Imagine your company is in crisis. A big customer resigns. A major product launch fails. New regulations undermine your business model.

As a leader at your company, how do you handle such a crisis? What do you need to say, and do?

Before you act, you you need to understand two things:

How employees perceive a crisis. The answer is … badly. When employees get wind of bad news there’s an instant information vacuum – a gap between what leadership knows and what employees know. That vacuum very often gets filled with all sorts of misinformation that can lead to high anxiety, depleted morale and turnover.

All eyes are on you, the leader, when a crisis hits. You may be feeling anxiety yourself. You may feel the urge to deflect attention away from yourself until you sort out your own emotions. But that won’t work. In a crisis, you have to lead. Now!

Leadership starts with a plan. The one thing that your employees absolutely MUST see in a crisis is that you, their leader, have a clear sense of direction.

Yes, you should have the right plan, one you’ve carefully thought through and that will definitely work. But what if the crisis you’re in has created such uncertainty that you’re not sure exactly what to do? Come up with a partial plan. Show your people you’re taking decisive action to deal with the crisis. As a leader, your worst option in a crisis is inaction, which will quickly erode your credibility with your team.

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