Help! I’m a Leader Who Can’t Stop Managing in Crisis Mode!

Employees and a sense of normality are returning to the office, but many business leaders and senior executives are still managing as if they’re at the peak of the pandemic crisis.

This was inevitable, as there’s a definite rush that comes from managing in a crisis. During the last year, some managers discovered that they were at their best, and they realized – and enjoyed – the distinct advantages that came with leading their teams through the pandemic.

Advantages of leading a team through a crisis:

  • It’s an adrenaline rush, a thrill ride.
  • Your sense of purpose and duty is clear.
  • You and your team are more driven and results oriented.
  • Your team is more focused and less distracted; it runs like a well-oiled machine.
  • Everyone wants to show up and do their best; all team members go the extra mile.
  • Your team’s pugnacious contrarians now do what they’re told, with little to no pushback.
  • Your problem-solving, prioritizing, and delegating skills have never been more on-point.
  • You exceed and shatter other people’s expectations of you as a leader.
  • Your personal and professional confidence levels are at an all-time high. You love this version of yourself.
  • There are no competing priorities to the crisis at hand.
  • You can forgo the painstaking practice of gaining consensus and buy-in.
  • As a leader, you feel more needed by and relevant to the business and your team.

As these advantages show, the pandemic crisis enabled an exhilarating departure from the mundane rituals, such as weekly staff and budget meetings. However, it’s time to return to the regular day-to-day tasks that prepare your business for long-term success.

That may not sound appealing, but it’s important to realize that there’s a definite downside to managing as if you’re always in a crisis. You have to make many trade-offs, especially when it’s a self-imposed crisis.

Rigor, due diligence, and quality are just some of the priorities that get pushed aside when your team members are in crisis mode. They get stuck in the triage phase of the crisis; you force them to make tough decisions they don’t need to make. Eventually, as the points below show, negativity sets in.

Downsides of staying in crisis mode:

  • Employees burn out, morale takes a nosedive.
  • Your team begins to question your leadership.
  • Employees feel like worker bees.
  • Your superstars are no longer intellectually fulfilled. 
  • Employees become physically fatigued.
  • Disinclination, hostility and apathy toward you, the leader, set in.
  • There’s an excess of top-down leadership; good ideas stop flowing up to management.
  • Long-term strategic planning no longer takes place.
  • Training and staff development are on hold.
  • High-potential employees burn out.  
  • Disagreements take longer to resolve.
  • Employees resign or transfer to another division.
  • Employees feel their career is in a holding pattern.

Ways to incorporate crisis-mode best practices while transitioning to post-pandemic business life.

There is a universal understanding that the pandemic has fundamentally changed certain aspects of our business life forever, and it will never fully return to the way it used to be.

How these changes are identified, incorporated, and preserved depends on how business leaders take action. New behaviors and practices need be retrofitted for long-term application. Keeping what works and shedding what no longer applies are effective ways to ensure your businesses remain nimble and responsive to future crisis-related challenges.

Staff meetings are just one example of the permanent – and positive – changes taking place. Many companies experienced more productive and faster-paced staff meetings via Zoom than via their previous in-person format. As employees return to the office, many companies are taking this opportunity to tie in remote business behaviors that proved to be effective.

The pandemic was a horrific experience. But companies and leaders now have a unique opportunity to extract the positive and find the good. Pause, make purposeful change, and resist the temptation to return to those ineffective pre-pandemic practices.

Related: Toxic Leaders and Zombie Employees