Ways to lead a team during a crisis – an army officer shares some tips

It’s often harder to lead a team during crisis than it is to help one person. People join organisations with expectations. Many have their own perspectives, with different levels of commitments, and many join by putting their personal aspirations at stake.Depending on the type of personality, some may be very resilient, and some may be easily bruised. It doesn’t matter whether the external factors such as Delhi riots, COVID-19 lockdown, construction ban due to high pollution levels etc, disrupt your plans. On the job front you may come across one or more person on the team may be somewhat a trouble maker., in these trying times leaders need to step up to help the entire group move on. Here’s what I feel we can do to evolve in current times:

First, take control of your own emotions

A leader’s feelings are far more contagious than a team member’s. Do whatever you need to move on from the disappointment with the current crisis, so that you’re ready to help your team deal with theirs. And don’t try to fake it. You need to be genuinely in control of your feelings or your team will see through you, since they have been with you for a long time now.

Be clear about the crisis scenario

Don’t sugar coat what is happening during all these days or resort to an approach that abdicates responsibility.For example, “Nothing has happened, this is just normal”.India is facing a huge crisis which almost everyone knows since it’s being flashed in the news. We cannot paint a wrong picture to teams.

Shift the mood

At some point, it’s also important to move on from analysing the current situation to talking about what comes next. Once you are struck up at home due to the crisis – this is the time to align your team to be more strategic. Help them with open-minded thinking and discuss how you will you overcome this loss of time.Regularly call for meetings and make sure that the tone is positive and energised. The best possible way to conduct these meetings during these times is to use humour to lighten the mood – something which most of us fail at, and keep harnessing on business parameters. While those are very important, remember if your team is stress free, they will perform better.

Tell a story

It has been proven that a fact wrapped in a story is 22 times more memorable. We have all seen so many beautiful storytellers in and outside the corporate world.Our own CEO has a beautiful style of stating facts in form of a simple story – something like what you all have been reading or listening to all these days. Tap into your people’s emotions through storytelling. It will allow us to command their attention and willing obedience. We are already doing something similar by starting our meetings by sharing safety and quality moments.

Encourage collaboration

Have detailed conversations about the lessons learnt from this experience of lockdown.What kind of challenges were faced? How did we tackle those? What could have been done better? Don’t lecture, discuss.It’s important to “focus more on solutions than problems, more on the future than the past”. You never know, even the junior most employee of your team may come up with an out of the box solution.So, our thinking caps must be put on and keep looking for solutions and solutions so we can bounce back.

Author of this story is Lieutenant Colonel Charanjeet Bhalla. He has joined Schindler India recently as Branch Manager of Delhi 2 after serving with the Indian Army for 22 years. He is an alumnus of prestigious institutions such as the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, Delhi University, JNU & MDI Gurgaon. He has rich experience in leadership roles involving operations, strategic planning, quality assurance and HR in his previous organisation. The views expressed are personal.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.

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