How Leaders Can Frame a Crisis to Reduce Uncertainty and Build Trust

Travis Newcomb
2 min readFeb 28, 2022


It’s happening” said the text. Russia had just kicked off its invasion and it was time to talk. Most of the team is based in Ukraine and everyone was looking to the founder for guidance.

As a founder it can be incredibly difficult to reorient your perspective when an crisis hits. Good leaders can be fixated on on the long term interests of their team so when an external crisis introduces uncertainty it can cripple our ability to lead.

The founder’s concerns ranged from the safety of his team, the disruption to his product roadmap, and whether this could be an existential threat to the business.

This is how we broke it down:

Slow down and think. The single most important thing to do in a crisis is to avoid being reactive. Emotions run high, we form false urgency, and we make poor decisions.

Determine what matters to you. Write down the priorities that you’ll want your response to be consistent with. In a crisis these will not all be consistent with each other.

Rank your priorities. Take your priority list and stack rank the items. As you work through the problems this will help you sort through the noise and focus on what’s most important.

Budget the impact. As you watch your cash dwindle or customers leave its easy to fixate the latest developments. Instead, just accept that the crisis is going to be setback and quantify some arbitrary level of impact given the information you have. This lets you focus on your team’s strategic response instead of being reactive with each development.

Timebox decisions & reassessments. Crises introduce uncertainty so think in terms of time windows. Some decisions you need to make immediately, but some decisions can be deferred for a week or two when you’ll have more information. Schedule in advance when you’ll reassess the situation so you don’t slip into reactive mode.

Communicate. Your investors, team, and customers all need to understand you’ve thought this through and what your plan is. This will include:

  • Your revised priority list.
  • Commitments you are going to miss.
  • Timelines for pending decisions and when you’ll next reassess the situation.
  • The state of the business. Does the crisis represent an existential threat? What developments would increase/decrease the risk? What mitigations are you considering?

Leading well through a crisis will foster trust and strengthen your team’s culture. Try using this approach the next time a crisis impacts your team and see if it helps.

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Travis Newcomb

Thoughts on the personal & leadership challenges faced in rapidly growing organizations. (Apple, Chime, Eventbrite, Cisco, …)