How to Get More Invitations to the C-Suite and Be Heard Part 2

Be Quick, Be Careful, Be Candid, Have a Management Mindset

My practical and empirical knowledge combined with the research of others demonstrates consistently that bosses expect these crucial attributes and behaviors from trusted strategic advisors: 

  • Real-Time Advice: Typically, staff advisors come to listen to their leadership then, head back to their office to figure out how to help them or if they can. The trusted strategic advisor gives cogent advice on the spot without having to leave the room. 
  • Candor: Truth with an attitude delivered immediately. Something that Public Relations practitioners have difficulty with as evidenced by the recent research by Dr. Marlene Neill revealing ten troublesome issues that practitioners face every day. If your reaction to this definition is, “Jim, you don’t know my boss!” That’s probably true, but it’s time to leave the organization if your boss has a problem with candor.  
  • Coach at Every Opportunity: This is really what one of the greatest values we provide to those we advise. Coaching rather than having a specific answer for things, is the art of options, and suggestions, that is offering three approaches to respond to an issue or question before management.
  • Consequence Analysis, Being Insightful: This is the trusted strategic advisors greatest challenge, to be more than relevant, and to be able to comment on much broader areas than just what the news media is going to be doing or thinking.
  • Knowing What is Important: Senior people, contrary to their behavior, are interested in input on what they should be dealing with and should be thinking about or in fact are dealing with or thinking about. How does one find this out? Ask and keep asking. Be an intelligence collector and sharer.
  • Early Warning: Another value of the trusted strategic advisor is their knowledge of what’s happening throughout the organization. Rather than being the first to acknowledge what others have revealed or spoken about, your credibility is really built on being the first person to alert management to issues and questions they need to be concerned about. When I asked top leaders what the worst problem is they face every day, almost unanimously it is, “Being the last to know.” The trusted strategic advisor worth their salt, skips all those filters, sidetracks, and barriers to information and brings intelligence information immediately to the attention of top people.
  • What To Do Next: Seems ironic but one of the great problems in leadership is knowing what to do and what the next steps are. In dozens and dozens of conversations over the years with leaders and managers who were having difficulties, offhand I would say 90% of the problem came from really not knowing what to do next and not being able to get some reasonable advice on what those actions and decisions and problems should be or are. This questions actually is at the top of every leaders list, “What the heck do I do now?” One of the great techniques of the trusted strategic advisor is the, “What if” exercise. What if this happened? What if that happened? What would you do? What would you say? What would you decide? What is the first step you should take? If you can play a role in the, “What’s next?” game. You’ll be among the first to be invited to every important meeting.

Now, let’s talk about the current reality.  

The purpose of examining this list is a way of analyzing yourself, how you operate, what you think about yourself, and how you approach the task of being a trusted strategic advisor.

This is hard but please listen up.

Public Relations tends to rely on what I call the Liar’s List of communication tactics. This is the tendency to avoid positive declarative, definitive, evidence-supported communication in favor of nine alternative communication strategies:

  • Allegories
  • Analogies
  • Euphemisms
  • False Comparisons
  • Lies
  • Metaphors
  • Similes
  • Stories
  • Verbal Translation, “In other words…”.

Each of these techniques are obvious attempts to state anything but the simple plain truth. This is the list liars use by those with whom we disagree or who are disagreeable. The two most abused of these techniques are metaphors, explaining something and using a substitute reality, and stories, which unlike life, have obvious beginnings, middles, and ends, usually attention-getting opening, statements, and a conclusion in the form of a lesson, message, conclusion, punch-line, insight, moral, or self-evident truth. If only life would behave this way.

The whole problem with stories is that they are completely artificial (euphemism for lies). Life does not have a sensible beginning, middle, or end, A Situation rarely starts with snappy opening headlines and rarely concludes with the definitive statement of purpose, accomplishment, or an obvious ending. They are fabrications. The truths of stories are almost always fabricated. So now you’re asking me, “What if a story is half true…?” Half a truth is always all lie.

