What is the difference between crisis communication and crisis management

Cause and effect - If you ask colleagues to name a high-performance team the answer is often based on winning the world championships or the Olympics. They focus on the results achieved by the team rather than performance or behaviours. In fact the mark of a truly high performance team is its ability to bounce back from failure or overcome crisis. This is certainly true in a business context.

When we seek to increase the performance of a team in a crisis situation, it is imperative to separate solving the problem and communicating with the team.

When communicating in a crisis our aim is to reduce the psychological and physiological impact of the fight or flight mechanism. We are trying to create a safe space in which to operate as effectively as possible.

A good way to think about it is as though you are putting up an umbrella. Doing this momentarily creates a space in which your team are sheltered and can start do to what they do best.

In the early stages your outcome is not to solve the problem or find a way out of the situation in which you find yourselves but to get the team operating as effectively as they can in the circumstances.

Remember calm is contagious! Most people are looking for reassurance and direction.

Very often CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Sources) find themselves in a dangerous or VUCA environment. Despite them being some of the most adaptable and resourceful people I have ever worked with the circumstances in which they were operating could get the better of them. Causing them to make rash decisions and place themselves in even more danger. As an agent handler at this stage the job is to get them thinking clearly and effectively. My communication at this point focusses on reassurance and direction. Helping them to focus on what they can achieve and what factors they can control.

Once this has been achieved, collaboration is critical.

By definition a crisis represents a situation you were not expecting to happen or have not seen before. Therefore simply doing whatever you have previously done is unlikely to work. All ideas should be welcome.

Once the agents that I worked with were as calm and focussed as they could be, we could now collaborate and work together to manage the physical crisis. Whether that was a change in the tactical situation or an urgent need to extract them.

This requires an environment in which team members, no matter how junior, feel comfortable to contribute. The more diverse the personalities, communications styles and experience of your team the wider range of challenges you are likely to be able to solve. Remember that spartan leadership will only widen the gap between the leader and the led.

Communication is key and you are unlikely to over communicate.

In a high pressure situation, communication should be focussed on leadership whereas the crisis is managed.