The word “crisis” may hold negative connotations for most people, but a crisis can also represent an opportunity. Crises create energy, and that energy can be dangerous, but it can also be harnessed for greater power.
In fact, it must be harnessed because if it is ignored, it will still affect a team or a situation negatively, either through slow undermining or all at once with explosive, destructive force. This can come out in many ways. It can happen in personal situations, such as when people busy themselves to avoid dealing with the emotional implications of a terminally ill family member. It can happen in business when people seek to minimize the scope and impact of a crisis on them, their team and the company.
Leadership means facing the crisis head on. Just as people try to hide their fear and reject change, companies may also hide their concern and try to carry on as they did before. Avoiding a crisis and the associated fallout only serves to delay the inevitable. Acting soon means more time to adapt.
Crises always create stress, in individuals and across organizations, and if not dealt with, that stress gets released in destructive ways. Team members may not be handling the situation and well and might be struggling with behaviors that make the situation worse. This can include not taking care of themselves personally and reacting in the workplace, attacking colleagues with blame and anger.
It is normal to have strong feelings during a crisis, and leaders should not demand that their team suppress those feelings. Instead, they should think about when these emotional outbursts happen and how they can better support their team in developing coping mechanisms. It can be easy to develop tunnel vision during a crisis in which it is hard to see anything but the problem at hand, but people need breaks in order to work more effectively, including adequate sleep, exercise and time with family.
The good news is that the challenges a crisis brings can ultimately be transformative. Using the energy generated by a crisis to laser focus on goals and make the changes needed to get past it can be powerful, and a true leader will guide others in how to do this as well.