Too often, one of the biggest values senior executives can count on us for is our skill in creating an alternative universe of information about something that may be difficult, unpleasant, or unwanted to communicate. That is intentional untruthfulness.

The goal has to be candor.

Be More Careful

  1. Our function has a reputation for avoiding conflict and candor. This is one of the reasons we’re often left out of important meetings at senior levels. If the issue is important, management is still taught to arrive at important decisions through conflict and aggressive argument. If that makes you feel uncomfortable it shows quickly and without mentioning anything to you, you will be automatically excluded from meetings where intensive discussions take place. Advising leaders requires a tough stomach.
  2. Also, we tend to avoid naming what we see, or worse, we find ways to euphemize and therefore avoid getting the benefits of candor and clarity. Anger, even violent anger being described as, “Tempers boiling over…” or, “Softening harsh language. Truth is usually blunt and hard.
  3. Our inability or unwillingness to accurately and dispassionately assess skills, competence, strengths, and weaknesses of other members of the senior team and staff. We don’t have much of a taste for evaluating the skills of others the way senior executives must. Most of the major business problems organizations face are created by people in positions of importance. If there’s one thing that most senior leaders need it is staff who can accurately, helpfully, and purposefully assess strengths, weaknesses, shortcomings, skills, apititudes, accessibility, and other attributes of those on the senior team including themselves. If that responsibility tends to make you uncomfortable, you become less valuable in everything else you do for the senior team.
  4. The notion that we are an organization’s conscience. This is a pretty big and important burden. One of these days I hope that someone actually defines or lays out a job description of corporate conscience. The idea seems to work in some organizations. I’ll be writing about this in a future Jim’s Wisdom. Many of those who consider themselves corporate consciences also consider themselves experts in ethics. Sometimes accurate, but often oversimplified.  

Changing the Management Mindset

A number of years ago I was a senior advisor to a fortune company going through a very devastating criminal proceeding. People had died, were injured, the behavior of certain individuals at the company was intentional, several were prosecuted and six went to prison. The Chairman was acquitted during the trial and retired.

The company itself, however, took it’s problems seriously and worked to begin to understand how a company this successful and this important, saving lives every day could get into the mess that they had.

They hired several forensic compliance consultants to interview many employees to get a sense of what employees expected of company leadership during times of crisis. Here is that list. For those of you who act as corporate consciences, I urge you to examine this list and see if you could actually deliver useful advice to senior management based on employee expectations.

Employee Expectations of Leadership During
Emergencies and Tough Times (i.e. All the Time)

a. Find the truth as soon as possible: Tell that truth and act on it immediately.

b. Promptly raise the tough questions and answer them thoughtfully: This includes asking and answering questions yet to be asked or thought of by those who will be affected by whatever the circumstance is.

c. Teach by a truthful parable: Emphasizing wrong-way and right-way lessons.

d. Vocalize core business values and ideals constantly: These include the values and ideals, the ways and behaviors that employees bring to work each day.

e. Walk the talk: Be accessible; help people understand the organization within the context of its values and ideals at every opportunity.

f. Help, expect, and enforce ethical leadership: People are watching; people are counting; people know when there are lapses in ethics causing trust to be broken. When bad things happen in good organizations, it’s those occasional lapses that deepen the troubles.

g. Preserve, protect, defend, and foster ethical pathways to the top of the organization: Constantly identify, explain, explore, and warn about situations where ethical processes can be compromised, especially among executives who are on upward career trajectories.

h. Be a cheerleader, model, and teacher of ethical behavior: Ethical behavior builds and maintains trust. In fact, to have trust in an organization requires that its leaders act ethically constantly.

i. Make values as least as important as profits: Research shows that most people seem to enjoy working more when they are with organizations they respect, people they trust, leadership they can rely on, and who respect them. Wherever you find an organization or company that puts values on the same level as profits, there is often even more loyalty and support because companies who do this sacrifice for principle. Everybody notices and wants to be a part of these kinds of organizations.

j. Be respected: Research also shows that respect is more desired by employees than any number of perks and preferences. Respect is what draws employees back to work each day.

