The Golden Rule of Crisis Management

Posted on in Blog

Follow the golden rule of crisis management and you will be an action focused, confident leader, who is trusted and respected by others.

Interviewing with Oneupweb is a challenging and rewarding process. The gauntlet is intense, and the seriousness our HR team gives to the process is stellar.

My favorite moment along the way came when I met with our CEO, Lisa Wehr. After 20 minutes of focused discussion, Lisa looked at me directly and said, “There is a moment in every project when the shit hits the fan. What are you going to do in that moment?

I swallowed hard and said, “I know how to walk through those situations.

Why? Because I follow the golden rule of crisis management.

I don’t respond to crisis with crisis.

If a client sends an email in all caps, with 56 exclamation points…

I don’t respond to crisis with crisis.

If a client passionately disagrees with our digital marketing recommendations…

I don’t respond to crisis with crisis.

Even if a client is livid in sharing news about mistakes made, or expectations not met…

I don’t respond to crisis with crisis.

Here are three reasons why you should embrace this maxim as well.

1. Your Response Will Be Action and Solution Focused

Amanda Ripley has written, in her book “The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – And Why,” that there are three stages of reaction to crisis.

First, there is disbelief that a crisis is actually taking place. For example, when is the last time you heard a noise in your house that scared you half to death, and instead of finding out where the noise came from, your mind produced 16 rational explanations that keep you in your seat? Your initial inclination is to explain away the noise, disbelieving that it is anything to be worried about.

Second, there is deliberation regarding the response to a crisis. A surprising insight is that when disaster hits, many people will deliberate over a course of action before actually taking any action. Or, they will take unnecessary actions, like making sure their chairs are pushed in and their desks cleared off before leaving a burning building.

Third, there is action. Of course, this is the moment when a person actually makes a decision to do something. You would think this is where people start, but sadly it is not.

This is where living by the maxim, “Don’t respond to crisis with crisis,” begins.

With this approach, when you encounter a crisis, you make it a goal to mentally jump through the hoop of disbelief as fast as you can, bypassing deliberating upon unnecessary issues, and landing at a clear point of action.

2. Your Team Will Have Confidence in Your Leadership

Recently a coworker asked to meet for a few minutes, to discuss a project. We walked into an overflow office, and once the door was closed he let loose with strong criticisms and objections to a decision being made.

When finished he said, “I’m telling you all of this because I know you will listen and help me work through this. Your sense of calm helps me process the issue.

This was a bit flattering, and the truth is that I don’t always have the sense of calm I am trying to project. But just like in this situation, taking a “Don’t respond to crisis with crisis” approach will impact the team you are working with.

They will have confidence in your leadership.

3. Your Clients Will Trust and Respect You

Remember the email above, in all caps with 56 exclamation points? My response, completely free of a freakout, led to a solution, and turned into a great working relationship (even a LinkedIn recommendation…woohoo!). The reason is that by not responding to crisis with crisis, I built trust and gained respect from my client.

This is especially important when it comes to avoiding the “blame game.”

Douglass Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen wrote, in their book “Difficult Conversations,” that blame “is a stimulus to search further for hidden feelings. Once those feelings are expressed, the urge to blame recedes.”

In other words, blaming is a signal of strong emotion, and a way to diffuse strong emotion is to allow its full expression.

This does not mean that you have to accept responsibility. What it means is that when you don’t respond to crisis with crisis, you are able to give people the chance to fully express themselves, without engagement.

Once your clients have this opportunity, you can identify the core issues, and then work towards a solution.

Or, as I tell my kids, “Don’t blow more air into a balloon when it’s about to pop. Instead, figure out how to let the air out of the balloon.

When you do this with your clients, they will respect and trust you because they know that you will allow them to be transparent, you will listen well, and you will work with them to address their concerns.

At the end of the day, at Oneupweb we are interested in finding a pathway through the difficulties we face. When the shit does hit the fan (it will, Lisa was right).

We don’t sugarcoat it. We don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. We don’t avoid it.

We don’t respond to crisis with crisis.

Question: What is a crisis situation you have faced? How did you respond?

Leave a comment below. I’d love to read it!

And if you’re interested in joining our team, take a look at our opportunities. You’ll love the process, and if you can run the gauntlet successfully, I look forward to working with you!

Follow me on Twitter: @JaredYaple

{Image Credit: mikebaird Flickr}

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