November 28, 2014

5 Reasons Leaders Must Dial-Down the Emergency Setting

“All hands on deck!”

“Emergency meeting!”

“Everyone into the conference room, PRONTO!”

These shrill calls can create tremendous urgency, even excitement in an organization.

But overdone they can also have serious consequences.

The fact is, many leaders are adrenalin junkies; they get a rush when their organization is at DEFCON 1, and in truth, part of the job of the leader is to inject a dose of urgency into their organizations.

But when an organization remains at battle stations for too long it can lead to real problems. These are 5 of the most severe consequences:

1.   An actual emergency is not given proper urgency

This is a “never cry wolf” scenario at its worst. When everything is an emergency, eventually nothing is seen as an emergency.

2.   The leader loses credibility

Teams count on the leader to distinguish between minor problems and full-blown crises. A leader not making those distinctions will eventually lose the team’s respect.

3.   The organization loses focus

In an atmosphere of constant emergencies, teams will soon abandon the strategic plan. “After all,” the thinking will go, “Why bother with the plan when it will have to be abandoned during the next inevitable emergency?”

4.   The culture becomes one of detachment and disengagement

I’ve seen this happen in several organizations. Teams simply can’t remain emotionally engaged when there is a seemingly constant state of panic in the air. For self-preservation people will simply tune out.

5.   Roles become murky

When the team is following the gameplan, each person should know their assigned role. In an emergency state people tend to abandon their role in order to help resolve the latest crisis. When this happens the wheels of the organization can begin to turn very slowly and sluggishly.

You’ll never eliminate emergencies from your organization, nor should you. When a genuine crisis hits, the leader must be able to sound a genuine call to arms and “up” the level of urgency.

(Similarly, sometimes leaders must create an emergency in order to rouse the troops, but that’s a topic for another day).

But remember- if you keep the panic alarm ringing too much you’ll be inflicting long-term harm.

And that would be a crisis indeed.

How do you keep emergencies to a minimum in your organization?

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