By: Executive Speaking
Simple, logical, powerful. Insights for immediate impact—
1.) Keep your messages short
Afterall, what’s really new this minute? While we’re led to believe through Messenger and Instagram that changes happen quickly, in crisis decisions actually slow down. Whereas you might have jumped to fill a position, or buy a company, or launch a new initiative when you were in your stride and had momentum, now you probably hesitate—calculating, contingency planning. So a two minute update of reassurance, not announcements, is all you need.
2.) Be strong and steady
In a crisis, everyone’s adrenaline rises. You can literally feel it when you walk in the room. So you might be tempted to attempt a little humor, a cute self-deprecating comment, a light aside to break the ice. Bad idea.
Your organization is not looking to you for entertainment—they’re looking to you for leadership. So think of yourself driving on ice. You want steady hands on the wheel and a steady foot on the pedal. Leadership speaking in high adrenaline times is about being straightforward, strong, and steady.
3.) Provide analysis
In times of crisis, the trumpets of feelings play loud. So rather than play to the feeling—stick to the logic and provide insights and understanding.
As Russ Banham wrote in Chief Executive, “Supply chains have been built to withstand most any disruption and, in particular, epidemics. Lessons had been learned from the far more devastating Swine Flu pandemic in 2009 (between 11 percent and 21 percent of the world’s population contracted the disease) and the SARS epidemic that preceded in 2003.”
He makes the point that companies are always focused on managing risk—potential upheavals, cyber ransoms, drought. Risk officers report to the board, so risk is part of doing business. Leaders have to demonstrate that they’re risk managers, that they’ve asked the tough “What if?” questions and developed back up plans. As the old saying goes, “plan for the worst, and hope for the best.” As you’ve heard on every plane trip, “in the event of an unexpected water landing, your life vest is in the pocket in front of you.”
4.) End with an image
Words are hard to remember, so how likely are you to remember a statement? At best, you will remember the idea—you’d put it in your own words. So to have a memorable message—particularly at the end—instead of wordsmithing, think painting.
Say, “We’re weighted down with overhead.” Now say, “We’re like hikers carrying heavy backpacks.” Which message would you remember?
By following these guidelines you will be the beacon in these times of turbulence and distress.