President's Update 15/4/20

By NZISM Secretary


Kia ora koutou to all members and supporters of NZISM. Like me, most of you no doubt have experienced over the last few weeks the immense availability of webinars, information and social media content on any number of subjects related to COVID-19. Information on the effects on mental health, stress, how to be more resilient, working from home, leadership, essential services and PPE supply has filled our inboxes and social accounts. We have become familiar with different terms and ways of being, such as pivot, social distancing, physical distancing, staying in your bubble, the 2-metre rule, lockdown, work from home and queuing at the supermarket.

So much has been said and made available about COVID-19 over the last few weeks that I am not going to focus directly on the current situation we find ourselves in, although the focus of this message is related, that is leadership through a crisis. Situations of crisis really are the proving ground of leadership; think of some the high-profile crises we have experienced globally over years and consider the leader's response and presence during those events. Remember Rudi Giuliani’s response and presence during 9/11 compared to that of Scott Morrisons during the recent Aussie bush fires.

The following model, the "Crisis Clock", was developed by Peter Baines who, as a member of the Australian Police has led a number of forensic teams on body recovery missions to events around the world such as the Bali Bombings, Boxing Day Tsunami and the Japanese Tsunami, and was engaged to review the Saudi Arabian Government's response to the floods in the city of Jeddah.

The Crisis Clock

The Crisis Clock explores our energy and that of our teams and describes the various stages of a crisis to help those in leadership roles determine at what stage they are at and what they need to do within that stage. The four stages of a crisis being (1) frantic, (2) controlled, (3) working (4) exit.

I don’t intend to go deeply into each stage of the Crisis Clock but hope to provide some key actions that those in leadership roles should do to manage their own energy and that of their teams.


The frantic stage begins immediately that the event occurs, whether it’s an earthquake, a major explosion or a terrorist event. Three key things that leaders need to be mindful of if they are to survive the response that is required of them in a crisis during the frantic stage are:


As you might imagine, this stage of the Crisis Clock is when your response is becoming under control. People are becoming confident in discharging their assigned roles. During the frantic emergency response stage work hours are likely to be extreme. It’s during this controlled stage that working hours start to reduce, there is even evidence of people being able to take a day off. Having workers in the team who are rested is not only beneficial for their wellbeing but also of great value to the response project as a whole. In this phase leaders need to:


Peter Baines describes this part of the Crisis Clock as the least productive, yet most challenging. It’s when leaders really need to step up and manage the energy of those working on the response. Some may have got to the point of losing enthusiasm for the job they are doing; the adrenaline has dissipated. To manage this drop in energy, leaders must:

Exit (or in this case return)

Returning to work after this period of time away from normal work is not really any different to what we experience when we return after our traditional holiday season in early January. And traditionally this is a time when we see increased levels of injury and death as people return to the workplace after a period of time being away.While crisis events that have been experienced around the world including the COVID-19 situation might be described as unprecedented, and of course the specific events are indeed so, the way we respond, lead through the crisis and lead out of the event is not new. Leaders have the opportunity to learn about leadership from historical events.

Along with our response and leadership during and after the events one thing that isn’t any different than it should be under normal circumstances is the need to ensure a culture of kindness towards one another.

Ngā mihi mahana

Greg Dearsly