How to mobilise collective performance in extraordinary situations

by | 8 Aug 2021 | Insights

  1. How do we define an extraordinary situation?
  2. How do we recognize an exceptional manager?
  3. Prepare for the Unexpected
  4. D-Day: The War Room
  5. D-Day: In the Field

“A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
– Winston Churchill

1. How to define an extraordinary situation?

An extraordinary situation is by definition an unusual set of events.

The abnormality can have its source in:

  • Urgency (interruption to the supply chain, closure of sites, etc.)
  • Confidentiality (merger-acquisition operation, etc.)
  • Difficulty (suspension of payment, etc.)
  • The unforeseen (health crisis, financial crisis…)

An extraordinary situation can represent a formidable opportunity to transform in a positive way. It is an event which occasionally requires us to reinvent ourselves, to review the positioning and the decision-making structure.

These are challenging situations for teams; stress, fatigue and motivation must be at the heart of managers’ concerns, before, during and after the event.

2. How do we recognize a manager as exceptional?
  • They are at ease in uncertainty
  • They show composure, courage and daring
  • They act in all humility
  • They cultivate team spirit
  • They have analytical and synthesis skills
  • They have strong communication skills

The exceptional manager mobilises employees who know how to follow a precise methodology.

They give everyone the opportunity to express their opinions during brainstorming and strategy sessions in order to enrich the debate and define the execution plan. Once an execution plan is agreed and put into action, further debate is no longer required and the team moves into action.

The exceptional manager is aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their team, the vulnerabilities and the current psychological state of each member, and they use this knowledge in order to make the team stronger and to better anticipate situations.

They plan to identify and train a substitute for each key employee.

“Art and craft are not two separate things. Invention and genius cannot exist without knowledge or method.”
– Jacques Copeau, intellectual and artist

3. Preparing for the unexpected.
  • Training means anticipating and giving yourself the means to be proactive when the time comes.
  • Training for unforeseeable events makes it possible to cultivate and challenge an employee’s capacity for adaptability and questioning, and shows them that they are capable of surpassing themselves, or makes them aware of their limits.
  • While some employee types are ready to face the challenges of an extraordinary situation, others can be trained in techniques of mental preparation to improve their success rate and optimise their potential.
  • Conduct group exercises such as simulation sessions; mobilize a team in a strategy session and confront them with different scenarios.

“Nothing beats the power of training.”
– Michel SERRES, philosopher and historian of science

4. D-Day: The Strategy Session
  • Accept that you need to invest time in order to gain time. Whatever the urgency and gravity of the situation, it is important to allow yourself time for analysis and then planning.
  • Only a correct diagnosis can initiate the right treatment.
  • Time spent planning is critical; even if things don’t go as planned, teams cultivate trust. Defining SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) is necessary.
  • Rely on decision support methods and tools.
  • An extraordinary situation cannot be dealt with in a traditional meeting room. A war cabinet or strategy session is necessary for the team to get into the right shape. It is also a state of mind and methods that make it possible to crystallise collective intelligence. Egos remain at the door, hierarchical links are non-existent except at the time of decision-making (everyone is nameless & rankless).
  • There is no perfect solution, the best (or the least bad) will be the one that takes into account the constraints of time and resources. Inaction and indecision are more harmful than bad decisions.
4. D-Day: In the field
  • Listening, humility, courage, transparency and exemplary nature… This is the posture that makes it possible to inspire confidence and engage employees.
  • Be present in the field, alongside the troops, pass on information to your teams and stakeholders. Feedback sessions and debriefs are fundamental and should be practiced cold, not in the heat of the moment.
  • Communication must be seen as a key success factor and should be prepared with great care.
  • Effective communication requires clear and simple messages. It must be backed up with facts and figures.
  • Celebrate victories and successes. Reward your teams.

“Storytelling is essential, but it must be aligned with storydoing, no gap!”
– Frédérique Le Grevès, ex-Chief of staff of the CEO. of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance and Interim Manager.

33% of the assignments carried out by Valtus in 2020 relate to performance improvement.


Frédérique Le Grevès, former Chief of Staff of the CEO of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance, Senior Advisor and Interim Manager, and Jérôme Mandin, former Officer of the Marine Commandos and General Manager of Pegasus Leadership, shared their experience on the ability to remain successful collectively in extraordinary situations during a webinar hosted by Aymeric Bas, Partner Valtus.

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