One thing about crisis management and leadership in difficult situations has remained the same throughout my career and that is the glacial speed at which litigation unfolds. Understand that my clients are always defendants (perpetrators). In today’s Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and “the new social media app being introduced next week” age, there are dramatic new pressures on lawyers, defendants and perpetrators to get more explained and done faster.
Wells Fargo took another meaningless step to avoiding their clear responsibility to clean up the mess they created, involving hundreds of thousands (perhaps even more now) of their customers. They separated the chairman and CEO posts, a gesture which is simply beyond understanding. It reflects again, their misguided focus on fixing operations without paying the price of fraud, deceit and despicable behavior toward their customers.
Tim Sloan, the former president and chief operating officer of Wells Fargo, now the new CEO and member of the bank’s board of directors, assures us that the cover-up continues. “You should expect more tough headlines, as additional accountability actions occur and other investigations and reviews are completed,” he said. But efforts to actually remedy the thousands, perhaps millions, of customer-facing problems Wells Fargo has caused, and is likely still causing, are stalled. Many may never really be resolved.
The First and Most Important Axiom of Crisis Survival:
Neither the media, your toughest opponents, smartest critics, nor the government knows enough to defeat you. Defeat is almost always the work of uninformed or over confident, overly optimistic bosses, co-workers and associates; well-meaning but uninformed friends, relatives, or from dysfunction in an organization.
Power Words and Phrases have the magical ability to get or keep you out of trouble and to move you and others in positive, constructive directions. These words counteract and detoxify the sticky, corrosive, destructive power of negative words and concepts.
When you’re in trouble, attracting media attention is surprisingly easy – you just don’t want it to be the wrong kind! If an event causes the phone to ring and TV cameras to appear in your lobby, you need confidence that the people who happen to be at your worksite that day are prepared. Not a problem if everyone – executives, PR, managers, and employees – is familiar with Jim Lukaszewski’s sure-fire methods for handling the media.
Read The Manager’s Guide to Handling the Media in Crisis: Saying & Doing the Right Thing When It Matters Most now.
A few weeks ago, Wells Fargo managed to stumble, fumble and bungle themselves into a $185 million fine involving literally millions of bogus customer transactions. Amazingly, the current Wells Fargo settlement, however, keeps the same perpetrating executives, who created and facilitated this fiasco, particularly CEO John Stump, in charge of cleaning it up and preventing more problems from happening. This is a very bad joke on all Wells Fargo customers.
If you’re a Wells Fargo customer, employee or shareholder, this headline has to be THE question on your mind. . . Given Mr. Stumpf’s recent testimony before the Senate, it may be the only question for him. What we know for sure is that the massive Wells Fargo fraud/cover-up will continue.
Most of my career has been in or around the C Suite, which has given me the chance to observe dozens of different types of consultants and advisors and hundreds, literally hundreds, of public relations practitioners and attorneys, all giving advice.
When trouble comes, trust in leadership is often the first casualty. I define trust as the absence of fear, because when trust is severely damaged or gone, it is replaced by uncertainty and doubt. Sustaining trust requires the systematic participation and example through communication and behavior by leadership. Even in the most adverse circumstances, we expect leaders to be trustworthy and act ethically. We are disappointed when they fail.