Avoid Apology Avoidance

Avoid Apology Avoidance

The First Axiom of Successful Victim Management:
Of all things victims want, need, and expect,
an apology is the most important.
The First Corollary to Successful Victim Management Axiom #1:
Failure to apologize when an apology is clearly appropriate
has a huge cost in reputation damage,
prolonged embarrassment,
and often significant unnecessary legal expenses.
Start With What Victims Expect, Need, or Want.

Victims have four powerful needs: validation, visibility, vindication, and most of all extreme empathy/apology. If these four needs are provided promptly, humanely, and with empathy, preferably by the perpetrator—victims will more easily move through their state of victimization and be less likely to call or respond to attorneys or the media, or even to call attention to themselves. The reality is that if the perpetrator fails to meet their needs or does so only partially, victims will find ways to provide for their own needs, often at the perpetrator’s reputational expense. It only takes one victim to be ignored, humiliated, revictimized, or just treated without respect to cause an earthquake of reputational disaster.

If your response starts anywhere else, see first corollary #1 above. 

There is a tragic and all too common failure strategy which happens time and time again. Each of these behaviors, silence, stalling, denial, victim confusion, testosterosis, arrogance, or searching for the guilty and worst of all whining. This is the track to failure, every time. And remember, there is only one career at stake in a crisis, and that’s the person whose running the place.

Profiles in Failure


Victims require validation that they are indeed victims. This recognition is best rendered by the perpetrator. If not, public groups, government, or the news media will do it. Victims will seek it. “I’m not crazy, this really did happen, and someone else is responsible.” Victims rarely sue because they are angry, because their life has been changed dramatically, or because lots of plaintiff attorneys are chasing them around. Generally, victims sue because their situation is not acknowledged and their feelings are ignored, belittled, or trivialized. If they are prevented from publicly discussing what happened to them in meaningful ways, and no one is taking prompt constructive action to prevent similarly situated individuals, animals, or living systems from suffering the same fate, victims will be looking to take more aggressive action.


Visibility involves a platform from which victims can describe their pain and warn others. Preferably, again, the platform should come from the perpetrator or a credible independent organization that can help victims explain what happened for the purpose of both talking it out and convincing others to avoid similar risks or take appropriate preventive action. Some victimization lasts a lifetime. In the case of major disasters, invariably there will be monuments, remembrance sites, even living memorials that victims, survivors, and responders visit, talk about, and rely on. These are permanent visible symbols that recognize, redescribe, and remind the world of the suffering and sacrifice that took place. Name any major disaster dating back hundreds of years, and there is a memorial someplace, perhaps a place of worship, a graveyard, even some extraordinary monuments. And to this day you’ll find tourists, relatives, survivors, and responders at these places, visiting and coping.


Vindication occurs when victims can take credit for any actions the perpetrator takes to ensure that whatever happened to them will never be allowed to happen to others. Victims will describe these remedial actions and decisions as proof that they had an impact and that their suffering will now benefit others because of these new decisions, actions, and practices. Let it happen; let them take credit. It’s part of their rehabilitation and part of the restoration of the perpetrator’s reputation. 

Extreme Empathy and Apology:

Apology has the atomic energy of empathy. If you want to stop bad news almost dead in its tracks, apologize. If you want to generally stop litigation and move to settlement, apologize. If you want to dramatically decrease the newsworthiness of almost any adverse situation, apologize. If you want to demonstrate that you truly care about the victims or the victimization you caused, apologize. While the lawyers may strongly advise against any form of apology because, under law, an apology is an admission, there is a growing body of evidence and data to demonstrate that apologies, promptly and sincerely delivered, virtually eliminate the potential for litigation. This means that while the lawyer’s advice needs to be listened to, if the victim refuses to sue, it may be time to find a lawyer specializing in negotiation, effective settlement options, rather than pursuing a futile effort to deny what the victim needs most— someone taking responsibility through settlement.

