Communicating During a Crisis: What’s Required?

Like many of you, I crave good communication from the people I lean on in a crisis. I look to the leaders in my life… political, business, personal… and I lean on them for good communication when things are bad. I prefer good communication all the time. But I need good communication during a crisis.

But what are the communication requirements during a crisis? Here are the things I look for:

  1. You have to tell the truth. Truth is a requirement every day. But it is even more important during a crisis. If the people you lead don’t feel like they can trust the words coming out of your mouth, the crisis feels worse. A lot worse. And it in fact may not just feel worse. It may actually be worse.
  2. You have to demonstrate that you understand what is going on. If the people you lead don’t believe you have a grasp of the crisis, they feel less secure. They need to know you understand the situation.
  3. You have to demonstrate that you are taking tangible action steps. If the people you lead don’t believe that you have a plan, they will start to take matters into their own hands. And your leadership is at that point, by definition, empty.
  4. You have to possess a high level of situational awareness. In everything you do, you have to demonstrate that you understand what the people around you are feeling, and adjust accordingly. If they are petrified, remember to convey a sense of calm. Not indifference or a lack of urgency. But some sense of calm. If they are feeling overloaded, manage the amount of information you are transmitting, and only focus on the most important.
  5. You don’t have to be emotionless, but you do have to demonstrate that you are thinking clearly. There is a lot of leadership analysis that suggests that during a crisis, leaders must dramatically subdue their own emotions. I agree with this, to a point. It is OK to share how you are feeling, but not often. And not too much. Don’t be afraid to let them know you are human and you are feeling the effects of the crisis also. That can create a sense of common bond or common cause. But you need to balance that with an ability to think and act beyond your own emotions. If your emotions are paralyzing you, you are not worth following.

This is my list. I am sure you have your own and as always, I welcome your comments or edits, either publicly here, or directly to me at DMBrenner@TheLatimerGroup.com.

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Corporation’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.