Turn crisis and uncertainty into opportunity

Payal Chanania
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With the economy in a freefall — intensifying recession, financial meltdown, currency devaluation, deepening European debt crisis and shaky business environment — the future looks extremely complex. The downtrend is set to worsen further.

Business sustainability has become a Herculean challenge, forget about growth. Organisations are scrambling to trim costs, cut jobs and freeze salaries. Hiring plans are relegated to an indefinite backburner. Pressure is at its peak. No industry has remained invulnerable.

Boom times are easy on everyone. It’s the crunch of crisis that gets most people running for cover. Some panic, others whine while several withdraw into denial mode. Some freeze, others overreact. It’s confusing, even overwhelming at times.

Amidst the prevailing anger, bitterness and despair, there emerge a few leaders who can see the silver lining and capitalise on the hidden opportunities of testing times. Indeed, it’s not just about controlling the rough weather, but turning it to one’s advantage that typifies a truly inspiring and effective leader!

Yes, the real test of leadership is how one reacts in times of crisis. The present vulnerability and economic slowdown presents an opportune time for leaders to rise to the challenge and turn the tide in their favour. As the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”

Crisis is the acid test of leadership. As a leader, can you take it head on, weather the impact and emerge successful? Or will you depend on others to see you through the crisis?

The following are a few tips to help you not just withstand the crisis, but also use it to your advantage:

The right approach: A calm and cautious approach is the need of the hour. Get your facts straight and carefully assess the situation. Resolutely maintain the right perspective and it will help you comprehend the problem and accept its reality.

Get proactive: Move out of complacence and get into action mode. But steer clear from kneejerk or panicked reactions. Understand the ominous threats and turn them into innovative opportunities for business growth. Be proactive, not reactive.

Time to take thoughtful risks: The situations may be out of the realm of your experience, but you have to get out of the comfort zone and take calculated risks to succeed against the odds. Interpret the crisis as a hidden challenge and tackle it accordingly.

Judiciously concentrate on developing thoughtful strategies, business models and action plans to see you through the testing period. Step up to the plate by thinking out-of-the-box and coming up with creative solutions to the looming problems. Reinvent what you are doing and the way you are doing it. Do not hesitate to seek assistance, if needed.

Reprioritise: It’s time to renew the focus and look inwards – on your own areas of competence – and discern opportunities for recovery. This requires prudent decisions (often difficult as well) that will build your strengths and overcome potential weaknesses.

Be open to new learning from the testing experiences; absorb the gleaned knowledge to prepare for the future. Such adaptability and agility are the hallmarks of successful leaders when it comes to responding to crises.

Prime the organisation: Prepare the people to weather the stormy days ahead. Call on everyone in the organisation and exhort them to work collaboratively to make the most of the challenging situation. Lead the transformation towards sustainable recovery and eventual growth.

Ease their fears: Communication is important during crisis. The workforce is bound to be anxious, fearful and demoralised. Secrecy, lying or evading will only further damage your trust and credibility.

Instead, take an open and honest approach with clear, consistent communication that will teach them how to cope with the changing dynamics.

Building employee trust, confidence and morale will instil a sense of purpose in the workforce as you struggle together through the tough times!

Crisis times are definitely difficult; but never impossible. It is up to the leaders; whether they let the uncertainty spell their downfall or judiciously turn it into a transformative opportunity! As the popular saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”

Payal Chanania




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