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Winning in Times of Crisis

Winning in Times of Crisis

Winning in Times of Crisis.

As a crisis response manager for a television network, I experienced dozens of crises during my tenure from in-studio floods, earthquakes, gas leaks, stalking of our on-air talent, power outages, winter storms, and even a deer crashing into our studios. Somes crisis lasted an afternoon, and others lasted months.

There are seven succinct steps you can take to win in times of crisis.

  1. Build a coalition of support: In a crisis, there will be hundreds of decisions and actions that will be necessary to make, too many for a singular person or team to do. Go beyond your organizational walls and tap into experts, business partners, and customers to develop a coalition of support that you can lean on to help make the right decisions.
  2. Know what recovery looks like for your organization*: By defining what recovery is for your organization, it will give you and your team clarity for the actions you need to take. Recovery isn’t just about the results you expect; it is also about the values you will use as guidance to achieve your goals. Those organizations that already have strong organizational values and a distinct, well-communicated vision, are those that will be most successful in a crisis.
  3. Develop a plan for stakeholders to follow: In a crisis, there are at least three stages to recovery; the crisis stage, the restoration stage, and the “normalcy” stage. Your goals should focus on reducing the impact of the crisis, improving organizational value, and celebrate your progress to normalcy. Every plan should consist of well-defined milestones to recovery and those individuals who are responsible for achieving the milestones. Because your employees are looking for guidance, providing them with benchmarks will give them steps they can take to be successful.  
  4. Consistently concise communication: In any crisis, uncertainty threatens recovery. In an emergency, people look to their leaders to calm their fears, give them direction, and to provide information. When there is a lack of communication, people naturally will fill the gap with misinformation or rumors. Messaging should address what you know, what you don’t know, and the next actions everyone should take. It should also tap into people’s intrinsic motivation by sharing stories from the frontline of the crisis.
  5. Empower Ownership: As stated earlier, there are hundreds of decisions that will be made during a crisis. A single person or even a leadership team can’t make all the decisions during an emergency. By demanding accountability from your stakeholders, you empower them to handle their assigned responsibilities. For your employees to be successful in a crisis, you will need to make sure you give them the knowledge, ability, and systems they need to handle their responsibilities.
  6. Celebrate Wins: This is particularly important during the restoration stage, where things are getting better due to the hard work and dedication of your team. Recognize their effort through celebration; it can be as simple as having pizza delivered, giving them gift certificates to a restaurant, or providing them with additional time off.  Research shows that marking progress with a celebration increases an individual’s motivation, builds a sense of community, and improves productivity.
  7. Do An After Action Report: Ask yourself these three questions;
    1. What did we do well?
    1. What did we not do well?
    1. What changes will we make in the future?

Note: In seven years as a Crisis Response Manager, each crisis was an opportunity for my team and me to improve our response. This simple activity of asking ourselves these three questions always lead to insights in which we put in place for the next crisis.

A crisis is a disruption in our routine. It makes us feel uncomfortable, anxious, concerned, and even fearful.  Yet, every time I was in a crisis, I saw ordinary people rise to the occasion, fight through their fears, put others before themselves, and do what was necessary to succeed.

These seven steps helped the organizations I guided during crisis come out on the other side stronger, better, and more prepared to handle whatever the world would throw at them. They will help you as well.


*Is it time to Pivot? We can find opportunity in a crisis to pivot to a new direction or handle a new role, or to provide a new-found service. I have heard hundreds of stories from organizational leaders how they pivoted during and after a crisis to improve their overall mission.

 John Thalheimer

Your Manager’s Guide to Excellence

At the intersection of performance, accountability, and inspiration.

Winning Crisis is now an interactive workshop to teach your managers how to lead in times of crisis. Contact John at John@johnthalheimer to bring this fun and interactive virtual seminar to your organization.

With over twenty-five years of experience working with supervisors, managers, and leaders to improve their performance, John Thalheimer understands the dangers of poor management, and the impact it has on organizations. His core belief is that every organization and every employee deserves great leadership. He works tirelessly to help supervisors and managers to be the best leaders they can be through interactive workshops and seminars, individualized coaching, and business masterminds.

