The need for strong leaders is never more evident than in the midst of a crisis. People with the ability to assess the immediate situation, pivot as necessary, and take decisive action help everyone maintain a sense of calm and collective focus through the storm. And yet, responding to the immediate crisis is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of a leader’s responsibilities. Leaders simultaneously need to lay the groundwork for the long term — by preparing for “cascading aftershocks and reset opportunities.”
Aftershocks are shake-ups or instabilities that occur after the initial major “earthquake” and may continue for weeks, months or years. And one aftershock can lead to — cascade into — another, causing an impact that is delayed by time and space from the original upheaval but no less challenging to your organization. What key organizational drivers suddenly seem uncertain? It is the unknowns that lead to aftershocks. How would you respond in the best case scenario . . . or the worst? As a leader, you need to be thinking about positioning yourself to respond to future unknowns, even in the midst of the original crisis.
Reset opportunities are the chance to re-write the rules. (Link to blog 313 – old rules don’t apply). Based on what you know, what suddenly feels possible? What entrenched systems have been upended in such a way that you now have a chance to change them with far less pushback that you would have received pre-crisis? The key is to act quickly — to implement new approaches before the “stability” of the new normal sets in. Yes, that means you need to be looking for reset opportunities in the heat of the moment.
While that may seem like a lot to juggle at one time, looking for aftershocks and opportunities actually allows you to focus in a way you otherwise might not. What key organizational drivers suddenly seem uncertain? Pick no more than two or three, and then move all the other uncertainties to the back burner so you can focus on developing scenarios around those key drivers. Likewise, which one or two opportunities present the greatest opportunity to significantly change systems. Place your energy there.
In the middle of a crisis, too many leaders get caught in the swirling fear and the fog — the “what ifs,” “what abouts,” and “what nows”. Rather than adding to the sense of overwhelm, considering aftershocks and opportunities just might bring best way to find a path forward into focus.