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How U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal Communicates in Crisis

Battle-hardened advice on how to unite your team towards a common end.
VIDEO  •  LEAD

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Video Transcript

00:04 Stanley McChrystal: I think when any leader faces crisis, this is true on the battlefield but I think it's also true in other areas as well, one of the things you fear most is not understanding the situation. And I think it's that uncertainty that actually is most unsettling to many leaders and causes them to be undermined in their confidence.

What communication techniques are most important in a crisis?

00:23 McCrystal: So what I found the most important thing for me to do was to establish before and then reinforce during the crisis, the communication links. Some of that is physical communication with the modes you use be that over the internet or phones. A lot of it is relationships. It's having people that you know and trust that you can communicate effectively with so you can get a clear understanding of the situation and you can begin to craft a credible response. When you do that, that builds your confidence.

How do you unite the efforts of employees?

00:58 McCrystal: We develop something called "commander's intent" to put in clear words what it is we really mean. So, the commander's intent was designed to explain, in the commander's own voice, what it is we were going to do, why we thought that was important, how it fit in to the bigger context of what we were trying to do, and then what might be successful. I think in a business, "commander's intent" might have a different term. It might be vision, but it would explain to people, here's what we're trying to do and if things aren't exactly as you expected them to be, this is still the end result. If you empower each employee with that kind of context and understanding, they get what we call "shared consciousness and purpose". They suddenly understand what it is they are trying to do in what environment, and what the organization's trying to accomplish.

How do you overcome communication gaps?

01:52 McCrystal: What I believe is, you need to establish processes, you need to establish correct forums, ways that you decide you're going to communicate, and then you need to make it work, and you'll find that things as simple as a cubicle wall or a walk across the street can be as wide as an ocean was a 100 years ago. It just stops communication unless you focus on creating it. You have to force that information to flow both ways and part of that is pumping information out and part of it is creating an environment that pulls information in, makes it comfortable, and viewed as a responsibility for people to share information. Not just between you, the senior leader, and individuals, but between themselves.

Last updated: Nov 16, 2011




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