The Lost Art of Empathy

The Lost Art of Empathy

Empathy at Work

She had lost her husband; her sadness weighed her down as she walked out of the grocery store. The little boy held his father’s hand as they walked by and watched the elderly lady walk towards her car. After a moment of thinking, he asked his father, “What’s wrong with Mrs. Clare?”

“She lost her husband?”

“Oh. Can’t she get another?”

“How would you feel if our dog, Jake died?” The father asked.

“Sad. Terrible.”

“Would you want another Jake?”

The boy looked at his father, point well made, and said, “She is sad.”

They walked into the grocery store and started shopping. As the boy walked by the boxes of macaroni and cheese, he stopped and put a few boxes into the cart.

“Put them back,” his father said.

“No,” the boy responded. “We need to make them for Mrs. Clare.”


“When I am sad, you always make me, Mac and Cheese to cheer me up. I want to do the same for Mrs. Clare.”

Empathy is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, thoughts, and situations and to experience them as your own. In the above story, the boy’s father guided him to understand how Mrs. Clare felt by imagining what it would be like if he lost something dear to him. Unfortunately, the ability to see the world from another’s perspective is becoming a lost art.

We no longer take the time to think about how the other person might be feeling; how their situation may be different from ours; how their perspective is unique to them. We create mental short cuts to say this group acts this way or that group always behaves this way. It is easier than taking the time to get to know the person.

At a large corporation, I worked at there was a program called “Walk-a-Mile.” Each employee had the opportunity to work in another department for the afternoon with the hope that if they better understood what the other department did, they would be more than willing to help them out. Guess what? It worked. Employees would come back and explain the challenges the other department had and how their department could help them out.

Can we increase Empathy at work?

I believe so, and I am not the only one. In his article, Six Habits of Highly Empathic People, Roman Krznaric provides us insights on how to do precisely that.

  1. Cultivate Curiosity: People who are talking to individuals outside of our usual social circles have a higher level of empathy. Increase opportunities for your employees to interact with each other. In one situation, a manufacturing company moved their offices to the center of the manufacturing floor; this allowed the management staff more opportunities to interact with the production employees and to see the work through their eyes.  
  2. Discover Commonalities: We have more in common than we don’t. Create opportunities for employees to discover things that they have in common through work activities or team building. (Note: I am working on a program to do this; let me know if you are interested in beta testing this in your organization.)
  3. Teach Active Listening Skills: Active listening skills help the listener understand not only the words the speaker is saying but also the non-verbal cues as well to have fully enriched conversations. Being able to sense other’s emotions will help employees be more empathic in their responses.
  4. Build Trust: When two employees trust each other, they are willing to be more open and to share their perspective with others. Trust is a critical element in the success of high performing teams.
  5. Provide New Experience: As I mentioned above, the “Walk-A-Mile” program we used, provided opportunities for our employees to see things from another perspective. It doesn’t have to be limited to inside the business; give the employees opportunities to experience how a customer uses your services and products.
  6. Tell Stories: Stories help people relate. Go back and read the story above. Did you feel for Mrs. Clare? Did you feel for the father? How about the boy? Stories help people relate to others.

If we can’t measure it, we can’t improve it. Use this quick quiz at Berkely’s Greater Good to measure your level of empathy. If your empathy is high, how can you help others be empathic? If your empathy is low, use the six habits above to increase it.

In the world filled with misunderstanding, empathy is the antidote. It builds a positive corporate culture; it reduces stereotyping; it improves team performance; it teaches kindness.

Enjoy the Journey

John Thalheimer

PS: Are your managers effective in leading their teams to a high level of performance? According to the Gallup Organization, eighty-one percent of managers are not successfully leading their teams. This needs to change. I work with organizational managers so they can be a positive influence on their employees’ performance. At True Star Leadership, we coach, workshop, and mastermind with your management team to improve their leadership skills.  To learn more reach out to me at



Let’s be factually accurate here; I didn’t break the whole internet just how my clients interacted with me. I crashed my website. Over the last two years, I have built five sites some for personal use and some for business use. I was feeling good about my skills at developing and launching websites. It was with this sense of pride, that earlier this year, I built a website for my new business, True Star Leadership – a guide for better leadership teams. It worked for a month or two and then crashed.

