How To Determine If A Crisis Is Really A Crisis

As the COVID-19 crisis hit the world, very few leaders thought this viral outbreak would be as big as it is. Many leaders thought it would come and go.

COVID-19 hasn’t come and gone. It’s left businesses, non-profits, and families in ruins.

Not all crises are the same. Not all crises demand economies be shut down or economies ruined. Some you can get through battered and bruised but none-the-worse. Others, like COVID-19, demanded a sterner approach. One that has hurt many people. An approach that continues to hurt people.

Boy with a mask and backpack on walking through a field

Photo via Jan Kopriva

But how do we decide if a crisis is really a crisis or a momentary blip on the radar? How do we know whether to react swiftly or to drift through a crisis?

These are tough decisions to make. You make the wrong one and your organization could be underwater.

So… what does it take to determine whether a crisis is a crisis?

How To Determine If A Crisis Is Really A Crisis

We have to be wise in how we react to a crisis or a potential crisis. An overreaction in the beginning can help quell the damage done in the long term. However, an overreaction can also hurt in the long term as well.

This is why you have to be wise in how you react and determine whether what appears to be a crisis is a crisis.

How do you do this? You do the following:

Consult the experts:

There are people who monitor critical situations all the time. These can be governmental officials, frontline employees, or people who study the field.

Each group of experts may view the situation different yet they all have valuable input. Listen to what they have to say. Take in their advice. Try to find a consensus.

The experts are experts for a reason. They’ve seen crises come and go.

Consult the experts and heed their advice.

Look to the past:

The past holds the answers to a lot of our current issues. Sadly, we’ve been told not to look back. We should only look forward!

What bad advice!

The past is a window to the future. George Santayana, in 1905, said

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

We don’t heed his wise words enough. We need to look at the past. We need to figure out what the past can tell us.

Open your eyes. Look in the rear-view mirror. See what happened in the past and learn from it.

Shift your mindset:

The first two things will help you determine whether or not a crisis is a crisis. This one is slightly different. This point helps you to transition into action or to let off the accelerator.

We can look at a situation and go “Yeah, yeah… that’s a crisis. We need to react NOW!” We react quickly and the crisis is averted or goes away.

Or we do the opposite. We fail to see the emerging crisis and we don’t act quickly enough. Then the crisis generates an even bigger issue.

Either of these requires us to shift our mindset. One requires you to shift your mindset from action to inaction. The other from inaction to action.

Don’t hold onto your incorrect mindset too long.

Crises will continue to come our way. They may be organizational crises, health crises, or national crises. Leaders have to be ready to act and respond when the time comes.

It’s on you to determine if it is a crisis, what needs to be done (with the help of wise counsel), and for how long.

Following the steps above, you will be able to determine if a crisis is really a crisis.

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