This week we focus on two specific leadership contexts, CRISIS LEADERSHIP  and leading VIRTUAL TEAMS.

How’s that for timely?

Whether you’re managing a corporation, leading a project, coaching a sports team, or parenting your children, chances are you can improve your leadership effectiveness.  


The Podcast:

Executive coach Heather Stark is back to share her expertise on leadership, this time spotlighting two more specific and germane contexts – crisis leadership and virtual teams.

Heather Stark
Executive coach Heather Stark

Heather told me that her learning curve accelerated in the first few weeks of the pandemic, when her clients were calling her frequently, seeking her advice on leading their respective teams in this uncertain time.  She had conversations with her coaching clients when their kids were crawling over them.  And Heather herself has three children at home!

WFH working from home
(image: Unsplash @ charlesdeluvio)

But it’s not all gloom and doom:

“The clients that I work with,
they’ve adopted things that would have taken
months or years to get through their organization,
in a couple of days, a couple of weeks.
I’ve been very, very impressed
with the agility of leaders.”
– executive coach Heather Stark

Amongst other things, Heather created the “5Cs of leading a virtual team.” A playbook or framework to help her clients navigate leading and teams who are working from home (WFH). 

working from home - WFH
(image: Unsplash @ acreativegangster)

Thank you, Heather!

Click HERE to listen to the ?podcast now. 


Here’s your primer on Crisis Leadership. No matter the context, there are three things to keep in mind before you jump in: the playbook; the amplification; and the speed.


the crisis management playbook
(image: Unsplash @ asteriskg)

What do you think of when you think CRISIS?  How about 9-11? Or the infamous 1982 Tylenol poisoning crisis? 

There is a playbook that institutions and leaders reference in times of crisis. Leaders mobilize to:

  1. collect information
  2. create a taskforce
  3. take action
  4. calibrate effects
  5. seek preventative measures.

…All the while communicating with important stakeholders – including the press, employees, shareholders, and customers or citizens. Yes, effective communication is absolutely necessary to survive crises.


megaphone - crisis leadership means everything is amplified
(image: Unsplash @ snowshade)

During a crisis, cracks are magnified. For example, weaknesses in structure, processes, supply chains, and culture make institutions and teams more vulnerable in times of crisis.

Particular leadership skills are also amplified

Effective crisis leadership requires all the communication skills we covered in the previous podcast episode (Communication Skills for Leaders). But when leading through a crisis, communication skills such as listening, empathy, agility, vulnerability, collaboration, clarity, and trust become even more significant.


speedometer - crisis leadership means moving fast
(image: Unsplash @ chrisliverani)

Crises require urgent attention and action. Crises can also serve as a catalyst for rapid positive transformation

During the pandemic, many organizations have pivoted and accomplished more than they thought possible! Obvious examples include the many work offices offices that have gone virtual, manufacturers who have transformed their lines to create high-demand products, and bricks & mortar firms who have moved their businesses online. At the beginning of 2020, most of us would not have conceived this rapid transformation was achievable.



The 5Cs of Creating a VIRTUAL Culture

Creating culture is an overwhelming task, isn’t it? Even more so when it’s virtual. Heather Stark suggests we focus instead on these 5Cs.  By establishing these communication norms, we can simultaneously create a positive and productive culture.


  • In times of uncertainty, leaders need to ensure there is clarity of purpose.  Team members need to know what to do and why
  • Leaders should also provide clarity on what is certain.  Is it the mission/vision/values of the firm? Is it the significance of a project they are working on? 
 (image: Unsplash @ amyb99)


  • Leaders need to ensure their team members feel connected to the organization and with each other.
  • Given the diversity of team members’ home situations and communication preferences, leaders can ”take the pulse” in three ways:
    1. Anonymous online surveys
    2. Group meetings (e.g. via Zoom)
    3. One-on-one phone or Zoom meetings
 (image: Unsplash @ heftiba)


  • Leaders need to demonstrate commitment to not just the organization, but also to each individual. For example, as the boundary between home and work dissolves, leaders need to demonstrate commitment to their individual team members by respecting their needs and preferences and by trusting them.
  • This commitment can come through implicitly, through their actions, as well as explicitly in conversation (like asking someone, “how are you doing, really?”)
 (image: Unsplash @ the brandaohh)


  • Make “celebrating the wins” a part of your culture.  The win could be accomplishing an objective or landing a new contract. It could even be getting through the week or celebrating someone’s birthday.
  • You can celebrate by publicly proclaiming the win in a meeting or on social media, or by delivering a tangible prize.
 (image: Unsplash @ adigold1)


Use the W5 framework to optimize communication in meetings and other communication contexts:

  • WHO should attend or participate?
  • WHERE should the communication happen?  Which media? Is it email or phone or video-conference or…?
  • WHAT are we talking about and WHY are we communicating? This is the topic, the objective and the agenda.
  • WHEN should the meeting happen? How frequently and for how long? This is frequency and duration. Schedules and predictability are important when teams are working virtually.

Heather elaborates on each of these 5Cs in the podcast.  Memorize the 5Cs now and then listen to the podcast, and you’ll have a framework to improve your leadership effectiveness and to improve your virtual culture!

  1. Clarity
  2. Connection
  3. Commitment
  4. Celebration
  5. Communication
Got it?



I said it two weeks ago and I say it again.  Leadership is not easy!

But I hope these two podcast episodes help you become a more effective leader.  Thanks again to executive coach Heather Stark for for generously sharing her expertise. Here are the links again to both ?episodes:

#52 COMMUNICATION SKILLS of Effective Leaders


Please email me anytime with feedback, ideas for future episodes, or anything else you want to TALK about. I ❤️love hearing from you!

Have a great week and Stay Safe! 

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