How to Dig Yourself Out of a Hole

cave-555727_640According to a study released last summer, eight percent of patients treated in an emergency room wind up back in the ER within three days. Within 30 days of an ER visit, a full 20% of patients will have returned. To make matters worse, nearly 30% of those revisits resulted in the patient being admitted to the hospital. Their condition had gotten worse.

Researchers, who studied 53 million emergency room cases over a four-year period, say the most common reason for a second trip is a lack of follow-up. In some cases, patients dropped the ball with regard to their at-home care. In others, ER physicians failed to communicate properly – some primary care doctors were never notified that their patients had made an emergency visit. In others, important data, such as lab results and x-rays – information that could materially impact a patient’s treatment plan – was lost.

If there’s ever a need for a solid follow-up plan, it’s in the days following an emergency. While follow-up is obviously a critical component of on-going health-care, you’d think that following an episode involving a trip to the ER, attention to detail would spike. When things look most dire, everyone involved needs to be on high-alert.

The same can be said for the health of your business. Follow-up should be consistent and effective, especially when the team is facing an emergency situation. Sales are down, customers are irate, employees are disengaged, expenses are out of control; all should raise an alarm and command focus. Too often though, managers respond to a crisis by drafting a plan that’s quickly ignored. It’s as if simply identifying and communicating a course of action will solve the problem. But without action, plans are worthless. And without proper follow-up, action is temporary.[Tweet “Without action, plans are worthless. Without follow-up, action is temporary.”]

When you find your team in crisis mode, don’t let a lack of follow-up sabotage your recovery. Use these steps to keep everyone focused and in the game until the emergency is over.


  • Make sure the whole team understands what is going on, why the situation is critical, and what the recovery plan is.
  • Don’t count on a single email to get your message across. Visit with each individual on the team to ensure they understand their role, especially if it differs from the norm during the recovery period.
  • Continue to share information about team and individual performance, using metrics specific to the task at hand.


  • Take obvious and deliberate steps yourself – as the leader – the show your commitment to the cause. Be an example the team cannot miss.
  • Eliminate extraneous tasks where necessary. Postpone or reprioritize to ensure focus is on the goal of recovery.
  • Hold people accountable for their specific part of the plan. Recognize effort and provide extra support where needed.


  • Once the crisis has passed, gather the team for a discussion of the situation. Make sure everyone has an opportunity to share their perspective.
  • Identify triggers or early warning signs that were missed. Tweak your standard operating plan to incorporate early adjustments based on these signals to avoid a crisis recurrence.
  • Make note of particular skills your team needs to shore up with additional training and coaching.

Emergency situations are never fun, but they can be valuable experiences. Handled properly, a crisis can bring people together and better prepare the business for the days ahead. As the leader, make sure you follow-up appropriately to ensure a solid recovery and a stronger team.


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