Entrepreneurs always saying that every business has to go through a real crisis before it becomes a real business. All the major companies that we know of have experienced some major crises in their lifetime and they are still in the game. There are many crisis management studies on the internet, but none of them tell us how to run a business in times of war.
Our company had never experienced a real crisis before February 2022. But even before we did, I always told my team, “Every business has its time in the sun and a time of crisis.”
When the Russo-Ukrainian war started on February 24, all Ukrainian companies were in crisis. I’ll use our example to explain how we handled it.
Here are six tips for managing a team effectively during a war.
Establish an emergency communication channel
In such times of upheaval, people will need a lot of up-to-date information about what is happening. If people don’t know what’s going on, a vacuum is created that can be filled with rumors or twisted news.
To avoid this, you need to set up a special communication channel that is active around the clock. For example, Slack notifications can be turned off automatically after working hours, so make sure you’re using a channel your team uses most so they’re less likely to miss important notifications.
This may seem like an easy and pretty obvious step, but it’s the most efficient way to help your team when they’re feeling lost or disoriented, which is only natural when a war is raging around them.
Communicate with your team twice as often
Training to manage stress, anxiety and personal finances will help your employees build the necessary knowledge and respond to difficult situations.
Great leaders communicate with their people, and we should all remember that “overcommunication is good communication”.
For us, this saying has never been more correct. Communicate as often as there are updates on the issue, but no less than twice a day. In addition, follow your usual rules of team communication: be honest, empathetic and humane.
Finally, when there is a serious crisis, most people’s critical thinking abilities can be hampered. In such situations, you may need to give your team too much explanation than usual. Do not evade this responsibility. If your team needs his hand, be there to hold it. It will pay off in the long run and help you maintain control from the early days of the crisis until things calm down.
Stop investing in R&D and get people back to work as soon as possible
As a leader, you have to save your company because it is something people rely on in times of uncertainty. The first thing to do here is to save as much money as possible to stay in business for as long as possible. That often means cutting back on non-essential expenses. This can be a difficult decision, but it is a sacrifice you may have to make.
After our team was in safe locations, the best way was to get them back to work and help calm down. It sounds strange, but this is the best way to direct the fears and nervous energy of war. At work, where everything is known, prescribed and clear, people find peace and a constant sense of purpose.
My experience is that the first wave of crisis is the most difficult because of the high degree of uncertainty. However, once you get past that stage, there will be fewer variables, which is when you return to investing activities if they are still viable.
Use your default remote work policy
When the war broke out, it was very difficult to manage the team and restore our business processes. So we waited to do it after our team was evacuated and moved safely.
Proven third-party policies were life-saving when our employees were not in their usual environment. No one diminishes the value of team spirit, so invest more in it, because in times of great struggle, people will need each other’s support to a much greater extent. Of the online team building activities, AR activities proved to be a great mood enhancer.
Provide special training to support your team
Crises are fortunately rare, but that also means that people often don’t have enough knowledge to handle the mass of unusual information they are bombarded with in such situations.
In such situations you should:
- Educate people by providing special training with the help of experts. Training to manage stress, anxiety and personal finances will help your employees build the necessary knowledge and respond to difficult situations. The Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communication has produced a guide entitled: “Psychological support during the war”, explain how to recognize and remedy psychological problems.
- Invite successful and respected people to share positive thoughts about the situation and perhaps explain how they went through particularly difficult times. Authority bias is real and it works as a morale booster when a team needs direction and feels like everything will be okay.
- Share relevant positive news to cheer your team and create a vision for a brighter future.
When the war broke out, people wanted to help. This was good, but we realized that it can affect the focus on work and ultimately lead the company into an even deeper crisis. In times like these, put your over-explaining tool from Step 1 to work and teach people how the success of your business benefits society.
As a result of what your team achieves at work, your company can invest more resources in charitable initiatives as growth or profitability is maintained or improved. As a result, your team can do more and have more resources to do something important for society.
This should have no effect on your existing OKR system, as your company’s objectives remain the same. However, the benefits of the team have changed – instead of a nice barbecue, now invest the money saved in something that benefits the wider society. Statistics show that when a company leads purposefully, 76% of respondents are more likely to trust that company.
Volunteering has become an essential part of our team’s activities. In front of examplewe arranged contributions, searched for equipment, provided soldiers and helped secure supplies for people in disaster areas.
Every business faces a crisis caused by a unique combination of factors. Still, the tips I’ve given here apply to almost any problematic situation. Remember to maintain a strong leadership position and remain empathetic to your team.