How To Avoid Getting Sucked Into A Crisis

Don't Get Sucked Into a Crisis - Photo by Issy Bailey on Unsplash

Most clients I work with are feeling the impact of staff shortages. In fact, it was the main topic of discussion at an executive leadership event I hosted recently. Increased staff turnover and the inability to find suitable replacements increases the strain on existing staff. This creates a negative spiral where increased work leads to more dissatisfaction and greater turnover. In effect the crisis becomes self-perpetuating, gradually worsening over time.

A Crisis Sucks You In

It is easy to step back and see the wood for the trees when you aren’t in the middle of the crisis. The problem is the crisis sucks you in and you start reacting, usually working harder in an effect to keep up with the workload. This doesn’t solve anything and it isn’t sustainable. The more you get sucked in, the more difficult it is to resist. Does this sound familiar?

While this may sound hopeless, there is some good news. We can always choose to respond instead of react. When we respond, we choose to act with intention. Stopping and stepping back to see the big picture is key. Here are some things to consider:

What is the current situation and what assumptions am I making about it?

In a crisis, we usually accept the current situation as reality. In fact, much of what we believe is true only represents our assumptions about the situation. These aren’t facts, they are only our opinions or ideas. By documenting them, you can challenge them and open the possibility of new assumptions. A common assumption is it will take too long to delegate a task so I should do it myself.

What have you tried and how is it working?

We often rely on a single action in the belief everything will turn out ok in the end. What are you doing and what results are you achieving? How are you measuring success and what hard evidence do you have of progress? If you are not seeing an improvement, it is time to try something different.

What can you do now and how will you know it is working?

When you are in a crisis there is usually no easy way out. The best approach is to try something different and carefully assess its impact. If you are seeing benefits, do more. If not, stop and try something different. Rinse and repeat until you are on a path to resolving the crisis.

The above actions may sound simple and they are. The challenge is stopping reacting and choosing to respond to the situation instead.