Leadership of others during crisis – managing staff & clients (part 3)

When chaos strikes, it will send the normal order of your operations into disarray. When this happens, your team of followers (whether that is your employees or your clients) will feel the effects. Then they will respond with strong emotions. Most of them will have a low tolerance for change and uncertainty. This will cause them to “trigger” and react. It is important to remember that this erratic emotional behaviour is normal.

Understanding the emotional responses of people in times of crisis

For most people, the unknown is a scary place. It causes them to be fearful and have an emotional response. It’s extreme. It’s very intense. Furthermore, it’s not normal. And most of all, it’s not business as usual. It affects everyone differently each time. Since the pandemic began in 2019, we have seen a 500% increase in the amount of emotional turbulence that has happened to the people that work in small business. There is a lot of taking place emotionally, because it truly is an extremely emotional time. Even though we’re in recovery from the pandemic people are still struggling to recover.

Your Team:

Employees can be steady, productive and doing a noteworthy job one moment. Then moments later (literally hours later) they can be in an emotional overwhelmed (shut down). There could be heavy emotions, such as tears, or they could just be irritated. All of these things can happen in the same day in a crisis. This is normal when overwhelming emotion takes place.

What do they need from me? 

Sometimes, it’s nothing more than you listening to them.  Be a good listener – turn on your ears and ask, “How are you doing?” or, “What do you think about that?” or, “What are you feeling?”  When you ask questions, let them be open-ended questions (that can’t be answered with a yes or a no). Try to get them talking. Why? When people talk to you, it will help them process their emotions. 

Emotions come from the primitive side of our brain. When we have an emotional response, the best way to get people to calm down is to listen to them. Hear what they have to say and let them have the emotions they need to. They will go all the way to the bottom, and then they will pop and come back up. 

You will never be successful talking someone logically out of an emotional response. It will never happen. The best thing that you can do is listen – it’s the Number 1 skill. You don’t have to solve the problem; you don’t even have to get into it.  They may find the solutions  themselves, “I guess I could do this or that”. It will be less work for you than to try to solve their problem on your own. But, it will require you to slow down and stay focussed on your people to let them find their own solution. They will not do anything productively until they are calm. Areas up for discussion:

  • Their personal thoughts, concerns and challenges

If you have someone that is having an emotional response, get with them in private. Have a talk with them, and remember to relax as you listen. Remember to not judge what they say. They are not making this up. They are having a normal response to a crisis situation. Help them go through their own thoughts and concerns if you can.

  • Receiving the emotional currents from the environment

You usually will have someone on your team that will pick up the emotional feel or currents of the environment. These highly intuitive people are sensitive to negative or positive emotion. They can really feel the emotion even when they walk into a room. If you have one of these people on your team, you’re in luck. You will know it because they know what is going on for everyone in the office. They usually know what stress everyone is going through. You can tell what is going on in the office by just checking in with this person to see how everyone is doing. 

  • Watch media sensationalism

Maintain good self-management and your team will follow suit. If they are spending a lot of time on social media, you will have to caution them. Nothing changes hourly. Assure them that everyone will have the relevant and real data of the day. Ask them to not focus there. That will not be good for their mindset. It is not helping them get to where they need to be.

  • Flooding overwhelm/exhausted resilience

Your body will secrete several chemicals that cause you to narrow your focus and make you want to run. It is designed to keep you safe in a primal way. In a regular context of our mental thinking, it will shut you down. Flooding is when people are no longer thinking with their logical brain. They are being highly emotional, and that is where the feeling of overwhelm, and exhaustion set in. Resilience will disappear and decision fatigue will kick in. 

Flooding is when your emotions take over. Then you experience one of the 5 Fs of responses to crisis:

  • Fight We will never surrender.
  • Flight – Okay, we’re out of here, run!
  • Fix – We need to fix the problem. Fixers are a larger population then fighters or fighters.
  • Freeze – Feels like being a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. People tend to feel like they can’t focus. They have a feeling of overwhelm or may feel hopelessness. 
  • Forget it – The mindset is “I’m not buying into this”.

We all have a natural (or normal) way, a default or “go to” in the Five F’s. It would be a good idea to know which ones you identify with. That way you can bear that in mind before trying to determine what are experiencing.

Your clients

Your clients are experiencing stress from:

  • Personal triggers
  • Amplified emotions from those close to them. One minute they are going to be mad at you, the next, you are wonderful.
  • Media sensationalism. Watch the guy that wants to talk a lot about what is going on. They may get you into such a funk that you may find your brain needs to be flushed out afterwards just to calm down.
  • Weak emotional resilience skills (bounce-back skill). Remember, that everyone has a different way of bouncing back. It all depends on what they’ve been through in the past.

How do I need to show up as a leader during a crisis?

As a leader, you need to show up as a leader every day. Weather you feel like it or not. Therefore, as a leader, ask yourself what your people need to see in you. What are people expecting you to be in business and in life?  How are they expecting you to show up? When you decide how you are going to show up, guess what?  You will. When you decided to be strong and powerful in a rough time – you will. If you decide to have your head on straight – you will.  It’s just making a choice to do it. These are stressful times, and you don’t have to have all your crap together. You don’t have to have all your pieces in line.  Not everything has to be perfect in your life for you to be strong and powerful.

  • Be decisive – this will reduce their stress
  • Be consistent – this will increase their trust
  • Be real – if not they’ll lose faith in your leadership
  • Focus on the positive. Why? Simple, there is too much negative. You don’t need to add to it. Focus on the positive without making it too ridiculous. Sometime people just say, “It’s all going to be fine”. Don’t do that. It would be better for you to say, “Yes, this is really affecting things. We need to make a strategy around how we are going to survive this and prosper. That’s what we have to think about.”  
  • Allow others to vent their emotions. This creates a safe place to get better. Spend the time to listen to people and help them through it. It keeps you in the right mind-set yourself when you help others.

Remember: Things change, but the decision to succeed has not.

In our next blog part 4, Skills for leadership in a crisis, (insert link), we will discover more important information and techniques about the skills that you need to navigate through a crisis.


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