Crisis? What Crisis? A thought leadership piece by Safaraz Ali, for The Business Influencer publication

As business leaders, we regard ourselves as problem solvers. We all know that businesses are a manifestation of problems, and that our purpose is to solve our customers problems. For us to survive handling our customers problems, we must also solve our own problems and deal with any crisis that comes upon us.

The word crisis is often overused and frequently wrongly used. When we find ourselves in these moments, words get misinterpreted. Most of the time, the crisis itself does not destroy the business, but rather, according to Jonathan Hemus’ ‘Crisis Proof, it is the businesses inability to react and adapt accordingly.

Nobody likes talking about crises. Once we understand that in business, there is always going to be a crisis, we really can face the problem head on.

There are several challenges that a business will face when dealing with a crisis for the first time. These will be especially prevalent if the business has no crisis plan, training, experience or expertise to deal with this.

Inability to operate effectively due to fear and uncertainty

This is a stress factor which causes the ‘fight-or-flight’ response and impedes our ability to think critically in a crisis.

Failure in normal ways of working

A crisis is an extra ordinary event and differences in leadership along with management may be required to seize back control, perhaps with a more focused and directive approach.

Lack of thinking and erratic action

It is natural to want to fix something straight away in a crisis, acting and not thinking can lead to a more harmful situation.

Prioritising the wrong things and leading without integrity

We are unlikely to give the task due to consideration and put our own needs above those of others, especially our customers in a time of crisis.

Confusion clouds our judgement which leads to easy mistakes

We may find ourselves without the knowledge of the entire situation and with the tendency to believe rumours as facts, especially early on in a crisis. This can lead to communicating with inaccurate facts as the basis for our decisions.

Limited resources and normal workload becoming stretched

This can present itself in the amount or lack of people, tools and the total resources not being enough to deal with the crises. Crises are unlikely to be stopped if businesses cannot increase the resources that they had before the crisis happened.

If a crisis is not handled correctly, businesses will see a major impact and history has shown us this. Bad handling of a crisis will impact the business’s reputation, value and can even lead to personal effects in stakeholders.

A crisis can happen for several reasons however, the handling of a crisis could be because of the business culture or structure and are often mishandled because a crisis is a unique circumstance.

We can plan to eliminate the likelihood of a crisis by investing in the businesses current resources. We can focus our efforts into training and exercising, especially before an event happens. Sometimes it may prevent a crisis from happening.

Crisis Management

The British Standards Institute gives a definition as to what a crisis is. It is an event that has the ability to threaten an organisation and it is derived from unprecedented circumstances. If a business is strategic about dealing with a crisis, then they can lessen its effects with timely and strategic planning along with being able to adapt to any situation in a timely manner.

Every business will have their own explanation of how they define crisis. What is at the core of every business’s definition, is the ability to respond and prepare for any major situation. The definition should seek to think about the long-term trust and acknowledge the effects and the impacts that a sudden or unforeseen circumstance could have, not only to themselves but to the business’s shareholders.

Crisis management allows businesses to think about their values and reputation in the long term and seeks to maintain a confidence in the resources it already has and the shareholders within the business. Crisis management should be treated as a strategic activity.

An implication of crisis management is that it dictates to the planning and active involvement by senior managers. It is the responsibility of all, and no specific task should be assigned. When a crisis is managed successfully, all senior managers have an active and equal role, where no one task is carried out by an individual.

We all know as business leaders that crises are inevitable, but a crisis does not necessarily have to be feared. When leaders know what they can do when facing a crisis, they will be more prepared for the next time.

Saf reading the Newspaper

In Rudyard Kipling’s If, he tells his son how to ‘keep his head’ in times of disaster:
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…”

Perhaps business leaders can take Kipling’s advice too. Dealing with crisis comes from planning and prioritisation and knowing that what doesn’t break us makes us stronger.

Safaraz Ali, Featured in the Business Influencer Magazine