I was at a lost on how to fix it.

As leaders, at times we struggle to realize our goals and objectives; our behaviors sidetrack us; we are slow to adapt to changes in our industry; we fall back into old habits; we focus on the wrong thing; we try to do it all ourselves; Work-life balance is nearly impossible; we work even harder, getting the same results.

In short, we get lost.

When I broke the internet, at first, I didn’t know what to do. I was embarrassed to admit that I had broken something so crucial to my business. I tried to fix it on my own, spending hours, and days, looking for the single flaw that I had created to crash my website. In the end, I had to finally admit that I did not have the expertise to fix my site.

Recently, I heard that almost seventy-five percent of all home improvement projects end up with a call to a contractor to finish the project. Homeowners had watched videos, read books, and listen to experts but in the end, they too had to admit that they just didn’t have the expertise to complete the tasks.

This issue arises time and time again in the business world as well with leaders making this same mistake. They set off confident in the direction of success, only to become lost in the cross purpose of responsibilities, the multitude of unknowns and the absence of signposts.

The #1 mistake most of us make, is that we believe that we need to go it alone; bear the burden of responsibilities on our shoulders; seek our counsel; think no one understands the challenges we face. This thinking leaves us alone, without the necessary advice, knowledge, support and tools to be successful.

As a Leadership Coach, I have witnessed the power of shared experience. Whether it is in one on one coaching, in a True Star™ Mastermind Group or at a speaking engagement, we are stronger together.

Each week I set aside time to listen to your leadership challenge and start a conversation that will get you back on track. No question is stupid. No problem is surmountable. In this complimentary thirty-minute phone call, I will listen to your leadership challenge and provide ways for you to start achieving better results. You don’t have to go this alone.


Dear President to be,

Dear President to be,

Dear President to be,

We are a divided nation. 40% of us will not have voted for you. 15% of us will not have voted at all. We have argued our views in small fonts on bright screens in darken rooms. The stories we share are half truths  of discontent. We stand solidly in our own shoes, not for a moment thinking to turn and change our perspective. White, Black, Brown. Rich, Poor. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist. All.

We are a divided nation. Walls within our boundaries. Diversity in strong black lines of political separation. Powerful dollars pave roads to special interests. Informational sources, a thousand or more, sirens of yesteryear confused with the tiny sparks of the new noise. 

In this you will stand on a cold winter day, a hand raised, a Christian bible planted. You will be asked to the best of your ability to  persevere, protect and defend the constitution of these divided states. In this you will stand, a peaceful transition of democracy, on the edge of history.

Yet . . .

This is not about you. It is about us. The United States of America, 319 millions of us. White, Black, Brown. Rich, Poor. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist. All.

It is about our life, our liberty and our pursuit of happiness. We are all created equal. We have mutually pledged to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

In this you will stand. In this you will lead. 

I ask, we ask, that you bring us together, not as divided states but as United States. You look not to your party, your beliefs, your history but to us. White, Black, Brown. Rich, Poor. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist. All.

Focus on those things that bring us together. Our love for our family, (strange, different, and unique as they may be), our beliefs, (strange, different, and unique as they may be), our desire for a better life for our kids (strange, different, and unique as they may be), our ability to help our neighbors(strange, different, and unique as they may be) and our need to connect (strange, different, and unique as we are.)

In this you will stand. In this you will lead. 

Call upon your neighbors on the hill. Sit upon the portico and look upon this great nation. Learn the art of compromise. Learn the art of listening. Learn the art of asking for assistance. You alone can not lead this nation. You alone can not better the world. You alone cannot bring us together.

Yet with neighbors, we build communities, we build schools, we build economies, we build bridges to a better future.

I ask, we ask, that you, our elected president lead us to the promise of a better tomorrow. That you, our elected president, work with your neighbors on the hill to lead us to the promise of a better tomorrow. That you, our elected president, pursue our agenda for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That you our elected president preserve, protect and defend our great country.

In this, we will stand. In this, we will follow.

And together we will make our country great. 


A citizen of these United States of America