This is a guest post by HARRY HUTSON and MARTHA JOHNSON.

Being a new manager or a first-time leader can be a wild ride. Some days your heart is in your throat with trepidation, and on others it is bursting with the pride of accomplishment.

Day-to-day responsibilities and task assignments are in your face. No time for what-ifs, strategic thinking, or long-term perspectives. But consider this: a Rogue Wave can come down on you at anytime. We define a Rogue Wave as a sudden, spontaneous, and significant event that slams into an organization causing destruction and disarray.

The world is facing such an issues with COVID-19 and it’s impact on the workplace and life, in general. But Rogue Wave could also be a product that turns lethal, a major customer who switches sides, a financial swoon that crushes investors, a nasty piece of weather that disrupts operations, or an accident that causes injury. We (the authors) were in a corporation early in our careers when an airplane crash killed a number of the company’s executives. It was catastrophic for our company and community. And we were swept up in the maelstrom.

What to do when it happens to you?

  1. Expect the unexpected. The military has coined the acronym VUCA to describe our day and age: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous. Sound familiar? It is foolish to park the likelihood of a Rogue Wave in some protected corner of your brain.
  1. Be prepared. Master your disaster management plans, have cloud backup, take safety procedures and emergency drills seriously. Don’t fall into the arrogance of youth and feel invulnerable. Betting against the odds is an unreasonable risk, and being unprepared disqualifies you as a leader.
  1. Tell the truth and tell it fast. When that Rogue Wave shows up, your job as a communicator in your department is to be open, honest and clear. Happy talk and the like are not helpful. White lies diminish your credibility. Keep in mind that after the first jolt of reality, your team will segue from asking what happened to what do we do with what happened. Your communications will need to translate facts into meaning.
  1. Build you, now. We call this pre-resilience. Everyone wonders about how we will react in a crisis. Yet we already know a lot about how we react to jolts, shocks, and re-directs. Think of times when the rug was pulled out from under you. Remember when you got that job rejection; when you fell off the curb and bloodied your head; when a family member was diagnosed with cancer. Then remember your response. Give yourself credit. Recall who was there for you. A key to survival—and leading others in a crisis—is being self-aware.

You can’t predict a Rogue Wave or master events in its aftermath, but you can be in charge of you. Commit that sentence to heart and you will have taken a major step up as a manager, and you will have greatly enhanced your value as a leader.

For tips on how to communicate with your team, check out this Kevin Eikenberry video. 

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