With National Stress Awareness Day in mind, we revisit our latest EPC Occasional Paper 'Controlling Your Crisis' which which talks about the impact of 'having to take control' on Crisis Leaders

With today's National Stress Awareness Day in mind, we revisit and put the spotlight back on our latest EPC Occasional Paper: Controlling Your Crisis.

In brief, it’s about the first and (arguably) most important task of the crisis leader; taking charge and imposing some form of order on chaos.  But what effect can the impulse to do that have on the leader and his or her own effectiveness and resilience?  What are the traps for the unwary, and is it actually true that 'any decision is better than no decision' when it’s all gone south and all eyes in the control room are looking at you?

The paper looks at some of the key decision and choice biases as well as a notion called the 'illusion of control'.  It examines a neat metaphor called 'cognitive fuel' (your stock of intellectual energy and creativity) and how changing levels in your cognitive fuel tank relate to your natural disposition to use what Daniel Kahneman famously called System 1 and System 2 thinking (rapid intuition and deliberate analysis respectively).  It asks you to remember two things: that reaching for a rational/analytical decision model doesn’t automatically make your decisions rational or analytical; and that System 1 thinking isn’t necessarily inferior to System 2. But it is different.  Being mindful about what’s going on in your mind is half the battle.

In keeping with its intention to be a practical guide, the paper finishes with a set of recommendations 'which should help the crisis leader establish whatever level of successful control is possible at a given time'.  This is how the paper ends:

“Hopefully you will now appreciate that the theme of this paper, control, works at two levels in 'your' crisis. The first is control of the 'external' crisis – the event and its consequences that you will be managing.  The second is the 'internal' crisis – meeting the demands placed on you, the person, to achieve and deliver a successful outcome.”

We hope you enjoy the paper.  At about 3,000 words it’s a fairly short read.  We hope to develop this into a strand of shortish reads on the theme of individual and team resilience.