Management matters in a time of crisis – Pasi Niemi’s 10+1 crisis management theses

We are following the war in Ukraine with a heavy heart and the current situation reminds us how important proper crisis management is. Our Vice President of Project Business, Pasi Niemi, a former officer of the Finnish Defensive Forces, has come up with his 10+1 theses for crisis management. The theses are based on his long experience in management in different organizations and situations. 

 

Banner with Pasi Niemi and text Pasi's 10+1 theses for crisis management.

1. Be yourself: You will succeed better in dealing with the coming challenges if you can be yourself rather than playing a role

According to Pasi this is one of the most important qualities of a good leader. “Don’t pretend to something that you are not. For example, don’t try to be an expert on a matter unless you really are. Acting and “role playing” are viewed as phony and it will raise doubts in relation to “what else you might be lying about”. Confidence cannot be built by putting on performances for each other. When you are under pressure, your mask will eventually slip, and you will lose face irretrievably.

2. Understand your mission, responsibilities and position: Don’t try to do everything yourself, but rather make use of your organisation’s expertise – and delegate when needed

“A good manager figures out first what his/her mission is,  responsibilities, and from where they draw their authority. Leader shouldn’t start doing the work of the subordinates and colleagues, but make sure that they all do their part. Each member of an organization has, or should have, a defined role and managers should “help, advise and serve”, while also demanding that staff live up to their roles. It is not the job of a leader or manager ”to be an expert on everything”, perched at the top of the management pyramid.” 

3. Make decisions, don’t hesitate: Make decisions based on the best available information and think the consequences through before making the decision

“There is no such thing as the perfect decision, but the worst outcome is failure to make any decisions. If a decision turns out to be wrong, step in and correct the situation. As a manager you can change a decision, but do not continuously change them due to inexperience, uncertainty, or other circumstances. The right situational picture forms the basis of the right decisions. Above all, listen to others when facing challenging situations. Focus on the essentials when making decisions and remember that every decision should be made for the right motives, which can stand up to scrutiny afterwards.” 

4. Act according to your position: Remember that as leader you need to set the example for other and when needed be a true leader

“Don’t get involved in any daftness which you ultimately know is wrong. Don’t indulge in poor behavior or take liberties that are inappropriate for people in a leadership position. 

Try to remember that you are being watched and are an example to others, but without going overboard (your free time belongs to you). Don’t make a big deal about your position, it should be clear within your organization anyway. However, if this is not the case for some reason, use your professional skills and expertise to make it clear.” 

5. Don’t raise yourself to pedestal: spend time with your subordinates and make them feel that you are all part of the same team

“Mingle with your “troops” and behave in a way that is natural to you; in this way you will signal to your subordinates that you are one of them, especially in times of crisis. Greet and acknowledge people in your organization, otherwise they will view you as arrogant. Don’t try to be “better” than others when – ultimately – you are not.” 

6. Give recognition to those who deserve it: Reward subordinates for their hard work, but don’t let any other factors, eg. Friendship, influence your decisions

 “It’s important to reward subordinates for good their performances, but remember the obligations and any agreed ground rules that this involves. Never elevate anyone above the others based on factors, such as friendship, which are marginal in terms of the actual results achieved. By doing this, you will lose the last shreds of prestige in the eyes of members of your organization, since they tend to know best who is actually achieving results and have a strong sense of injustice.” 

7. Everyone fails at times: as a leader take responsibility for the failures. Be understanding with your subordinates and willing to give a second chance. Remember that usually practice makes perfect

 “Don’t blame your subordinates in front of your boss or colleagues or hide behind their supposed failures. If you fail, then correct the situation yourself and learn your lessons. This will enable you to move on, while improving your skills.  

If a subordinate doesn’t succeed in his or her work, try to find out why together and in a constructive manner. If he or she doesn’t succeed in spite of the corrective measures agreed together, jointly consider a move to a new role within the organization. Do not accept poor performances but remember that everyone needs a second chance. Even you don’t succeed in everything.  

Support your subordinates in difficult moments and remember that no one is born an expert. Younger subordinates or inexperienced managers may be in particular need of your support.” 

8. No need to show off: When hired to new organizations, do not flaunt, but be respectful of your new subordinates and try to interact with them casually and be interested in their work

“When starting as a manager in a new organization or task, don’t go around flaunting your previous achievements in every forum. No one wants to listen to this, and you need to earn your spurs over and over again anyway. Don’t brag about yourself all the time – you can be happy about your successes, but don’t let it go to your head. 

Talk to people and interact with them regardless of their position. You will get feedback on your work in various different ways. However, since you can’t know everything as a new member of an organization, ask information from others. If someone reacts strongly to this, it will tell you a lot, very quickly, about the culture of the organization.”

9.  As a leader, be tough on yourself above all else: Be yourself when facing challenges and don’t shirk away from your responsibilities

According to Pasi “Tough leadership” is definitely not about “Stalinism”, but about being yourself when facing difficult situations and not shirking your responsibilities.” 

“If you end up as part of a company with poor management culture, try to do the right thing yourself. If you are still not accepted, seek a position elsewhere, where your attitude and skills will be valued.”

 10.  Develop self-believe and believe in yourself and be honest with yourself and others

“Develop your self-believe and believe in yourself. Knowing yourself will help you to be a good leader. Analyse your reactions in different situations and try to understand why you react in the way you do. Don’t let go of good principles under any circumstance and be honest with yourself and others.  

Do not isolate yourself in difficult situations, such as crises, but try to harness the power of extensive cooperation and use your organization’s resources. “

11. Always remember that “A leader’s responsibility cannot be shared”

These theses are appliable especially in Finland and in Finnish operational environment. These theses also showcase the wide range of skills we have here at Semat. No matter what your situation is we help with your project management challenges