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Sonia Tan


How to manage when the walls are collapsing

IbyIMD+ Published 12 April 2023 in Management • 5 min read

Sonia Tan, an experienced broadcaster and campaign and advocacy consultant for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), shares her tips for how best to manage small teams when they are under pressure. 

When you are in a disaster zone, much of the standard rulebook for management needs to be ripped up. Everybody is at best stressed, at worst in physical danger. Your job as a manager is to keep your team calm and focused on the job at hand.  

This is difficult enough at the best of times, but when the team has been thrown together only a few days previously it becomes even harder. You don’t necessarily know your team members. What if they don’t get on with each other?  

On top of dealing with the very basics, like electricity, water and – literally – risk management, any team upsets need to be resolved quickly.  

For many years, I worked at Eurovision, the operating arm of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). As a producer, my focus was on catastrophes; I covered the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, as well as major earthquakes in Pakistan and elsewhere across the region.  

Reporting on natural disasters is, of course, traumatic, but it gives you unparalleled insight into people – you see the best and worst of them. It also gives you the opportunity to see the grit and true character of individuals when they are under stress. So-called big men who walk around full of bravado often dissolve under those circumstances, while people who look ordinary come into their own. They stand up and start to help people. Despite being faced with death, reporting from catastrophes gives you a lot of hope for humanity. It also hones your management style.  

Sonia Tan

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