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5 leadership tips for entrepreneurs dealing with a crisis

By July 19, 2020August 7th, 20209,603 Comments

Sandra talks: navigating crisis with these 5 tips

by Amélie Desrochers


Psychologist-in-residence Sandra Taddeo has built her career around working with entrepreneurs and professional athletes.

She believes COVID19 has been an outstanding ‘stress test’ for countless organizations and their leadership teams, and thought she’d share a few post-crisis insights every leader could use.

Tip 1: Stick to the plan

When you’re planning a parachute landing, you pick a spot and stick to it, no matter what happens next. You can’t change course during the flight, and panicked fidgeting or reorienting could lead to a disastrous crash. You’ve spent weeks planning out the different scenarios? Great. You’ve played around with your Google sheets?  Awesome. Your board is on board? (Pun intended) 

Well done. Now, there’s no turning back; it’s no time to have a change of heart. Keep calm and carry on, as the t-shirt says. Obviously, you’re going to have to tweak the model a little to adjust to dominating winds. And yes, you can certainly adapt to your environment, but you need to focus on your initial objective to ensure a soft landing. Trust yourself, you’ve thought this out.

Tip 2: Get rid of the bad seeds

Organisational psychologist Adam Grants refers to them as ‘takers’ (watch his TedTalk here.) They’re often manipulative, ill-intentioned, paranoid, anxious, charismatic and somewhat narcissistic, and you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of their negativity. Yes, he’s probably suffering and going through a lot, and there are numerous reasons to be empathic, but this individual could quickly contaminate the whole crop beyond the point of non-return. It’s important to quickly notice and address them head-on, we’re in crisis mode here. There’s no time for takers. They will weaken the team and suck the energy out of you. If it’s been a lingering issue, why not take the opportunity to ‘restructure the team” and say good riddance to the bad seeds? The garden as a whole – your beloved work culture, that is – will flourish.

Tip 3: Ask for help

Let’s not forget the givers, say Adam and Sandra. Givers loooove to help and, in a crisis, actually find comfort in helping. By making them feel useful and asking for a hand, you’re only distributing the work and pressure, but resisting the urge to micro-manage that can often emerge in tough situations. You are leading with assurance, people are looking up to you and that’s fantastic. But you can’t do it alone. Make sure to mobilise your team around a common vision and then: delegate, delegate, delegate. Because the ability to recognize everybody’s strengths and set a good example by openly seeking help are key to being a kick-ass leader.

Tip 4: Avoid the blame game

We see it everywhere in the media: blame makes for good stories. But there isn’t really time for the blame game in your business, you need to focus on whatever feels constructive. Worry not, you’ll get to the bottom of this later, but keep in mind that this is often a way to express anger. You’re totally allowed to be frustrated by your team, by the confinement, and by losing all this well-earned growth. In fact, Sandra confirms that complaining is actually essential in times of crisis. But not at work. That’s a big no-no. Venting sessions are strongly recommended, but they should be planned and structured in order to be productive. Esther Perel suggests ‘yoga and complaints’ gatherings with friends or family members (NOT with your work team). But remember: before you start unloading your anger, ask for the complaint-receiver’s permission and make sure you have enough mental space to reciprocate. If you prefer solo sessions, journaling or a good forest scream may be your best bet.

Tip 5: Beware of the rainbows

Lana Del Ray says it best

There are no more chasing rainbows (ah)

And hoping for an end to them (ah)

Their arches are illusions (ah)

Solid at first glance

But then you try to touch them

There’s nothing to hold on to

The colors used to lure you in

And put you in a trance

The rainbows have been a mirage all along. This is our new normal and we have to face the music, so to speak. Their multi-coloured arcs may have been helpful to calm your team at first and to avoid a general state of panic, but now they’re just plain counter-productive. Make sure to notice the over-enthusiastic character on your team. Blinded by denial, the rainbow-seeker is in fact outpouring their anxiety on others to avoid taking real responsibility for change. The post-crisis new normality is filled with opportunities, especially for tech companies. It’s time to put the kool-aid away and embrace a new reality.

Psychologist-in-residence Sandra Taddeo has been helping athletes of all levels perform for decades. As an avid surfer and snowboarder herself, she can’t help but draw parallels between her practice and numerous sporting disciplines.


Amélie Desrochers

Amélie helped her father scale a tech company all through her 20s. She learnt the ropes the hard way. She then morfed into a diplomat and a skillful advisor. Always one step ahead, Am enjoys destroying old decaying structures (while respecting all things vintage) and always finds opportunities to perform what she calls ‘creative contamination’. Geeky and macro-minded, her fascination for building dynamic innovation ecosystems brought her to San Francisco, Toronto, Mexico, Montreal and now Grand-Metis, close to the Gaspé Penninsula. After spending more then a decade perfecting the art of finding balance between nature and tech, she’s now cultivating innovation and creative projects in the heart of a garden by the St Lawrence River.