How Perpetrators Avoid Apologizing

In my experience, there are five general approaches executives and leaders use to avoid apologizing:

  1. Self-forgiveness
  2. Self-talk
  3. Self-delusion
  4. Lying
  5. Conventional but false “Truths”

You’ll recognize each one by the language these executives use. All apology avoiders deny and deny until they are caught. Then they blame those around them. I always recommend talking about these avoidance excuses, if given the chance, as widely and as soon as the subject, or argument, about apology arises which is usually early in crisis (where there are victims) and reputationally damaging situations. It is crucial that those around leaders and Managers be able to identify, speak up, and call attention to these falsities and fallacies repeatedly as apology denial starts.

The number one excuse is, “The lawyers won’t let me apologize.” Look, lawyers are important consultants, yet they can only advise. It’s always up to the client to decide. In crisis, if you are a trusted strategic advisor, your advice will have sometimes as much weight as the attorney’s, sometimes more. It’s still up to the client to decide. When it comes to apology your leadership advice should at least equal the weight of the lawyers advice. Apologies are leadership decisions. The possible legal consequences are widely known.

The reality is that apology is always a leadership decision, first. Rarely just a legal decision. Wait a minute. Yes, an apology is always an admission whatever the circumstances and has legal implications. That’s one of the reasons we have attorneys.

As always, consult qualified legal assistance in any situation which would appear to have legal implications or where required.

Ingredients of Leadership

The main point of this piece is that leadership, especially top leadership, has far broader responsibilities for making crucial decisions and actions when there are victims: damage or death to people, animals, or living systems. A higher level of compassion, truthfulness, and empathy are required very quickly, to get serious matters settled to the satisfaction of  victims.

Managing the Victim Dimension of Large Scale Disasters

Apology Is The Atomic Energy Of Empathy

Lukaszewski Truism # 2

Let me repeat my definition of apology as the Atomic Energy Of Empathy because, when genuine apologies are given, bad things start to stop happening. Bad decisions are slowed or stopped before they can cause more damage. One of the most common things to stop happening is “get even” behavior and victim-driven litigation. There frequently is litigation over damages, that’s what insurance is for. Following an apology, the tone is different, and settlement becomes the focus, although your legal preparations also continue.

There could still be court time when there is an apology. You will prepare as your lawyer instructs, but here’s another powerful twist. Where there are especially inflammatory or damaging and embarrassing issues, hire a second independent law firm, one specializing in reconciliation and settlement to start settlement talks immediately. No law firm is large enough to litigate and negotiate a settlement at the same time. Give settlement a chance to occur faster than the traditional pretrial defense litigation steps. Besides, the odds of a litigation actually getting to trial in the U.S. are very small (like one out of more than a hundred). Courts encourage and support settlement talks at the earliest possible time. It’s litigators who tend to get in the way.

Note: This is Public Relations Advice. When there are legal
issues and questions, always consult an attorney.

Running settlement negotiations simultaneously with litigation preparation seems to be a novel idea. In the few times when a client I’ve encouraged has used this approach, settlement happened very quickly. High-profile, hugely embarrassing, and revictimizing circumstances were avoided. 

An Effective Apology Has Five Must-Be-Done Components
  1. admission of doing something that hurts of victimizes
  2. explanation of specifically what the harm is/was
  3. discussion of lessons learned and behaviors that will change
  4. direct request for forgiveness from the victims
  5. penance to be performed to atone for the damage done

The Perfect Apology

The Lexicon of Self-Forgiveness

Often, the first refuge of troubled leadership and management.

The Four Apology Avoidance Strategies
Strategy 1. Self-forgiveness:

  • “It’s an industry problem; we are not the only ones.”
  • “This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last time.”
  • “Let’s not blow this out of proportion.”
  • “We couldn’t have known.”
  • “It’s not systemic.”
  • “Don’t our good deeds count for anything?”

*The “Not, Can’t” Warning: Whenever not or can’t appear in a statement, either are almost always preceded or followed by a lie. Avoid using not and can’t at all times.  

