Shocks, crises, digital and sustainable transformation – for many companies, the economic framework conditions are hardly calculable in the long term. This poses additional challenges for managers. Kirsten Schrick, trainer and coach, explains which strategies are available for this.

Digital and sustainable transformation, rising energy prices, fragile supply chains and a shortage of skilled workers – many companies are currently experiencing major challenges. What qualities are now in demand to get your employees through difficult times? For this I would like to give a few ideas and recommendations:

One of the biggest traps that leaders fall into during times of crisis is: they overlook their leadership role. Instead, they see themselves as task force managers and act in an actionist manner. This inevitably has consequences. The first: With this attitude you put pressure on your teams. In return, this provokes resistance and often blocks creativity. Many employees feel that there is uncertainty and disorientation behind the permanent troubleshooting. Managers want to whitewash them as much as possible. It is not uncommon for a saying to circulate in the team: operational hecticness replaces mental calm.

With her consulting company “Kirsten Schrick – Live Potential” Kirsten Schrick has been leading teams, executives and organizations since 2003. In 2009 she founded the TIM Foundation to help young people to develop their potential. Schrick studied new German literature, art history and communication sciences at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, where he received his doctorate.

Therefore, my tip to managers: stop and reflect first: it is crucial to filter the daily pressure and to convey stability to the team. The following questions will help:

It is striking that employees are expected to be permanently willing to change, while many managers act in a business-as-usual mode from their own comfort zone.

Managers are people too and have feelings that help determine their work. Quite often, existential fears arise in crises, which then determine thinking and acting. The question is: How justified are these fears and what kind are they exactly? As a manager, you should perceive your sensitivities and take them seriously. Only then do you have the opportunity to observe and direct your feelings. Otherwise it can happen that your emotions show up unintentionally and unconsciously. Those around you notice insecurities faster than you would like and without them noticing. Don’t forget: expressing feelings makes you authentic. The honesty of admitting fears as a manager welds teams together and gives confidence – the basis for emerging stronger from crises.

Because every crisis has a purpose. One of my media customers said: “Crises are the time of greatest concentration for me.” The psychologist Viktor Frankl knew about the stabilizing power of meaning in seemingly hopeless situations. Purpose is at a deeper level than goal or benefit. It’s worth looking the crisis in the face and asking: What positive effects will this difficult time have on me and my (professional) life? A helpful trick is: turn the time forward two years and look at the current phase from there. With this inspiration, you will be able to give even critical situations an opportunity-oriented framework. Try to work out the meaning of this crisis with your team – preferably in a personal meeting. Concrete. Together. In a dialogue. This ensures team building and helps to carry even unpleasant decisions together.

In uncertain times, orientation is important for employees. Therefore: Don’t beat around the bush, but have the courage to communicate clearly and consistently. This should not be confused with hardness. Clarity is unequivocal, takes a stand, assumes responsibility. Clear managers are those who employees trust because they take a stand and are therefore tangible. This behavior creates security and gives the team stability.

Clarity without empathy often seems merciless. That’s why it’s important to note, especially in a crisis: How are you and the people around you? It is important to address feelings and needs. This is difficult for many executives because they then have the feeling that they “come across” less confidently. The opposite is the case. Empathy creates a bond between people that lasts. Understanding the perspectives and emotions of others does not automatically mean agreeing with them. And: Maintaining and showing empathy is then also important in quieter times, which (hopefully) will follow at some point.

In turbulent times, managers, but also employees, need (mental) flexibility. It is counterproductive in a phase of great general uncertainty to want to make the big leap right away, to find the ultimate solution or to achieve lasting success. Instead, I recommend working in manageable test series. Deliberately set up pilot projects that are tested, evaluated and then adjusted accordingly. Hypothesis, trial and error so to speak. The toolbox of agile working offers many valuable instruments for this: Dailys that check where everyone stands, what is needed or where there are problems. Regular retros that produce a shared culture of experience and learning.

It is unrealistic to assume that everything will succeed in a crisis. So how do you deal with mistakes or even failure? Developing a good error culture with an atmosphere of honest feedback is therefore elementary in this phase.

Conclusion: All suggestions and recommendations require one thing: the willingness and ability to give professional feedback. To deal with the effects of one’s own actions, to endure the mirror of the environment undoubtedly requires courage. But blind spots tend to grow during crises. The (latent) willingness to give feedback often gives way to the powerful announcement. This is often not only meaningless, but usually creates counter-pressure, distancing and withdrawal from employees. Then your role as a manager withers away. Therefore: Better to include the environment instead of trying to save the world alone and as a hero. This is not possible. “When nothing is certain anymore, is everything possible again?” I read in a newspaper article recently. It is important to discover the productive side of the crisis and use it as a guide. That is the job of leadership. Now!

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