13 April 2022

Supporting teams is arguably the most important and difficult task during wartime. On the other hand, leaders are responsible for their families' well-being and personal sanity. Oleksandr Sudarkin, MIM-Kyiv MBA program director and professor of leadership offered his recommendations on crisis communications and helping teams to return to normality. 

How people staying in Ukraine should talk to those who fled abroad?

Civilians who fled the war even on the very first day did what our authorities and militaries recommended. When they try to share their feelings they often hear something like “You don’t have any problems” or “You are safe”. After such words, people start blaming themselves for being safe. They feel guilty because they survived and blame themselves for the sufferings of others. Building trust first is the key to avoiding judgment in the conversations and provoking blame and guilt.

How do we need to talk to those who are away and safe now?

My son is away and he is asking me if he can come back to support me. It is difficult for me to say that he does exactly what he as a minor and non-combatant ought to do. Otherwise, all the family would have been spending time protecting him instead of doing their duties. Sometimes people are asking for emotional support by asking “What should I do?” Keeping in touch with controlling emotions is the key to understanding. 

How can we keep emotions under control?

Please ask the therapist or doctors to prescribe you some tranquilizers. We are suffering from a huge psychological burden. You can do yoga or meditate or do breathing exercises as well. Before the war we could afford to ignore the after-work calls, but not now. The stakes are too high. It is an emotional helter-skelter. 

If you can’t cope with emotions when you talk to people, take a 3 – 5-minute break. Just leave for that moment. 

How can you support your team if you do not know what to do next?

The “Come Back Alive” Fund practice is working. Their strategy is divided into two lines. The first one is a sprint – plans for 1 – 5 days. It is about realistic goals. The second line is about the after-war perspective. What will we do after the war? Create your team’s chat in any safe messenger and involve the team in the discussion. They should feel engaged in the mutual effort.

The third task is to restructure teams for the work under the new circumstances. Flat networks and self-managing teams help to create cross-functional teams. Hierarchies would have taken years to build those teams. Working chats are good instruments for new teams building. 

What requires special attention?

My current team answers four questions every day. They are “What am I doing?”, “What are my achievements so far?”, “What am I going to do next?”. They help to plan and work together for 5 days. However, the initial question is about people’s personal well-being and situation. Listening and hearing the answers and helping whenever you can is a true key to making teamwork efficient. For more information visit  the record.