Drive Thinking and Speaking During a Time of Crisis: An Application of Propulo’s Safe Production Leadership Model
By Madison Hanscom, Ph.D.
Great leaders do not act like they are the smartest person in the room. They know the value of a team effort, and they value insight from everyone. Regardless of where employees fall in the hierarchy, it is important to get everyone thinking and speaking. This is particularly important during a time of uncertainty or crisis, when workplaces are constantly adapting to the changing environment. People will remember how leaders respond during a time of turbulence, and this includes whether employees feel safe to speak up without negative consequences. This is required if the goal is to have a safe and resilient workplace.
There are several things you can do to drive thinking and speaking…
Bring everyone into the inner circle
Be sure to treat leadership as a process, not a person. A single person is unlikely to create positive change or sustain the success of a company during a time of crisis, it is a collective effort. Leadership should be regarded as facilitating this process by bringing everyone (not just a select few star performers) into the inner circle. People want to feel involved, supported, and like their voices are heard. Employees will have great thoughts, but whether or not they speak up to share these insights will depend on how leaders shape the climate surrounding them. Bring everyone into the inner circle by asking for input, soliciting feedback from others, and constructing informal channels to do so.
When unusual circumstances are impacting your company, it is a great time to inspire employees to think creatively to build solutions. There might be valuable ideas you didn’t know you needed to hear. Consider hosting brainstorming sessions for innovative thinking. This might result in concepts to build resiliency, how to adapt products for a time of crisis, how to recover, how to maintain safety during turbulent times, what to do next time in a proactive way, and so on. It is likely your employees will have great ideas for how to do even better as a company once this storm passes.
Maintain a culture of trust
This goes both ways: do you trust your employees, and do your employees trust you? A foundation of trust will help employees feel comfortable speaking up and thinking outside the box. Place trust in your employees by giving them autonomy to fulfill goals you create together. During a difficult time, many of us want to micromanage through changes. Unfortunately, this will likely deplete motivation levels in your employees and take unnecessary time from your schedule. Also, reflect on the trust your employees place on you. For instance, credibility is related to trust. Stay up to date on the crisis and understand the risks. Defer to experts and provide your sources when communicating information to your employees and it will be taken seriously.
These principles hold true during times of prosperity, crisis, and also the transitional periods in between. Times of change and recovery can be difficult, but by demonstrating these leadership competencies in a consistent manner, leaders can work towards building a successful “new normal”.
Read more from this blog series:
At Propulo, we work with leaders to develop micro-habits associated with effective leadership behaviors. We can help your company make safety “who we are” instead of “something we do.”