Properly Assessing the Situation
I hope that your summer is going well (or at least as well as possible). Here is the third installment in our series of FREE leadership tips, infographics, and webinars helpful as you work to innovate, avoid management pitfalls and lead through these troubled times and into a brighter future. This leadership insight is from Dr. Brian Schrader, the National Project Director at Educational Management Solutions. Drop me an email and let me know if these topics are helpful to you or reach out to Dr. Schrader if you have follow up questions.
LEADING THROUGH CRISIS
Topic #3: Properly Assessing the Situation
Despite the centuries’ old wisdom of the Boy Scout Motto, “Be Prepared”, with the emergence of COVID-19, it has become clear that the world was anything but. Instead, the first seven months of the 2020 decade found countries and their respective leaders struggling to understand the crisis, constantly playing “catch up”, wasting time and energy in laying blame and pointing fingers, giving inconsistent and contradictory information and recommendations, and attempting to present a coherent “plan” for moving forward with fragmented statistics and an endless parade of subject matter “experts”. The net effect was a lot of chaos, misinformation, panic, confusion, hoarding, economic disarray, and ultimately, casualties. While unreasonable to assume that organizations (and countries) can always anticipate novel crises, there is much to be learned from what is currently happening. Crises, in a variety of forms, are scattered across world history; one can draw examples from military warfare, business, science, sports, natural disasters, medicine and even Hollywood movies like Outbreak, Contagion, or a whole host of zombie apocalypse films that semi-predicted what might happen with a contagious virus. It is important at the onset of the crisis to recognize the crisis for what it is. This can often be difficult as there will be a tendency to distort, misinterpret, or simply deny the situation entirely. An impending crisis is scary and may not always be obvious to the majority of people until things have already gotten out of control. Nonetheless, here are 3 key strategies that a leader can employ to accurately assess the situation. 1) Take a moment to figure out what the heck is really going on BEFORE people (or you) start blindly reacting in a knee jerk fashion. Drawing on our earlier “Slowing Down to Go Fast” segment, a leader can use the early crisis stage to create order, delegate responsibilities, project calm, and maximize lines of communication internally and externally. Pause to assess, anticipate, and then act. 2) Seek out information from trusted sources and avoid blaming and pointing fingers at anyone as it wastes precious time and puts people on the defensiveness while failing to properly frame the developing problem. Once it is clear that the current situation is a “crisis” situation, treat it as such from the “get-go”; do not minimize its potential impact. Recognize that others may be resistant to treating the crisis as a crisis because they are still processing information or they are unwilling/unable to cope. 3) Begin to formulate an initial working plan for how to deal with key components of the situation. Recognize that this plan will need to be revised and modified numerous times, it will need to be flexible/adaptable, and it will need to be effectively communicated to all….repeatedly. Admit to mistakes in the plan when they occur and move on, nobody is going to be able to get it all “right” in a crisis.
As you lead your school districts through the uncharted waters of COVID-19, there are many important items that one must be cognizant of, properly assessing the situation, is just the first of many.
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Thank you for all that you do to serve the students and communities to which you have been entrusted.
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Until my next Email - keep looking for ways to lead!
Chief Executive Officer
Educational Management Solutions