The phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On” has become a trendy slogan of late, finding its way onto the internet, fashion and into our modern lexicon. What many might not realize is that it originated in England during World War II from the ministry of information. It was a poster that was to be put up in the event that Germany attempted invasion of England, which obviously never happened.
The idea was that if the invasion occurred, the poster would provide a reminder to the citizens to keep a stiff upper lip and do their best to carry on with their lives for as long as possible. This strong backbone and courage under pressure would help the country to remain organized and stave off the panic and confusion that would ensue after an invasion. When managing in times of crises, we must always learn to show that same courage and do our best to keep our teams in the same mind set.
As a team leader, we must always wear many hats but no matter what hat we are wearing, we are always under the watchful eye of the team that we are managing. Everything from appearance to timeliness will go noticed by our employees and it is essential to our success in the workplace that we toe the line and set the example for our staff.
This becomes even more important when things don’t go as planned. No matter how well we prepare and how careful we are in our planning, inevitably things will go wrong. In these essential moments where success and failure can ride on every decision and there is no luxury to take your time and plan, the stress can mount.
It’s easy to forget in these situations that you are the leader and your every step is being scrutinized. We can fall into familiar traps, focusing on who is to blame and what must be done to punish the guilty party. It can lead to poor interactions and the loss of faith in you by your team. It is more important in those moments than at any other time to remain cool, keep calm, and carry on.
From the moment that bad news hits your ears, try and remember that no matter what you do, no person, team or system is ever perfect. Part of being the manager is dealing with the unexpected crisis and part of successfully dealing with that crisis is the acceptance of the inevitability of said crisis. This will help you keep the larger picture in perspective. Get the details. Try to receive them as if they are any other piece of information and remember not to shoot the messenger. Even if they are the guilty party, your team needs to know that they can come to you when things go wrong, less they fear telling you and keep a bad situation from you, making matters worse.
Once you are briefed on the circumstances, begin verifying the situation and focusing on what needs to be done to get through the crisis. Immediately notify your superior of the situation and then with their help, begin working on a solution. We all need to vent, and eventually someone may need to be held accountable, but all of that can wait until your action plan is in place and you have executed the solution.
By focusing on the solution instead of the problem while remaining calm, you will settle your team and allow them to work towards a solution as well. Remember, if you start assigning blame and doling out punishments before figuring the way to fix the crisis, your team will be thinking about your wrath and their job security and be distracted from the real issue which is what to do next.
We are all human and its easier said than done, but by mentally being aware of our position of leadership and how it affects those who are in our charge to lead, we will be more prepared to roll with the punches and come up with the best possible outcome. In the working world, these crises become opportunities to show your superiors that you are ready for the next level. At a certain point the unexpected is unavoidable and each time you successfully navigate stormy waters, you earn merit with those that are relying on you, both your employees and superiors as well.
Jason Kleinerman is an entrepreneurial minded management expert specializing in multifamily residential real estate. Currently a Regional Manager for Universal Management, LLC, he has helped shape the direction of this residential firm over the past 6 years in a team setting while driving bottom line returns over many different assets through shrewd management and thorough planning.
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