People make mistakes… technology fails. If your business lasts more than a year or two, you will likely face some kind of crisis in your business.
How you as the business owner respond to that crisis is what can turn a simple event into something immediately forgettable… or into a disaster of epic proportions.
Follow these 6 steps and keep your head through even the most challenging crisis:
Step 1: Deal with YOUR Emotions.
Recognize the fear, anger, disappointment, and frustration that you are feeling. Give yourself 20 minutes to totally FEEL those feelings. Rant, rave, hit a pillow. When your 20 minutes are up, step away from the emotional reaction and start dealing with the reality of the situation.
Step 2: Examine the Crisis.
Look at the crisis objectively and determine what happened and what needs to be done to rectify the situation.
Step 3: Assign People Tasks.
In a crisis, it can be easy to forget details or to make assumptions that people know what needs to get done. As the leader of your company, make it your job to clearly communicate your expectations about what needs to get done and whose responsibility it is. This will help your staff stay calm.
Step 4: Adjust as Necessary.
Don’t get overly attached to your plan of attack so that you can adjust as new information is made available.
Step 5: Remain Focused on the Solution.
If you find yourself getting emotional, step back and give yourself 5 minutes to feel whatever you are feeling, then get back to work. If you see your staff getting distracted by their emotions, ask them to take a break. Emotions can get in the way of good decision making.
Step 6: Evaluate What Happened.
Once the crisis has passed, look at what happened. Much of what happens in life is an opportunity to learn something: this is no less true in business.
- Could this crisis have been avoided?
- How can we limit the damage from future crises like this?
- What was the biggest contributing factor to this crisis (It’s often not the most obvious)?
- Is this a red flag that we need to heed?
- What did we learn?
Note that I didn’t include: Assign blame. Although some business disasters are the result of intentional actions of people, most are the result of honest mistakes or mechanical failures. Assigning blame in these situations often prevents the organization from seeing the bigger picture and taking decisive action.
In writing this article, I was reminded of a true story that I read in a book (although I don’t recall which one):
Employee makes a mistake that costs the Fortune 500 company $100,000. Vice President asks the CEO if he’s going to fire the guy responsible. CEO says, “No, he just learned a $100,000 lesson. Why would I want my competition to benefit from that experience? What that guy just learned is more valuable than any education you can get in a book.”
Things don’t always turn out as we plan. Learn to keep your cool when faced with crisis in your business and they don’t need to turn into disasters… or hurt your business in the long term.