It is easy to execute according to normal, everyday conditions. It is more difficult to recognize when a trend is leading to an emergency situation that requires extraordinary action and resources.
As a leader, you are in a unique position to see portents and to make connections before others do. Also as a leader, you are in a position to respond by marshalling critical resources and by providing direction and energy into the system to steer around the problem.
Unfortunately, many leaders have a hard time recognizing and responding to crisis. Many times, it’s senior management or a client that forces a leader into critical situation mode, and by then it is too late. You don’t wait to see a doctor until your heart stops beating, you see the doctor at the first symptoms of disease. You don’t wait to call the fire department until after the house has burned to the ground. The same is true in business. You can’t wait for someone to point out failure, you have to recognize that without extraordinary action, failure is in the future. You call the fire department as soon as the grease on the stove catches fire.
Have a normally effusive client go dark? Have a metric that occasionally blips just a little before returning to normal? See a milestone slip on the critical path? The hairs on the back of your neck should stand up. Be on the lookup, take notice, ask questions, constantly be on the lookout for the next crisis. Catch it before it happens.
Once you recognize it, then it’s time to determine what extraordinary resources and what extraordinary actions are required to prevent disaster. Don’t fool around with typical resources and typical actions to deal with a looming crisis. Bring in the experts. Sound the alarm. Get what help you need.
As recently discussed, the role of a leader is to:
- Dispel confusion by simplifying what needs to be done
- Provide energy into the system
- Remove blockers
Notice that all three of these apply to not only day-to-day operations, but to recognizing and responding to crisis. You may not get a gold star for preventing your next crisis, but you will form a reputation for being someone who gets things done and avoids disaster.