[November 04, 2013] The best way to deal with a crisis is to simply be prepared.
Planning, resourcing, rehearsing, organizing, and placing the right people on the job is key. The upside? Lives and property are saved and organizations survive. The downside? It detracts from other priorities and is expensive.
It is difficult to replicate crises experiences but the preparation process helps prepare for the “big one.” Learning from the failures of others and participating in practical exercises are also beneficial. Lessons show us many things will go right and some wrong – the trick is to minimize what goes wrong and not make a strategic blunder.
One of the biggest challenges for a senior leader in dealing with a crisis is to control the tempo of action – not acting too hastily or slowly, managing actions and resources, ensuring timely and accurate information flow, and a variety of activity to ensure an acceptable outcome.
“Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.” – Charles de Gaulle
All crises are, of course, different and hardly anything goes unnoticed either by employees or the world.
This is where relevant experience and quality senior leadership can make a difference. This senior leader must be able to simultaneously deal with the crisis and continue the care of employees, educate the public (as needed), cooperate with the media, continue the functioning of the organization, and maintain enough rest to be at peak performance. This is more difficult over long periods of time or when politics is involved.
The complexity of crises and the potential devastating effects, has led to studies in crisis management. Rightly so, this field is a growing area of study that is helpful to senior leaders. A reading of much of the literature can provide a richer understanding of dealing with crises.
The senior leader who has extensive and diverse, relevant crises experience and is grounded in the lessons of failure (through the study of crisis management), is both difficult to develop and hard to find. In this world of intolerance for failure, great senior leaders are even more valuable.