking bad in front of those people we respect.

Instead, being honest and forthcoming about details with your executive team is the best approach. Hiding details and avoiding the necessary discussions will make matters worse. You want solutions and you want resolution to the team crisis – so don’t be a roadblock to either of them. In most cases, you want both as soon as possible so that you can get back to “normal.” When you hold back key points and important information, the people who can help you are not able to do their work. Instead, tell them what’s going on and be honest with them. More than likely, they’ve faced similar situations with other clients or friends – or even themselves. They want to help you.

Crisis is inevitable. Crisis is going to happen some times in our lives. Rather than avoid it, give yourself the opportunity to ease your pain and anxiety. Work with those on your executive team who are equipped and positioned to give you the support and counsel you need.

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