I’m writing this less than a week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a geopolitical calamity that’s hitting unexpectedly close to home: The remote team my partner leads at work now has multiple members living under active bombardment. All the while, those not in a war zone still have to show up to work and do work things.
It’s an impossible situation. “I wish there was a handbook for this,” he told me as the news began to unfold, his face the color of ash. But he’s since found some solace from management expert Lara Hogan, whose blog gave him a blueprint for addressing his team and colleagues within the broader organization.
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Hogan published “3 steps for leaders to take in emergencies.” The first, in particular, has become my partner’s mantra: “Prioritize one-way communication over anything that requires others to participate.”
Hogan explains that bosses, and group leaders in general, often respond to crises by going HAM scheduling meetings and check-in opportunities. It’s a well-meaning impulse, but creates disruptions that only add to people’s stress and discombobulation.
Instead, Hogan advises that standing meetings continue as scheduled, at their usual cadence. In these meetings, leaders should focus on delivering information—what Hogan calls ‘one-way communication’—instead of trying to elicit feedback or create dialogue. The calendar invites and/or agendas for these meetings should be clear about what will be discussed and in what format. She adds: “As much as is humanly possible, be understanding if people can’t attend.” (The rest of Hogan’s advice can be found here.)
Maybe you’re a contractor in charge of other contractors to deliver a creative product. Maybe you have a full-time job at a company where you’re actually managing a team. Whatever the circumstances, at some point or another, you’re likely going to have to take charge of a group of people in the middle of an emergency — at work, or in life. Maybe this will help.