Strategy 2. Self-talk:

  • “It’s an isolated incident.”
  • “It couldn’t have been done by our people.”
  • “Not many were involved.” (Injured or Killed)
  • “If we don’t do it, someone else will.”
  • “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
Strategy 3. Self-delusion:

  • “It’s not our fault.”
  • “It’s not our problem.”
  • “We can’t be responsible for everything.”
  • “It won’t happen again.”
  • “It was only one death, in one place, at one time. Why is everyone so angry?”
  • “Life can’t exist without risk.”

*The “Not, Can’t” Warning: Whenever not or can’t appear in a statement, either are almost always preceded or followed by a lie. Avoid using not and can’t.

Strategy 4. Lying:

  • “I don’t know.”
  • “We’ve never done that.”
  • “It hasn’t happened before.”
  • “It can’t happen again.”
  • “We won’t give up without a fight.”
  • “I’m not a crook.”
  • “I did not have sex with that woman.”
  • “I’m not a racist.”

*The “Not, Can’t” Warning: Whenever not or can’t appear in a statement, either are almost always preceded or followed by a lie. Avoid using not and can’t at all times.

Share these lists with every executive so they know all of these excuses are off-limits. Don’t worry the urge for avoidance is so strong they will begin thinking of new ones immediately. As you hear the new avoidance language, build another list and circulate immediately to executives to re-inoculate them against apology avoidance.

Maybe, have the boss call his/her mom (they probably have already) and ask their advice before trying any of these avoidance strategies. We both know what her advice will be. Take it and have a better life, maybe even keep your job. Only the attorneys will be angry, but apology, humility, and compassion are the real work of leaders when bad things happen, and victims are created.

Note: This is Public Relations Advice. When there are legal issues and questions, always consult an attorney.

Though not an attorney, James (Jim) E. Lukaszewski has been one of America’s most visible corporate go-to people for senior executives and their attorneys when there is trouble in the room or on the horizon. Jim was often retained by senior management to provide personal coaching and executive recovery advice for executives in trouble or facing career-defining moments, problems, and succession or departure issues. Corporate Legal Times once called Jim one of “28 experts to call when all hell breaks loose” and PR Week called him one of 22 “crunch-time counselors who should be on your speed dial in a crisis.”

Waging Peace and Winning Means Sitting Down with Critics, Bloviators, Bellyachers, and Back Bench Complainers…Why?
…Because That’s Just the Way it is.

One of the more frequent questions I get in a variety of forms, temperatures, and skepticism is about sitting down with the enemy. “I was wondering whether you think it’s a good idea for us to sit down with a group of people who are the equivalent of the chain-themselves-to-trees people, who have a list of demands which are in some cases reasonable and in most cases impossible.”

The short answer to the question of engaging with these who bother, disturb, denigrate, and disparage you, is yes. 

Too many managements today still look at this idea as something to avoid, unnecessary, onerous, chicken, shameful, and raises the eyebrows and ire of their cohorts from business school or the business community.

Lesson #1: Resolution Only Comes When the Victims are Satisfied

Controversy, conflict, confrontation, and complexity are resolved only when you get everybody possible to a table at the earliest possible time. Keep coming to the table until settlement magically happens, when the victims are satisfied.

In civil litigation, as a non-lawyer adviser, I often recommend dividing a case into the litigation part and the settlement part. Both proceed independently at the same time. Work to establish a mechanism at the earliest possible time to engage and involve the worst of your critics, the harshest of your enemies, especially the victims. Courts always support settlement strategies.

The litigation part can pursue victory or vindication in court after much required preparation and procedure. The settlement part begins by asking a simple question of the victims, “What would it take to settle this matter…what do you really want?” Find out, settle, and win.  

Lesson #2: Failing to Take the Step of Direct Reconciliation, Resolution, Exploration, and Discussion Revictimizes the Victims and Compromises Your Credibility.

Whatever the case, whether there is litigation involved or not, you must meet with those affected – or make serious attempts to do so. In every culture I’ve worked in, when there is contention, reasonable people ask why the contenders haven’t been invited or compelled to sit down and talk. Step up. You have to try, even if the outcome, at first, seems fruitless, which is as likely as not. Yes, you have to sit down if possible because your own supporters need to know that you have tried. You will be criticized by some of your supporters for doing so, for lots of really stupid reasons, but still, you must make the effort.

