A crisis can be a difficult obstacle. At its onset, you can’t overcome it, you can’t outcompete it. You can’t outthink it and you certainly can’t overpower it. There’s only one way to outdo a crisis: to out-collaborate it.
Crises take place in time but they really play out over time. They have a beginning, middle, and end. Whether it’s with our team at work, our family, with our clients, or any other group, we don’t get through a crisis alone. It can help to look at each step in the unfolding story individually and from a collective perspective.
We start with the way things were. There’s an old normal to acknowledge. We transition to how things are now. What got disrupted and how? Finally, we have to focus on how things will be. What’s changed temporarily and what’s changed permanently? At each stage, we can strategize around the positions our group can take and anticipate the range of ways the rest of the world will respond too.
The critical aspect is that we keep talking through the thick of things with our eyes on the future. When stuff goes well and when stuff goes wrong, we communicate with our focus on the future. Think of a client example – even if there are missteps of our own doing (what do you mean compliance won’t accept our own form?) or unexpected shocks we have no control over (the entire industry is being shut down with no reopen date?), our primary objective is joint forward motion.
We out-collaborate a crisis by keeping communication open between all parties involved. If we don’t want to leave anyone behind, if we want to get everyone into the new normal, it’s going to take a full group effort. We can beat the crisis alone, but then it’s a lonely future. It’s far better to survive it as a group. Gather everyone up and keep moving forward.
h/t HBR IdeaCast, “Managing Crises in the Short and Long Term,” with Eric McNulty.