Is Your Association Facing a Crisis? What Great Leaders Do in Times Like These

By Association Adviser staff • July 5, 2022

Leaders are expected to stand tall and embrace change in times of crisis. The same goes for associations. Members rely on the directional leadership of associations — even more so during uncertain times. Regardless of the industry, every association will face a crisis at some point because, try as you might, some are simply unavoidable. 

Approaching crisis situations with open eyes and an open mind is not easy, especially when you’re the one that everyone in the association is looking to for answers. You might not know the answers to all the questions you’re being asked, but you need to portray an image of courage to inspire your team and instill the belief that you can find the answers. 

So what exactly should leaders do in dire times? Alex DeBarr, CEO of Naylor Association Solutions, recently discussed some of the things that leaders should do to help guide their associations through a crisis. 

Acknowledge That Your Organization is Amid a Crisis

The first thing a leader should do in a crisis is to be honest with the team about the reality of what is going on inside or outside the company. A good leader is clear, communicative, and visible. Providing a clear and honest message to your employees removes the damaging potential for them to speculate about what is really going on.  

Before preparing a crisis message for your team, you should ask yourself two questions: 

  1. How does this affect my members? 
  2. How does this affect my industry? 

Once you answer those questions, you can begin crafting a message that would allow you to properly communicate the situation to your team. 

Communicate Frequently and with Focus

As a crisis develops, it is important to maintain a consistent flow of information to your employees, so they can stay up to date on what is going on. While delivering these messages – whether good or bad – it is best to deliver the message face-to-face. Even during the height of coronavirus pandemic, utilizing a video conference was preferred by employees rather than a simple email. Presenting a message face-to-face allows you, as a leader, to provide a confident image to your employees that can help ease their concerns and leave a bigger impact on them as well. 

Lead with Empathy

When communicating with your employees, it is important to not come across as unprepared, insincere or arrogant. This is one of the quickest ways to lose the trust of your employees. Once you have lost their trust, it is hard to get it back. People want their leaders to be confident – not robotic. Listen to your employees’ concerns and do your best to address them. 

One way to accomplish this is by hosting an open forum where employees can come and ask questions. If an employee asks you a question that you do not know, don’t be afraid to admit it. Simply write the question down, try to find the answer, and get back to them at a later time.

When talking with your employees, make sure you are really listening to their concerns. The last thing employees want from their association leadership during a crisis is to feel that they are being ignored. 

Common Mistakes Associations Should Avoid Making in a Crisis

In crisis times, there is usually a heightened sense of urgency that can cause panic, thus leading to mistakes. Some of the common mistakes associations make are: 

  • Jumping to conclusions: It is easy to follow the consensus or common wisdom, but each association needs to evaluate its situation independently from one another. Avoid generalizations at all costs, because they can be detrimental to your association.
  • Overanalyzing: When associations are in a crisis, it can be easy to want to step back and analyze every minute detail of a situation, but acting quickly and precisely could allow your association an opportunity to get in front of a crisis. You can always reverse a decision – you can’t reverse time. 
  • Getting too defensive: It is human instinct to want to play defense or hide when trouble arises, but you can’t stop looking for opportunities. When associations are in a crisis, they shouldn’t tuck tail and run – they need to find ways to get on the offensive.

Face the Crisis Head-On

Being a business leader, you are the one who everyone looks toward – in good times or bad. So when your association faces a crisis, you can’t be so fearful that you freeze to try to avoid mistakes. The first thing you need to do is be honest with your employees and approach the situation with humility. This will help instill trust in your team throughout the crisis. Make sure you are informed on the topic and how it affects your association, clients and employees. Being up to date on the latest news or events surrounding your situation can help you make quick, informed decisions that can save your company time in the long run. In turn, this will help teach your organization to become more efficient while using fewer resources, as they will need to rely on one another more and more to keep achieving your association’s short-term and long-term goals. Lastly, take care of yourself. It is important for your employees to see you well-rested and in a good mental state, so make sure you are exercising, spending time with your family and eating well. This can make a huge difference in your job performance at any time but, during a crisis, it is especially important to be on your toes and able to adjust to what comes your way. 

To learn more about how your association can handle a crisis, schedule a meeting with Naylor Association Solutions.