How to Communicate During Times of Crisis

If you think it feels a little chaotic right now, you are not alone. The COVID-19 virus is spreading, Russia and Saudi Arabia are clashing over their oil price strategy, and the stock market is on a wild roller coaster ride. 

Add the immediate global access to information and suddenly decisions are driven by emotions instead of logic and reason.  

Part of what contributes to the noise and instability during significant periods of uncertainty is haphazard communication from leaders. A few tweets or off-handed comments, pictures of empty shelves showing up on feeds and the unnerving sense of an invisible airborne threat and suddenly we’re buying dozens of rolls of toilet paper and gallons of hand sanitizer. 

After 17 years, I recently retired  from the mountain rescue team here in Boulder, Colorado. One of the strategies I learned early in my time on the team was the  mantra, “Their emergency is not my emergency.” It was meant to keep me grounded in the present. To stay calm. To get focused. It was to ensure that when I arrived on the scene I could perform effectively, collaborate efficiently with my team members, and operate with the right level of urgency. 

But never frenetically. 

During any time of unusual uncertainty, leaders have to communicate with intention. Period. 

Pat Risner, a recent guest on my podcast Sal Silvester on the Future of Leadership, has led global organizations through major crises. In a recent episode, Pat shared advice on how to lead through a crisis. Here’s what he said (paraphrased): 

  1. The leadership team has to find a way to prioritize spending more time with your people. Informal and formal times where you can listen. 
  2. Make a relentless effort to provide context and engage with your people. This has to be intensified to fit the magnitude of the situation. 
  3. Stay connected and create calm. Part of the role of the leader is to help the workforce gain a sense of control and see the way through the crisis. 
  4. Simplify everything so that people can solve the right problems.
  5. Be transparent to the fullest extent possible. 
  6. Communicate in a timely fashion with openness and honesty. 

Remember, true leaders step up during times of crisis. They communicate with intention. They operate with a reasonable level of urgency.

For some keys to doing just this, take a look at our Leading Through Crisis toolkit below. It’s free to download and will help you lead on purpose. 

Get Your Leading Through Crisis communication toolkit here








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