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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Posted by Beth Payne on Monday, January 4th 2016     

Most people who work for the State Department will find themselves in a crisis at one time or another. Most of the time the crisis will be unpredictable. Whether you find yourself in a city during a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or civil unrest, it is very important that you and your team maintain your resilience so that you can respond to the crisis effectively and achieve U.S. foreign policy goals.
Here are some tips on how you can foster resilience during a crisis:
§  Focus on people first: The highest priority in a crisis is the safety and security of the team. Take the time to ensure that everyone has what they need to feel secure. Let people leave if they need to.

§  Ask for help: One of the best ways to maintain resilience during a crisis is to ask for help and resist the temptation to prove how capable you are by going it alone. Many Department bureaus can send TDY support if requested and are happy to walk you through best practices and lessons learned. Be proactive early on and get the help you need.

§  Create work schedules and rest breaks: While a crisis often requires 24/7 work coverage, that doesn’t mean people should work non-stop. Develop clear work schedules that incorporate time for rest breaks, meals and relaxation. Make people who are not scheduled to work go home. Some people like to stay where the action is, but they can be distracting and will then be over tired when it’s their turn to work. Leaders should designate deputies so they can also take time to eat, sleep, and relax.

§  Communicate extensively: Effective communication is critical in a crisis and err on the side of over communicating.

§  Manage Washington: In a crisis, senior officials in Washington crave information and details. Channel communications through a central point of contract or location so that employees aren’t distracted by constant requests from Washington. Everyone should regularly feed information to the designated Washington point of contact so officials are satisfied. Don’t allow a vacuum to develop.

  • Eat and drink: Provide fluids and healthy food and the time to eat. Minimize caffeine and sugar since these only provide a temporary boost followed by a significant drop in energy. If you want to have snack foods, bring in fruit and nuts instead of candy and chips. Avoid alcohol during the crisis. Alcohol will mask, but not reduce stress, and can have a negative impact on the body in times of stress.

  • Have fun: Even though you find yourself in a life or death crisis, there is still room to have fun and laugh – find it. However, be sure your humor is culturally sensitive.

What helps you stay resilient during a crisis?

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