Managing Risk Teams Through Multiple Crises: L.E.A.R.N While You Lead

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Security and risk teams continue to be stretched thin, tasked with managing multiple priorities of work within an uncertain environment fueled by the ongoing effects of issues such as COVID-19, civil unrest and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They are asked to stay on top of the ancillary effects of all those issues. Still, they are also tasked with a vigilant eye on other emerging issues that could erupt into a problem for their organizations. While turbulent for those charged with the day-to-day, risk leaders are also working at near (or over) capacity to ensure teams are focused, synchronized and not running so hard that they burn out. The resiliency of any organization is squarely at the feet of that line of business leaders.

How can leaders ensure they have focused themselves? How do they keep their organizations coordinated for immediate success while ensuring an eye to the potential remains, thus avoiding an unintended black swan or missing The Gray Rhinos

Using the L.E.A.R.N principle is a simple way to consider your position as an organizational leader, ensuring teams are aligned and focused on the current priorities within a growing list of requirements. 

Listen. The art of quiet is essential here. A critical element of any effective leader is the ability to take in the environment. A crisis will not always notify you that it’s coming, and when it does, it certainly won’t provide a menu of offerings and responses. As a crisis manager, your ability to see the obvious while discerning the obfuscated issues separates you.

Engage. Your team, key partners, and subordinate organizations have a plethora of experience and ideas – in a crisis, leaders must seek and use that expertise to their advantage and ensure all elements are working towards mitigating and managing a response. Uncoordinated work is a cacophony of wasted energy, resources and people and will likely result in unacceptable outcomes.

Action. What is being done? In the grip of the immediate, influential crisis, leaders strive to make effective plans and manage the priorities while seeing those activities which will become requirements and anticipating the potential needs of an escalating situation.

Refine. Once the crisis starts, all the players are in motion and running for an unstated finish line. After the immediate actions have occurred, we often find that the issue will be long-term. A crisis will rarely work on a prescript timeline, often lagging on as additional problems develop from the unintended consequences of the immediate. True leaders will ask the “what if” questions, even if unpopular. They do this because they know that it’s taking on an asymmetric life as soon as the issue shows up, and our response plans must match.

Notify. It’s not a race to be first but an effort to be aligned. Communicating to decision-makers demands that all lines responding align with information, language and procedure. Crisis doesn’t recognize what organization you’re with and cares even less about tribal issues or internal politics. In some instances, bad actors count on an organization to fail in crisis communication alignment to be successful. Decision-makers need aligned facts to make decisions – authentic leadership recognizes this and strives to deliver an “all response” report.

Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger said, “There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” However desirable it might be to manage when threats will arrive, emerging from both known and unexpected vectors, risk will continue to manifest in an unyielding effort to break through and into an organization’s trajectory. The understated efforts by risk leaders to monitor, manage and mitigate risks can be aligned by considering L.E.A.R.N while you lead.

Looking for more ways to better mitigate risks during a crisis as a leader in your organization? Download our Business Continuity for Corporate Security Tool.