Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Part 2: Leading Through a Crisis


Anytime there is uncertainty, a crisis, or a change in the organization, people need more from their leaders. 

If your team is suddenly working from home, they may be also coping with lost childcare, older children needing computer time to complete assignments, and maybe another adult in the house also suddenly working from home. 

They may be stressed, frustrated, and fearful.  Their lives may be chaotic.

What can we do to keep people focused and productive?

First, keep your people informed. As a leader, we need to be the source for good information during times of crisis and change.   

1. Give people more information than they would normally need. People crave information during times of uncertainty. According to The Idiot Brain, our brains do not like uncertainty. Uncertainty creates fear. As leaders we need to provide information as soon as it is available, even if that information is incomplete. Your people want to know that you, their leader, know what is going on and that you have a plan to handle whatever happens. You have to support and protect your employees, and that means giving them good information when you know it.

2. Provide facts right away. When communicating to our employees or to external audiences, be specific, stick to the facts, be honest, and be timely. Give your people the right message and do it right away. If you are not in control of your message, people will make assumptions. You do not want people making assumptions based on fear and anxiety. Being timely and proactive enhances trust.

3. Get honest input from your team. Make sure employees are heard. During a time of transition, change, or crisis, people often don’t speak up, so we as leaders have to work harder to get people to express their thoughts.

4. Make good decisions that are based on facts. Emotions often run high during a leadership change, transition, or crisis. Don’t let the emotions of others get in the way of your good judgment. We have learned that few good decisions are made during high emotional levels. Your team is looking to you to be calm under pressure and make the right decisions.

5. Be the leader who leads the charge. A crisis demands action from leadership. During times of high stress, we see many people retreating instead of advancing. Fearful people will hunker down, hide, and wait things out. They will not make any decisions for fear of being wrong. That is not leadership.

A crisis demands true leadership which involves more interaction, more reassurances, and decisive action. We can help our teams when we:

  1. Give people tasks to keep them focused
  2. Break up tasks so people achieve quick wins, which helps them bounce back, increases confidence, and builds resilience
  3. Provide expectations and deadlines to keep people on track for success

Leaders know that people need them the most during a crisis. Great leaders step up to mitigate fear, reduce uncertainty, and solve problems. When times are easy, anyone can lead.  It is during tough times that we need strong leaders.

If you need extra tools during times of crisis such as the Change Management Assessment, the Strategic Planning Questions, or the Avatar Exercise, check out our webinar HERE.


  1. Marcia Carlson

    These have been some great tips to remember during this uncertain time. Thank you!

    • Mary Kelly

      Thank you, Marcia. Yes, I believe leaders can make a big difference by doing these things!


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