Four Ways to Lead Through Crisis—Now and in the Future

by | Apr 3, 2020 | Leading Organizations, Communication

The current coronavirus pandemic has created massive challenges for companies and for families. What are some ways you can grapple with the crisis now and learn skills for handling events like this or others in the future? Clinical Professor and Executive Director of the Michigan Ross Office of Strategy and Academic Innovation Mike Barger, who is also a Sanger faculty champion, led a webinar on March 27, 2020, to over 140 U-M students.

Our top four takeaways are below, as well as a link to the full webinar.

  • Evaluate who was impacted—the list is probably longer than you think. This crisis likely impacts your customers and your employees. But who else is affected? Take stock of everyone whose life might be changed, even in small ways. For example, employees’ families, regulators, and suppliers could be on your list. Once you have that list, think through how each of these stakeholder groups needs a unique, tailored communication from your company.
  • Misinformation is going to spread like wildfire. Get ahead of it as best you can. Professor Barger drew parallels to the current coronavirus crisis, citing how photos of full shelves of Corona beer left at grocery stores are circulating on the Internet. Information spreads fast on social media, and it may not always be logical or even correct. Knowing this, your team should communicate as much as possible. Even if you have no updates, your daily update should be that you have no update.
  • You are going to be in a crisis, guaranteed. Stop having the mindset that you might encounter a crisis during your career. You should instead realize that you will address a major challenge—and likely many—in your career. Professor Barger counted 36 crises he dealt with during his 13 years as senior vice president at JetBlue.

  • You’re leading someone through a crisis right now. As this blog is written, the world is going through the coronavirus crisis. Even if you are a current student or not in a managerial position, you’re leading right now. Perhaps you are managing yourself through change as you change your routines or values. Many people are also supporting a partner, a family, parents, and siblings through the crisis. Think of the ways you’ve helped make yourself or someone else stronger during this time, and use that strength going forward.

You can watch the entire video on our YouTube channel.

“Crisis happens. No longer is it an if, it’s a when.” – Mike Barger, Professor of Business Administration and Executive Director, Michigan Ross Office of Strategy and Academic Innovation