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How a team can come together in a time of crisis

Written on Jun 6, 2024

By Jessica Salerno-Shumaker, OSCPA senior content manager 

Preparation beforehand is critical for a team to ensure they are ready when a crisis arrives.  

“When the big bad wolf comes, you want to be in a brick house, you don't want to be in the house of twigs,” said Kristen Schmitt, founder of Thrive to Lead and executive coach. “Do what you need to know to make sure that the health of that team is as strong as possible. So that when a crisis erupts, you're not worried about if people trust each other or putting the necessary documented processes in place.”   

Schmitt said to consider all the scenarios that could be an issue in the future, regardless of whether the crisis is internal or external. It could be a challenge from a competitor, a technical system failure or even a public lawsuit. Discuss what is most likely to occur and what the appropriate contingency plans are.  

If the team starts to breakdown during the crisis, Schmitt said it’s the responsibility of the leaders to address and resolve the problem once it’s noticed. If it’s a relationship issue between team members, look at how to bring them back together in alignment. Ignoring the breakdown won’t help the team address the real crisis at hand and can create a distraction for all those involved.  

Avoid acting out of fear, she said, because once team members start blaming each other or hiding mistakes, that’s when the situation can quickly unravel.  

“The biggest mistake I see is a lack of communication or transparency,” she said. “No one wants to share bad news. But when people don't know what's going on, they don't know the full story and can’t take necessary action.”  

Schmitt said it’s critical to create psychological safety among the team, where people aren’t harshly judged for mistakes or asking questions.  

After the crisis has passed, take time to reflect on everything the team has learned in a way that’s honest and nonjudgmental.   

“Keeping a team healthy takes work,” said Schmitt. “It doesn't just happen naturally. Holding up the mirror to the team and then figuring out what's working and what's not, because when things are really working, you have the foundation you need to thrive in crisis. 

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