Why emotional intelligence matters in Crisis Response

21 March 2019

When a company or individual is faced with a situation which they are not equipped to deal with, a professional crisis response team can be a huge benefit.

To be of value, the crisis responders need to carry certain skills that cannot always be precisely set out ahead of the event.

Successful, high performance teams in a dynamic industry do not react or take decisions in the same way as an individual or small business owner operator.

A formulaic set of procedures may be a good starting point, because they are drawn from the experience of previous events.

However, the ability to respond appropriately to a crisis frequently requires high levels of emotional intelligence.

Developing a feel for the culture of an organisation and adapting to it is very important. Ramming a round peg into a square hole at the start of an engagement by allocating the wrong consultant is not going to help anyone.

In an era where so much information is available online and where organisations, family offices and individuals are more attuned to the resolution of complex risk issues, the role of the individual consultant has evolved.

The pioneers of the early kidnap for ransom response industry wrote the operating procedures that have – by and large – endured and are used throughout many of the organisations providing crisis response today.

For families living in higher risk environments such as regions of Latin America, as well as for Corporate Security departments of companies operating in these environments, events such as kidnap or extortion are often not new.

No client is going to be happy when a crisis response consultant turns up with less knowledge than them. Conversely, a consultant who arrives with all the answers on day one is just as likely to arouse suspicion.

The consultant has to tune into and assess the crisis situation as it is, rapidly and often sensitively, in order to determine the appropriate course of action in the appropriate timeframe.

In the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, the issue of response to active assailants, as well as the emergence of insurance products to support victims and institutions, places new demands on the crisis response community.

The sympathetic and effective support for organisations, families and communities impacted by such events is essential for two reasons.

Firstly, it is the right thing to do. How society looks after people and communities in the face of such tragedies matters hugely.

Secondly, getting it wrong and leaving people feeling isolated, unsupported and poorly informed leaves the local council, business or shopping mall owner open to the risk of a class action.

How is this ‘support’ delivered as part of a professional response to an insured or direct engagement client?

The need to tune into the culture of the impacted institution is essential. Initial liaison with multiple agencies requires a working knowledge of how institutional response takes place. As formal agency involvement reduces, it is essential that the response team has the emotional and leadership skills necessary to carry the support of survivor groups and families forward to a managed conclusion.

Kidnap for Ransom and Active Assailant are two extremes of the crisis response sector.

In each case, the need for authenticity is driven by experience, quality of individual and measurable standards, and must be underscored by sound emotional intelligence.

If response providers cannot empathise with the victims they are supporting, or with the agencies that support them, value is lost.

For this reason, the individuals who lead response teams must be selected based on their specific abilities, their professional and emotional skillsets, and their ability to adapt to cultural differences in often emotionally dynamic and demanding situations.


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