Yes, it is really hard to sit down and work these things out. Peace ultimately involves face-to-face contact, asking the simple question, “What will it take to settle this matter…what do you really want?”

The foundation of your success is your preparation for these face-to-face meetings. Your preparation is going to include developing key documents that you can post that directly comment, correct, or clarify (CC&C) what others are saying, or advocating about you.

If your critics refuse to meet, post the documents so those who care about you and your goals know of your efforts. If your critics advocate things that are different than that which you expect or have experienced, prepare another CC&C post contrasting their statements and comments against what you expected or experienced.

Take good notes…they do. Send out and post additional communications that continue to clarify, correct, or comment on their postures, purposes, assertions, and allegations. Clearly, you need a platform, find one. So much transpires on a variety of platforms these days. You might establish your own platform. Which is what I usually recommend.

Failure to take these aggressively appropriate and timely approaches is why good people lose. It takes real work and discipline to succeed.

Good People Lose Because They are Not as Committed to Winning as Those Who Oppose are Committed to Defeating Them.

Actually, the negative behaviors by those who oppose benefit us because these negative behaviors and statements give us a platform for our views, ideas, and rebuttal. Good people like to whine about people attacking them, but whining is neither strategic nor successful. There is nothing sillier and sadder than a whiny do-gooder, who is losing.

Yes, but Why?

However noble your cause, you are the one who will have to prove why, how, and what you do matters and is essential every day. Your opposition just has to repeatedly claim or allege something you fail to answer. To be right, to prevail, you need to engage, realizing the truth of these simple questions:

Question 1: Why do good people and good works have to defend themselves and to justify their actions and beliefs? Becausethat’s just the way it is.

Question 2: When do good people doing good get some credit for what they do? Why? From whom? For what? Becausegood people can speak for themselves modestly, humbly, respectfully…that’s just the way it is.

Question 3: How good do good people and their good works have to be to get some credit or a good defense? Depends on how convincing and persuasive the good people and their support base can be on their own behalf.

Question 4: When do we start to manage our own destiny? When we stop waiting for someone else to do it for us. They don’t exist. They never show. The “other guys” are always waiting in the wings to do it for you. Manage your own destiny, or someone else will. Because…that’s the way it is.

Doing good is hard and getting harder… In reality, seems even the best idea gets an antagonist or adversary to prove its value. Look around. No matter what the culture is, it’s good vs. anger, sometimes evil; conservatives vs. liberals; liquid soap vs. bar soap; my truth vs. another’s truth; my data vs. your data; my vaccine vs leave me alone. That’s just the way it is.

There’s Always Someone Out There
Ready to Manage Your Destiny for You.

Sitting down with your critics and naysayers time and time again is actually the crucial strategy for resolution. Yes, the moment you sit down with opponents, you will be criticized by many of those around you. Your friends are going to ask, “What are you thinking?” Fail to sit down and many in your own base will question and reject you faster than your opponents and so-called friends.

Fail to sit down and your mom is going to ask you why you haven’t reached out. She will remind you of what she taught you!

To get to agreement requires contention reduction. Why leave getting face-to-face to the end of a struggle when you could win or lose much faster? Start with face-to-face and win earlier because you answer questions and keep finding better answers; stop whining and start winning.

If you find yourself in a serious game, get prepared for serious opposition.

The Final Lesson: Serious Whining and Suffering are Individual Activities About Which No One Cares but Those Who are Suffering

You’ll suffer alone, whine alone, and lose alone.

Becausethat’s just the way it is.

The Golden Hour Strategy

What is the best response to a crisis? While you may require some time to understand what is going on you can immediately implement a strategic five-step first response. I referred to this as The Golden Hour Strategy because the intention is to launch all five steps within the first 60-120 minutes of the crisis incident, whatever the crisis happens to be.

