Leading in crisis – lessons learned in the aftermath of the 1995 OKC bombing

Oklahoma City National Memorial

In a single moment everything changed at my credit union. At 9:01 a.m. on April 19, 1995 we existed to serve the federal employees in the Alfred P. Murrah building. At 9:03 a.m. the building was gone and 18 of our 33 employees had been killed with 5 others seriously injured. We learned firsthand about crisis management.

With the uncertainly we all face right now, I want to share a few things we learned during our time of unbelievable crisis:

  1. Communicate daily with all your employees not just your top team. Over communicate. Let them know what you know and what you don’t know. Be transparent.  
  1. Meet daily with your top team and listen to their input. Things are changing rapidly so your team needs to review the situation, make decisions, and plan strategy at least daily.  
  1. Take care of your employees. Do everything possible to prevent employees from lost income. Be as flexible as you can with schedules. Encourage use of your Employee Assistance Program. Be compassionate with your team and create a safe space for employees to share their concerns.  
  1. Look for emerging leaders. Natural leaders emerge during times of crisis. Watch who steps up. Notice who has expert power and others are looking to for answers. These may be your future leaders.
  1. Look for opportunities. There are always unique opportunities arising from difficult times. Some credit unions are learning how to work from home, how to use technology to serve members in new ways, or how to improve their disaster preparedness plans. After the bombing, we had the opportunity to change our organizational structure, field of membership, name, location, etc.  

Whether in business or your own personal life, we cannot always control what happens but we can always choose how we will respond. We’ve got this.

Amy Downs

Amy Downs

In addition to being the CEO of Allegiance Credit Union, Amy also speaks on the importance of resisting complacency.  Amy survived the 1995 OKC bombing and later transformed her life ... Details

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