We’ve all experienced a boss who takes to yelling, pounding tables, or glowering when something doesn’t go well or meet their expectations. Leaders who resort to these displays probably think that they’re communicating their displeasure in a way that will motivate team members to do better. But it usually has the opposite effect. 

If someone has made a mistake, they’re going to be stressed. If a leader loses their cool in response, it only adds to that person’s stress level. Instead of kicking people into high gear, getting angry only encourages snap decisions and actions without the proper level of consideration — and neither is a recipe for success.

If the end goal of a leader is to deal with a crisis by modifying the behavior of those on the team, a calm and rational conversation with the team spelling out the difficulties and the disconnects is a far better first step. 

Being Calm in a Crisis Inspires Others

“If you can keep your head about you when all others are losing theirs …” Rudyard Kipling

In the poem “If—” Rudyard Kipling eloquently explains the challenges one will face as life occurs. By opening the verse with the above quote, he points out that remaining calm in the face of challenges is a sign of maturity. The actual exercise of leadership is quite different than the simply wielding of positional authority. Having a title and authority does not make one a leader. In many cases leaders are defined by how they are able to successfully manage in a crisis.

As a rule, successful outcomes require leaders to become calmer and more controlled as the pressure or crisis builds. When one rationally considers what the effect of having a public tantrum and yelling at team members is (confusion, dissonance, and resentment), no one hoping to lead a team would begin tackling a crisis with that result in mind.

Thinking rationally, rather than reacting emotionally to problems that arise in the workplace, actually provides a twofold return for the leader. 

  1. The problem is more likely to be solved and with a better outcome.
  2. A crisis well-navigated inspires confidence in the team that one leads.
  3. People actually learn from their mistakes and grow.

Just like watching a great quarterback engineer a game-winning drive, successfully leading the team to a positive outcome from a dire situation will create greater trust and loyalty toward the leader. Plus, team members will benefit from a learning experience, instead of one that simply makes them scared to make another mistake. 

Planning for a Crisis Can Help When It Arrives

Pilots often train for the eventuality of a massive system failure while in flight. They repeat scenarios time and again. If something actually goes wrong, that training ensures they are able to perform the needed functions and protocols to bring the aircraft safely to the ground. Leaders who plan for crises in the same way are far more likely to navigate their own unexpected challenges. 

While it is not possible to predict every challenging scenario that may arise, leaders can anticipate what likely difficulties they may face and the circumstances that might create them. Consider two strategies to start planning for your next crisis now. 

  1. Take time to meet with the team and consider what the response of each member might be. Common stress responses might be: 
    • Avoidance of communications. 
    • Blaming others or avoiding blame. 
    • Sudden drops in productivity. 
    • Or, negative interactions with other team members.
  2. Acknowledge to the team that difficult situations will arise and that you are invested in the time it takes to prepare for them. 

There is always great pressure to focus upon the work at hand and hope the crisis never comes. But as we know, those who are prepared and have taken time to prepare for a crisis always fare better than those who wish it wouldn’t happen. Those who navigate challenges calmly and with great professionalism become highly sought-after individuals.