Strong and stable or weak and wobbly?

Don't be a robot in a crisis

I was talking with one of my coaching clients yesterday. She’s the director of a social enterprise in Manchester and was sharing how challenged she’d been by how to ‘be’ with her team after the recent terrorist attack.  I really felt for her. There was a lot of anxiety and disbelief in the office and she too was emotional about what had happened.

Such novel crises are rare, but I do witness this a fair bit in my coaching for third sector leaders – unanticipated situations where my clients find they need to step up a notch in their leadership.  Not just in response to appalling incidents like the Manchester bombing or the Grenfell Tower fire but other, less dramatic, but equally unexpected events. For instance, not getting an anticipated grant (another of my CEOs recently experienced this) or shock resignations. They can create massive uncertainty and really throw the team.

So, what to do? Here are my five top crisis management tips for ‘strong and stable’ when you really feel decidedly ‘weak and wobbly’:

  1. First of all, acknowledge the situation. There’s no use pretending it’s not happening or that it’s not a big deal. You might think you look strong and stable but believe me (and indeed anyone unconvinced by recent political events) you don’t. Take the first opportunity to ‘fess up if that’s what’s necessary or publicly acknowledge whatever it is that’s happened. But…
  2. … don’t be overly negative. It’s your job as leader to hold the vision for everyone. Keep talking about why you do what you do and how everyone can work towards that vision even now. Make it your mantra for a while.  Help individuals to see how important their role is and how much they are valued.
  3. Be authentic. If you’re feeling emotional about what’s going on, say so. This is controversial but I don’t believe that pretence is good leadership. People want to be led by human beings with feelings, not robots. Just make sure you’re coupling honesty with a cool head and decisive leadership so that they have confidence in you.
  4. Listen and offer support. In times of crisis, two-way communication is king. Tell people stuff, but provide opportunities for them to tell you things too. Have an open door for anyone who wants to talk. They may not want to, but make the offer anyway. Be compassionate about time off and flexi days.
  5. Draw on your strengths. A crisis is not a time to  be worrying about your inadequacies. You bring your people along by using your unique signature strengths to show why it’s great you’re in charge. These are the set of skills and talents which only you offer to the world. If you’re best at quiet one-to-ones book a series of these in. If you shine at rabble rousing speeches, go out and make them.

Over to you

Does this blog resonate? Have recent events left you feeling shaky and unsure how best to lead your team? I’d love to know what you think and to hear about what’s worked for you. Please add your comments in the reply box below.

What next?

If you need more support leading your non-profit or purpose-led team, give me a call on 0208 772 7808 (or 07958 501 427) or email We’ll book in a no-obligation chat about how one-to-one coaching can help.



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