Fusing teams together requires leaders to challenge themselves with the question whether to own or not to own the crisis?
Communicating with transparency, driving credibility, and nurturing trust defuse a crisis most effectively and help build the fusion process. The Fusion Leader assigns equal importance to celebrating the wins with the same degree of transparency, credibility, and commitment to trust. That means directing credit to the people who earned it, whoever they are. That means body-slamming another executive who attempts to take the accolades for himself or herself at the expense of the employees who did the hard work. That means aligning your compensation system to reward the behaviors that generate the wins. That means taking time to celebrate wins often and with enthusiasm.
At the risk of being negative, however, we should also focus on the crisis side of the transparency, credibility, and trust spectrum. I personally find that crises were tougher. They usually occur when least expected and can place an organization on an emotional high wire very quickly. On my journey, and with most leaders I know, it was always easier to lead when things were going well, rather than taking ownership and sharing the responsibility when confronted with a crisis.
In stepping forward and taking ownership of a crisis the Fusion Leader communicates the message that “we are in this together” or “with your help I will lead us through this toward a brighter day.” On the other hand, if the leader delegates the crisis, or worse, points the finger of blame- they may communicate the message “you’re on your own” to a particular department or “good luck because I am above this problem.” Of course, a leader cannot tolerate incompetence; however, true crises rarely result from something as simple as incompetence.
Nothing unravels the fusion process more quickly than an executive who clearly acts on behalf of his or her own selfish interest. People identify this immediately. It’s like a cancer cell invading an otherwise healthy body. Left unchecked, this type of behavior begins to communicate the opposite message from that conveyed by Fusion Leaders: that employees are there, toiling away every day to generate more power, wealth, and privilege for the executives. Talk about deflating an organization! If this is the message coming from the top, most employees will become clock punchers who don’t connect to the mission and certainly don’t identify themselves with the collective ego.
In times of crisis, this may not be something you want to do, but the decision reflects four key tenets of handling a crisis through Fusion Leadership: Cultivate trust, maintain and enhance credibility, exercise transparency, and, of course, be clear about who owns the crisis.