Identifying & Understanding The Problem

In my last blog post, I shared how it’s been my experience that most leaders who are facing an internal or external conflict experience degreees of ‘denial’ before they have the brain power to tackle identifying and understanding what is happening.

While ‘denial’ is common, it should not last more than one or two days because, the longer a leader lingers in the denial stage the more momentum the crisis picks up.

Crisis should always be mitigated as soon as possible.

Okay, assuming that you’ve pushed through the disabling ‘denial’ stage, you’re now ready to focus on Step #1 which is identifying and understanding what is happening.

STEP #1: IDENTIFYING and UNDERSTANDING

First, a basic leadership principle is the bigger the stress or crisis, the more the leader must lead through being present, communication, and never letting their emotions drive the response.

While no one can control how they feel, you can control what you do, what you say, and the tone in which you communicate.

Never let negative emotions (anger, fear, frustration, etc.) be the driving force by which you deal with a crisis. (Be angry and sin not)

Below are some actions that I recommend for this step:

– Very Important: Secure a consultant who specializes in crisis management and communication strategies and who understands your organization’s work. Most leaders are too close to the situation and will benefit from someone outside of the situation. Everyone needs a coach once in a while.

– Remember that everything that you write or say can be used against you.

– I recommend that communication via email ceases so as to reduce liability and other risks. Emails can be subpeoned, forwarded without your permission, and are not secure.

– Determine who is at the heart of the crisis and who are being sucked into the drama.

– Identify your stakeholders. These are people who will be impacted by the crisis. (e.g., staff, volunteers, board, donors, churches, public at large)

– Collect all evidence related to the crisis. (e.g., letters, documents, notes)

– Talk to everyone who can help you understand the issues. Keep an open mind.

– Make sure that you follow any policies that apply to this situation (e.g. personnel manual, crisis management policies). There is legal protection in policies.

– Distribute your conflict resolution policy to all staff and volunteers. I’ve found that having an all staff meeting to go over this policy is beneficial so that everyone knows the rules and the leader’s expectations.

– Stay in constant communication with your board of directors.

Next post I’ll introduce Step #2 which covers some principles for crisis communication strategies.

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