Question: How do you prepare your team ahead of time for a business crisis?
Keep a Positive Mindset
"If something is going wrong, the employees are going to sense it so you should be upfront about the problem to an extent. However, once the problem is mentioned, positive attitudes must replace negative thoughts around the office so moral is not lost. To help this, go for a quick win -- whether it be a small account or just an achievement. Change something for the positive."
Tell Them Before They Find Out
"There's nothing worse than hearing bad news about the company you work for from an outside source. Always be proactive and communicate what's to come. You never know, the solution to your problem could come from an unexpected member of your team. Often, your employees have detailed insights into their area of the business that you can't see as the CEO."
"Overcommunication has become a core value of ours -- and it starts from the top (or, in our inverted organizational hierarchy, the bottom). I tell our employees everything, share with them what's ahead, and what I think we're going to need to do to prepare for it. Then I ask for their help to craft the best response, so they know they're truly a part of the solution."
Think It Through Completely
"The biggest thing we teach our clients is to think through what would happen in each type of crisis. Be incredibly specific about who would have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the company and, if possible, have content for social media prepared and vetted by your legal team. Crises are chaotic, so having a clear plan written down and distributed to your team is key."
Be Realistic, Really
"Only months after TalentEgg launched, the economy began to crumble. Our business involves helping employers leverage our website to hire students and grads, and many meetings started and ended with the dreaded phrase: "hiring freeze." I promptly set up a company meeting and outlined our strategy for the next several months. I got buy in from the team and we weathered the storm together."
Train for Crisis Mode
"Startups are going to have crises now and again. Make sure that your team members are aware of what is required of them during a crisis. Do they need to be in the office longer? Are there specific communication protocols you have in place to communicate with customers? Are there a set of resources people need to access when it is crunch time? Make sure your team is aware of these things."
Warning: It Happens
"Make sure everyone on the team realizes that shit happens. It just does. No matter how much you plan or safeguard, at some point, you’ll have a mess on your hands. In those times, the most damage is created by panic and stress. Handle the mess with grace, know it will pass, and the team will be just fine. Or it won’t and you were screwed, anyway – but you handle it the same way."
Timing Is Essential
"Proper timing is essential. You don’t want to cry wolf too early and cause a potential panic, but you want to allow your team sufficient time to plan and adjust. If you can stick to the facts and get the brainstorming ball rolling with a few suggestions of your own, you can help your team begin to immediately focus on solutions."
Time to Lead by Example
"Transparency is key to surviving a company crisis, but it is not enough. Leaders need to put in the legwork before they bring the team together. Showing up with a proposal for how to handle the crisis will settle the rest of the organization, while providing a framework upon which the rest of the team can build. Convening your team when there is a crisis with your hands-up is not sufficient."
Avoid the Blame Game
"As much as possible, avoid focusing on who is to blame. This strategy will simply lead to guilt, frustration, anger and defensiveness. Instead, focus on solutions to address the current situations and opportunities to prevent similar crises in the future."
Appoint a Spokesperson
"In a crisis situation, you're not just contending with internal struggles -- your phone is often ringing off the hook with reporters looking for a comment on what's happened. Have one dedicated spokesperson within your company who is media-trained and well adept at delivering messages to manage these situations and forward all outside calls/emails to them."
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.