Crisis meetings can be considered one of the most important aspects of crisis management – risks are assessed, important decisions are made, and steps are taken to resolve the incident.
But what does a successful crisis meeting look like? It all starts with finding the right crisis manager.
Traits of Effective Crisis Managers
The careful handling of an incident demands the full attention of the person acting as the crisis manager. It's crucial that you have the right person for the job.
What traits should you be looking for when assigning this vital role?
1. Great Communication Skills
The crisis manager should be a highly effective communicator. They must be able to engage with the crisis management team – giving clear instructions and guidance – and also be highly effective listeners.
During times of crisis, the flow of information can break down somewhat, with snippets of news reaching your team sporadically as the incident develops. It's therefore imperative that whoever you assign as crisis manager is capable of digesting, interpreting, and acting upon on new information as it is relayed to them – on the fly.
Crisis managers, alongside C-level executives, will also be expected to talk to journalists and the media during emergency situations. They must be able to convey calmness, reassurance, and leadership under pressure – and before a potentially international audience.
2. Ability to Think Critically
Every incident your organisation faces will present unique complexities and challenges. Your crisis manager should have the capacity to think critically and analytically under pressure to define and tackle these challenges.
This involves being able to assess and predict all possible positive and negative outcomes of the actions taken by the crisis team. It also means being organised and able to prioritise time and actions, ensuring a swift resolution is achieved.
3. Ability to Facilitate
Crisis management is a team effort, and great risk managers know this. They will ensure that every one in the group has a chance to give their input and that decisions are made in a collaborative manner.
This collaboration is often enhanced if the person assigned as crisis manager already has a solid standing within the organisation and is widely respected.
The Wrong Way to Conduct Crisis Meetings
The untrained organisation typically tackles crises by holding all-day meetings, which are often haphazard and unstructured. Luck, coincidence and the development of the situation will be their guiding forces.
Key personnel will typically be unavailable, due to business travel, for example, and little information regarding recent developments and measures taken will reach the organisation. Documentation will often be lacking too, making it difficult to base decisions on changes in the situation.
The Right Way to Conduct Crisis Meetings
A trained crisis organisation works methodically and according to the principles of pro-activity. This means holding short, 15-minute meetings with clear agendas, well-defined points for clarification, and quick and efficient logging and documentation.
The following points should be taken into consideration to make sure you're well-prepared:
- Have the agenda up on a large screen for all to see.
- The fast-paced nature of crisis meetings make minute taking a challenge. Communication between the crisis manager and loggist must be practised well in advance.
- Some decisions should be taken based on your contingency plan. This is self-evident, but all too many crisis teams get caught up in the moment and fail to see the connection between their plans and the actions they need to be taking.
- Concentrate on the important, short-term goals in the first staff meeting.
- Ensure everyone participates actively in staff meetings. Don't let anything distract you from the matters at hand.
- It undoubtedly feels safer to be sat in crisis meetings instead of getting to work on resolving the incident. Even though there might be some doubt surrounding decisions or fear of a possible mistake, it's important that the crisis manager is able to end the meeting as swiftly as possible. The more time you spend talking about the crisis, the less time to have to fix the situation.
It's All About Building Confidence
It's normal for organisations to struggle with getting these things right to begin with, but this just emphasises the need for systematic and continuous training and practice.
Having a well-rehearsed structure in place builds confidence, lessens anxiety, and empowers your team to make effective and swift decisions when it matters most. Once you have found the right crisis manager, assembled a strong crisis team, and practised your contingency plan thoroughly, you'll be able to handle any unforeseen incident successfully.