The Steps

  1. 1. Stop the production of victims. Continuous victim production is what drives the media coverage, the public interest, the emotionalization, the commentary and criticism from 1000 different sources focused on reputation destruction.
  2. Manage the victim dimension. This is what leaders and senior managers should be doing rather than hanging around and second-guessing the command center.
  3. Communicate directly and frequently with employees, stakeholders, victims, survivors, and those directly affected. Calm and settle people down.
  4. Notify those indirectly affected, those who have a problem now because you have a problem; regulators, licensing authorities, neighbors, partners, collaborators, key stakeholders, those who need to know and who should hear from you very promptly.
  5. Manage the self-appointed and the self-anointed; the news media and the new media, those who opt in on their own, the critics, the bellyachers, the backbench bickerers, the bloviators. This is the strategy management needs to help all responders focus on what matters most and first. Far too many response plans have only legacy media public relations driven tactics. Crisis response is a management responsibility driven by a simple, sensible, constructive, positive, and clearly achievable strategy. The strategy needs to be productive, capable of being managed and led successfully by leaders and managers.

The Golden Hour Metaphor

The first hour or two of crisis situations I often refer to as the Golden Hour (or hours). The phrase comes from military medicine at the close of World War II, and during the Korean conflict. Military medical studies of combat deaths by the Army Medical Corp indicated that the single most prevalent cause of death for wounded soldiers was blood loss–the failure to get these individuals into serious life-saving medical treatment quickly after being wounded. They were bleeding to death in the Jeeps, trucks, and other vehicles driving them to the hospitals located in rear areas of the battlefield.

The helicopter, which was brought into wider military use following World War II, was the perfect vehicle to get wounded soldiers quickly off the battlefield. But one more critical component was needed. Surgical facilities had to be as close as possible to the battle lines to further reduce the risks and damage associated with transporting the wounded to urgent care.

The U.S. Army Medical Corp came up with the mobile hospital concept, the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, or MASH, portable fully equipped surgical suites staffed by some of the brightest surgeons in medicine, just like the television show. These mobile facilities were located on the battle line and moved with the progress of the battle.

Here’s the point, 96% of wounded soldiers who arrived alive at a MASH left the MASH alive.

To me, this is the perfect metaphor to address what management must be ready to accomplish in those first 60 to 120 dangerous and chaotic minutes of a crisis.

Some scenarios may require helicopters, but they are very complicated to use. Learn special safety requirements needed to use helicopters in appropriate emergency responses.

Winning When Everybody is Mad at You

These seven statements give an indication of my philosophy and strategic approach for winning:

  1. Wage peace every day. Do something else when you will have war for sure. War produces casualties and victims, all of whom work to live long enough to destroy your best efforts. Reduce the production of critics at every opportunity.
  2. Contention is the absence of agreement. Work for agreement, incrementally, every day.
  3. Getting permission depends upon gaining public agreement and consent. Avoid and resist anything, anyone, or any decision, that delays, denies, disables, or damages the permission process.
  4. Control testosterosis. Anger, irritation, frustration, confrontation cloud judgment, damage relationships, cause misunderstandings, and rarely accomplish anything good.
  5. Recognize and leverage from the patterns of democracy, avoid political games and game players, all those people have different agendas from yours.
  6. Work as directly as you can. Like most everything that matters in life, agreement is generally achieved, when the principals relentlessly commit to sit down face-to-face and directly work it out.
  7. Success depends on communication, common sense, direct, prompt action, empathy, transparency and engagement. Explain to everyone as well as remind them of your communication and behavior intentions so they will know how to behave in return.

Winning depends on recognizing five realities:

  1. Accomplishing your goals is going to take longer than ever imagined even to achieve significant milestones;
  2. Success will defy financial management, more money will be spent for things one never imagined would happen, or be requested or required;
  3. The stomach for all the lies, misunderstandings, deceptions, bad behaviors and misrepresentations, angry, frightened and powerless people, with a willing media, will create, and the outrageous motives they will ascribe to you, with all of your explanations, good work and intentions just bouncing off.
  4. The staying power required because democracy is slow, sometimes silly, even stupid, sloppy, expensive, and endless.
  5. Unlike financial transactions, chemical experiments, science, finance and engineering, public processes rarely have endpoints.

