Moving Beyond an Instinctive Reaction to the Current Crisis


How is your company or organization dealing with the “current crisis”. I write this in quotation marks, because part of the issue is the fact that we see and experience it as a crisis and the corresponding reaction is one of weathering the storm, of survival, and of instinctive behavior…

Perhaps we are not really dealing with a crisis here… what if this is the new continued reality? Instinctive behavior works in the immediate moment and even then there are no guarantees.

A key prerequisite for effective response (≠reaction) in today’s business world is to get yourself off your hands…

For companies (= people) to stay out of a survival – thoughtless instinct – mode a first step is to understand what happens when you turn weary, worried, or… dead afraid. People either fight, flight, or freeze in these moments. This is true for managers of companies and organizations; it is also true for the mere mortals working in these companies or organisations.

How do you respond in today’s tough business climate?

For companies we often see a fight reaction. This typically coincides with dramatic announcements of austerity, cutting costs, letting people go, etc. Interestingly, this fight reaction creates a “survival instinct cascade” in the people working for these companies. Some people fight and protest, some freeze and become apathetic, and others – often the most qualified – flee.

Other companies or organizations freeze. Now, there is a good freeze (complete focus on the available options and opportunities before making a decisive response) and a bad freeze (deer in the head light). Typically it is the latter. Moreover, we regularly see a combination of fight and then freeze. This means that an austerity announcement is made and then nothing happens for quite some time. Meanwhile a massive fight-flight-freeze wave is moving through the people working in this company and organisation.

If you are interested in reading more about this so-called fight-or-flight response, first coined by Walter Bradford Cannon, you can do that here.

The term “getting yourself off your hands” refers to the fact that we become rather inward focus or self-focused when our reptilian (instinctive) brain kicks in. We not only become rather uncivilized but we also lose perspective and become short-sighted. This short-sightedness in organizations often becomes apparent in a uni-focus on cutting cost (saving our feathers) rather than increasing performance (soaring high).

Did you know that if you encourage people to increase (team) performance the results typically are much better than we you tell them to cut costs?

Part of the reason is that in the former situation they continue to use their rational brain and refrain from moving into their reptilian brain and become self-focused. I have found that a positive focus on team cooperation can triple team performance (yes, 3 times) nearly overnight and as a (new) natural side effect can improve use of resources by more than 10% in just 6 months. (Send me an email if you want to hear more about this).

Before you can respond rather than react to the current business climate you need to first understand what is going on inside you and your company… and make sure this does not interfere with what you want and/or need to say and do.

Please take 5 minutes to think WHAT it is that is currently a barrier to your good response and what would it take to get you off your hands?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s