What it was:
A crisis management case study (based on a real DFID example), talked through in respect of the actions and behaviours required of senior leaders, followed by some reflections on crisis experience from a leader, and a group exercise on our own responses to crises and change.
This was part of the Deputy Director Leadership Programme held in London on 16 and 17 September 2019.
What I learned:
As a group we identified some early things the senior leaders would have to consider:
What we are going to do:
- The overall principles we would adopt
- This is primarily about partnership and the stakeholders to be managed
- What are the key risks – what action do we take against each?
- What levers do we have on this problem?
- The need for internal communications and keeping an eye on staff impact
Reflection during a crisis:
- Are we the right people to be leading this? Do we need to change leadership style or change leaders?
- Capture the lessons – as a case study to inform the response to the next crisis
- Is there an opportunity for a positive outcome from this crisis?
- Setting the context for the multi-disciplinary team
- Crisis management expertise – Is there a template we could follow?
Reflections on crisis management from a senior leader:
- It’s really difficult to get into crisis mode, but easy to identify a crisis in retrospect! Someone in the team needs to be able to see when you are in crisis – maybe you!
- It’s better to over-react early than under-react, or you will always be playing catch-up.
- Try to get to the right policy answer as quickly as possible – otherwise you will be dragged to the right answer eventually.
- Keep the ability to see beyond the invested position – be able to be disinterested and impartial.
- What are our levers? Need to understand what realistically can be done
- A simple tool – think what I need to do for my Organisation / Team / Self
- It’s important for the senior leaders to understand their own strengths / weaknesses and what value they can bring.
- Never waste a good crisis – look for opportunities for your organisation (and where applicable the wider UK) to take a leadership position – find a way for the energy of the crisis to be channelled into something valuable and enduring.
Outcomes of the group exercise on Complexity and Change
When a shock happens…
What do I think my teams will be thinking and feeling?
- Uncertainty, afraid of the future, worry they will not be supported
- Think about their hierarchy of needs.
What are your own personal thoughts and feelings?
- Regret / paralysis – feeling responsible when I am not
- Worry about being under scrutiny
- Worry about my decision-making and judgement under pressure
What you would want people to say about your leadership style
- Decisive, sets clear context and priorities
- Leads under pressure
- Keeps team welfare in mind
What action could you take now to better prepare yourself and your team?
- Have someone you can trust that you can talk to
- Understand your stress behaviours
- Take care of well-being and promote this behaviour in your team
What I will aim to do differently as a result:
- Try to recognise when a crisis is happening – don’t be the boiled frog.
- Be more open with my bosses when things are not going well (on any front) – be less afraid to ‘cry wolf’
- Familiarise myself with the crisis management structures and learning in Government
- Have a ‘buddy’ (or more than one) to baseline with in the event of a crisis
- Adopt the PERMA framework to undertake some team well-being and hence resilience building.