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Team Member Minute: Managing Crisis with CEO Michael Escalera

The past four months have been some of the most challenging and exhausting times in my entire life. Medical experts tell us that the most stressful situations humans face are the death of a loved one, divorce, moving, illness, and workplace stress. I have walked through four out of five of those.

On top of the demands of running a fast-paced IT company, my story includes divorce, selling a home, moving, moving my parents back to Colorado, discovering personal health issues, and numerous other changes. Add a global health crisis to that and it is accurate to say that all of my norms and routines were completely stripped away. In the midst of all of this change, I found myself grasping for something, anything, that felt normal. But normal never came. Or did it?

As I reflect on my career as a leader, I know that times of crisis are normal. I have learned to expect crisis because it is never a matter of if it will occur, but when. If Murphy’s Law has anything to do with it, crisis will usually strike at the most inopportune time and will often come in waves. So, knowing that it is inevitable, what are some suggestions for managing crisis?

1. Ask Questions

Crisis always gives us an opportunity to evaluate. Why is this situation happening? How did I get here? What action do I need to take right now? The goal is to gain clarity. In the absence of clarity, confusion will take over, so ask questions. Lots of questions. Ask yourself, ask others, and then listen. Be curious and assume that you do not know the answer.

2. Prioritize Next Steps

I have often found that confusing issues become much clearer during crisis. Once I have asked questions about the situation, I try to be intentional about prioritizing what the next steps should be. Without clearly defined priorities, it is too easy to fight every fire that pops up, but they may not be the right blaze to tackle. Priorities pave the way for success.

3. Learn

It should go without saying, but common sense isn’t always common: learn from crisis. Look for lessons on things done well, and ways to improve for when (remember, not if) the next crisis hits. Resist the urge to run back to business as usual. Celebrate wins and evaluate misses. The lessons you take away have the power to transform you and those within your sphere of influence, so do all that you can to learn.

In some ways, the challenging situations I have walked through were a gift that I didn’t know I wanted. I have made plenty of mistakes, and I have also made plenty of notes to learn from those mistakes. Each crisis gave me opportunities for growth, and I am a better person for it. The lessons learned are invaluable and I believe they will serve me well in the future.

So, my encouragement to you is never let a crisis go to waste. Ask questions to seek clarity, prioritize your next steps, and learn from each situation. The next crisis is just around the corner, and you’ll be ready.

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