Either you are on top of events, or they are on top of you. And then there are those times when you are not sure who is on top. But keeping in mind that success is not a definite event, but a gradual result of trying and doing better keeps your head up when the waters stir up to a storm. And as a leader, there are several things you can do to traverse those fundamental decision dilemmas. For as Timothy O’Shea, vice-chancellor, and principal of the University of Edinburgh, puts it, “a good warrior must always assess his present position, evaluate his losses and assets, and move forward.”
1. Conduct a Diagnosis
When a crisis occurs, everyone in the business scrambles to respond fast. You want it out of your way as quickly as possible. But you have to understand a problem before you can design a solution. There are many questions to tackle. What are you resolving? How did it come about? Where did it begin? Who is responsible? What is the magnitude? Perhaps the first thing to do is to take a break, breath and order for a cup of coffee. Compose your thoughts and attitude, and be ready to face reality. Be willing to devote the hours, days and perhaps months needed to think collectively about where you are at, where you ought to be, and where you might end up.
2. Get the World off Your Shoulders
When all is said and done, only a few people and issues matter. When you are in the spotlight, everyone in and outside of your business is watching you. It is easy to panic and overburden yourself with tasks such as countless media briefs. It is imperative that you remain focused and set a standard that will leave you better. It is a good time to delegate and ask for help from your internal and external support groups. You are least likely to maneuver through a crisis positively if you go alone. Admit your weaknesses and your need for help and external reinforcements if need be.
3. Formulate a Plan
When facing a crisis, it is seldom that you will have a one-size-fits-all solution. Prepare tailor-made plans to fit specific needs and address various areas of vulnerability. Please note that crisis management is often a continuous process, which will require careful and constant adjustments. Involve your employees, board members, shareholders and all stakeholders to ensure you are acting in the interest of everyone.
4. Get Into Action
Everything you are doing should be aimed at getting into the action as fast as possible. Once a plan is in place, hit the ground immediately. For example, if your dispatch team supplied products with defects, recalling them and replacing those already sold should be immediate. The idea is to prove that you are giving the problem all the urgency it requires. Revisit your outcome often and consider new contingencies as often as you can. Keep everyone updated on what you are doing and be honest. Knowing that you are doing all you can, reassures all the affected parties- something you want to do to retain their trust.
5. Fling Open Your Communication Doors
Embrace and pursue every feedback you can get, even the messengers of bad news. When dealing with a crisis, one of your most valuable resources is information. You want people to report to you about looming threats, what is working and how your customers feel about everything. It is a good time to suspend hierarchal barriers to the movement of information, and enhance communication channels. You are best placed to react to situations early when responses are easier and less costly. Be intentional about tracking response. For example, set up an emergency line and social media channels where affected people can be part of the conversation. The idea is to catch their reactions and tone, and also monitor how fast help is reaching them.
6. Stick to Your Core Values
No matter how red the rod is, do not compromise who you are to minimize damage. Who you are is what sells you, and your customers will appreciate your consistency in all seasons. If, for example, people placed orders and your shipment did not arrive on time, do not be tempted to send them defective products just to calm them down. Customers will respect you more for being open about the delay than trying to fool them. Make it clear that your cores are non-negotiable. Martha Stewart, founder, and owner of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, a media and merchandising company, was at the top of her fame when an off -track move ruined the whole party. Having been caught up in an insider trading scandal, Martha lied, was busted and ended up in prison. Her well-established empire crumbled. Identify your core values, and strictly play from there.
7. Focus on Winning
Never waste a “good” crisis. Time and companies have proved that you can create a great change story from a crisis. Former CEO of Apple Inc., the late Steve Jobs, for example, came back to the company in 1997 when its stocks had plummeted. He cut down Apple Inc.’s projects from 350 to 50 and then 10, and used the publicity that the company was already attracting for poor performance to grow the company to the giant tech brand it is today. By the time of his exit in 2011, the company’s stocks had risen more than 9,000 percent. Use the publicity and attention you are receiving to your advantage. Use every complaint you are getting from customers to your advantage by reassuring each of them personally and proving how much you care for them.
8. Take Time to Learn
When the crisis is over, and business is back to normal, there is a tendency to want to put it behind you and get past the trauma. But part of not wasting a crisis, is learning from it. Make time to juice out and internalize each lesson after the crisis has passed. And you are better off capturing them when they are fresh. These are the secrets that will help your business do better in future. Organize meetings with internal and external stakeholders, collect customers’ feedback, and take the time to examine every response that you administered. Make adjustments in your business where necessary, and plan and practice for future possibilities. If you conduct this process well, you will be well prepared for a similar crisis in future, and at best you could avert any possible recurrence.
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To be a successful business person, you can be sure you will have your share of boiled frogs. But only a few businesses are sufficiently prepared to deal with them. A report published in 2012 revealed that 12 percent of businesses did not survive the 2007-08 financial crisis. While the secret lies in averting crises through preparation, sometimes even the best of the organizations are caught off guard. How you manage the situation is the line between becoming greater and falling off the grid. Whatever your response and course of action, refuse to quit. The adage about winners never quitting remains purely true at every season of life.