How can companies and their leaders benefit from crisis?

We do not fully know how deep this crisis will be in companies – yet the signals from the market are highly unsettling. Therefore it is worth it to prepare, spending some time reflecting on what should be done about the crisis and its consequences.

From professional sports we know that prepared competitors win, the unprepared lose the game, lose their place on the team and lose hope – which leads to frustration, stress and resignation. The masters take the time to analyze their performance in detail, setting goals, visualizing performance, preparing the best training schedules and, foremost, disciplined training. Their training is skillfully adapted to individual needs and followed religiously.

Savvy businessmen use the crisis to move to better market positions – through radical changes in strategy; growing their people, especially leaders; and perfecting their business processes, mostly focusing in the areas of sales and management. For them crisis is an opportunity for positive change – an occasion to find new solutions and new people, to create better quality products and processes as well as more effective strategies.

To illustrate this I will share my personal story – a traumatic personal experience that prepared me for this economic crisis. Over the last 7 months, I was affected by a very serious spine problem. The pain was so strong that, in spite of my “painkillers are bad” belief I took the strongest pills, begged the ambulance crews for more and finally got heavy duty spinal injections. For days I had to sleep standing because the pain did not allow me to sit or lie down.

For many long weeks I could not work or do anything besides fighting with pain. With trepidation I saw that I could not serve my clients, that I could not take care of my family. I couldn’t even take care of myself. Serious opinions and faces of the doctors made me feel like I had no future. My life was a standstill and I felt myself being pulled into permanent disability.

Yet, one day I decided to get out of it. I looked deep inside myself and decided that I will treat the situation as a learning experience. I said NO to everything but myself and my health. During the toughest period I started to write a book “conversations with pain”. This took my attention away from the pain and provided a life-saving relief. I believe, it was because I have become much more present to myself – my body and my soul. I began looking for the causes of my illness that were invisible to doctors. Thanks to this presence, talking to people in similar situations and reading many books on health and self-healing, I found a way to heal myself. I have learned lots about massage, pilates, relaxation, mental training, diet and more. I began an intense exercise program. All of this slowly reduced the pain and returned me to a healthy state.

The back problem is nearly gone. I feel confident that I am now better equipped to deal with any problem and help others to do the same. I value life more. I feel richer, wiser and better prepared for anything – including the economic crisis. I have less fear. I feel ready to manage myself and others better. I feel ready for a better life.

I want to do many more good things, I want to share my experiences. I am also more passionate about supporting others because, I realize that not everyone finds the key to conquer their own crisis.

How can we find that key?

The key to overcoming crisis lies inside of us – nobody else can “save us”. The key lies unrecognized in our psyche or even deeper. It decides about our attitudes and motivations. It decides about our future because with the current pace of life we deal with crisis almost constantly.

How organizations can choose to act in crisis?

We know well that knowledge alone is not sufficient – the rules, the procedures, the experts advice will not do the trick anymore. The communication, management and personal effectiveness skills will not be enough either. Speeding up the organizational or personal internal clock will not help. When it gets stuck we have to take the clock to clock master – to have a look inside and to repair it. Contrary to our habitual reaction to flee from or to fight the problem even more fiercely – we need to STOP for a moment and find time for reflection. First, to reflect upon ourselves, our situation, our psyche and our motivation. Second, to reflect on our relationships with others and finally, to reflect on organizational strategies.

In organizations this is particularly important for leaders because they are pillars of employees’ belief in the organization, their faith in the future. As leadership research shows, it is not possible to consciously (and effectively) manage others without being conscious about oneself, one’s situation, and one’s motivation. This is called by M. Goldsmith, one of the most influential coaches in the world, the precipice between people in lower and higher management. In terms of personal development many of our top managers are lagging far behind, because they are given few opportunities for such growth within corporations.

So where can a manager look for help?

One can try to help oneself, but only some succeed. Taking into account the number and weight of responsibilities on manager’s shoulders one solution is to provide them with professionally structured and conducted reflection time, which can be accomplished coaching.

Professional coaches are well prepared to offer such services for managers. A coach will help you to regulate your internal clock, to understand and improve your relationships and to “regulate” your organization by taking a systemic view. The economic crisis causes personal crisis, the personal crisis spills into leadership crisis. A coach that is not dependent on the organization can significantly reduce the stress of the crisis challenge and help turn it into an opportunity for personal and organizational growth.

Crises will happen whether you want them or not. I believe it is your choice whether your crisis will be a “bad” or “good” one. My wish for you is that you choose to learn from the experience for your own benefit and the benefit of your organization.

Jacek Skrzypczynski
certified leadership (M. Goldsmith) and team coach (TCI, CTI, EEE)