Most of us who deal with crisis management are adrenalin junkies.  Nothing gets us more energized than pitching in to deal with the immediacy of the crisis. Team cohesiveness and management is critically important in a crisis.  The team will develop a bunker mentality and needs nurturing to sustain its effectiveness. 

Even super heroes need sleep

The first lesson of crisis energy management is to understand that you cannot make good decisions or do good work with no sleep.  In the first hours of a crisis, the adrenalin rush can be so powerful that you may indeed be able to put in a 24-hour day but you won’t be able to sustain that.  At the same time, it will feel somehow wrong to take breaks.  My advice?

  • Get up from your desk hourly for a quick walk about, that will help you get the blood circulation.
  • Resist the temptation to live on greasy and sugary foods, order some salads and fruits for the war room
  • Steal quick naps or meditate by finding a place where you can at least be quiet for 15-20 minutes at a time. If you can, go home and sleep for a few hours.

Routines aren’t just for dancers

The best way for a crisis team to manage themselves is to establish a routine.  Typically, a start of day briefing in the war room can set the agenda for the day and give everyone their “marching orders” as well as outline developments.  Scheduling press briefings in advance, also provides deadlines for receipt of updated information – yes, the Twitter traffic will continue but you will use scheduled briefings to share new facts.  Assuming the team will work at least a 12-hour day, three team meetings – at the beginning idle and end of the day will help team members plan their activities.

Monitor the health of the team.

By that I mean both the physical and mental state of team members.  If someone is coming down with a virus, send them home, the rest of the team needs to stay healthy.  If someone is edgy or short-tempered, ask them to take a nap or remove themselves for a bit to re-gain their composure.  This is a time for team unity.  Use those team meetings to uncover any festering issues among team members or identify individuals who may need additional support.

Supply the troops

When people are working under extreme pressure, it’s easy to become critical of each other.  There is no one on the team who is in the situation by choice, personal and family plans may have been put on hold to accommodate the crisis. Rather than criticize an individual for being unable to address a problem, ask what resources they need.  Making the right resources available can be a make or break.

Disband ASAP and with ceremony

That may seem obvious but when a team faces a prolonged crisis situation, it can be difficult for them to judge and decide when to disband.  Having some milestones to mark, the end of the crisis and the beginning of re-building can help.  The team will also need a moment or occasion to mark the disbandment.  A final meeting that helps them recap what they have accomplished and outlining what lies ahead will provide that demarcation.  Save the parties and accolades for after an appropriate “grieving period” – a period when they can breathe easier, return to their families and friends, rest and recover.