Some of this sounds incredibly pessimistic. But it’s really a description of how things are actually going to go. If democracy is one thing, it is a process. Those who propose, if they can stay the course, can expect to achieve less than they hoped, sometimes far less, but wind up with more than they need to achieve their objectives.

I love to be wrong. But I’m rarely surprised, I pretty much know what is going to happen and work preemptively and constructively to shorten the timelines and lower the barriers that are inevitable to succeed.

Moral Questioning A Key Process For Resolving Ethical Dilemmas  

Step One:
Noticing Early Warning Signs

The moment your stomach gets that twinge about what you are doing, just hearing about, or planning to do, or someone else in your company, your family, or the community is starting or plans to start doing, stop and ask yourself, and perhaps others:

  1. What is (is there) ideal behavior here?
  2. How are ethical questions being surfaced and addressed?
  3. What remains unsaid, ignored, actually covered up?
  4. When will leaders address the ethical expectations of others?
  5. Is the profit (personal benefit) motive in balance with your own ethical expectations?

Step Two:
Use the Fitzpatrick Ethical Decision-Making Guide
to Help Resolve, Some Ethical Dilemmas

By Kathy R. Fitzpatrick, JD, APR, Former Member Public Relations Society Of America (PRSA) Board Of Ethics And Professional Standards (BEPS) Found On

For public relations and other professionals, ethical dilemmas arise when responsibilities and loyalties conflict and a decision about the appropriate – i.e., ethical – course of action must be made. Often, a choice is required among actions that meet competing obligations. For example, when might the obligation to serve the public interest override loyalty to clients? When does a particular stakeholder’s interest take priority over an employer’s interest? In other words, just exactly what is “responsible advocacy”? Apply these questions to sort things out:

  1. Define the specific ethical issue/conflict.
  2. Identify internal/external factors (e.g., legal, political, social, economic) that may influence the decision.
  3. Identify key values.
  4. Identify the parties who will be affected by the decision and define the public relations professional’s obligation to each.
  5. Select ethical principles to guide the decision-making process.
  6. Make a decision and justify it.

Step Three:
When We Need to Go Beyond the Fitzpatrick Model
The Moral Questioning Menu

Often at first, it seems most ethical questions have simple direct answers. Closer examination generally requires that we expand our investigations and questions to develop more thoughtful, deeper, and often more complex responses.

This list of questions is a menu of deeper exploration of ethical issues. Pick the questions that are most likely to reveal and explore important information to help you make your decisions and choices.

  • Who does the questionable behavior bother?
  • Who has been involved, injured, afflicted, or victimized??
  • Who made decisions?
  • Who was asking questions, and of whom?
  • What affirmative steps are now being taken to remedy the situation?
  • What are the principles involved?
  • What are the relevant facts of the situation?
  • What alternatives are available?
  • What decisions were made, when, where, and by whom?
  • What did we know, and when did we know it?
  • What ethical standards or principles of conduct are involved or at issue?
  • What is the fundamental cause of the situation?  Omission? Commission? Negligence? Arrogance? Action? Inaction? Denial? Indecision?
  • What is the truth?
  • What lessons can the organization learn as this dilemma is revealed?
  • What other questionable decisions or actions may come to light?
  • What was sacrificed to benefit the outcome or the victims?
  • How could this have been avoided?
  • How will future unethical behavior be disclosed? To whom and how fast?
  • How will our principles be advanced or violated by each alternative action?
  • Is it really our problem?
  • Is it really an ethical question?
  • Are all the critical ethical questions being asked and answered?
  • Are our actions open and honest?
  • As an organization are we prepared to comment on the behavior that led to ethical compromise?
  • Did this happen because there’s an institutional code of silence?
  • Has all of the information been presented honestly and correctly thus far?
  • Was there a serious and prompt attempt to find out what was really going on?
  1. When bad things happen, they often come to our attention as dilemmas – that is, situations where we must choose between two equally bad, sometimes repugnant choices:
    1. “Are you still beating your wife or just being arrogant and obstructive?”
    2. “Did you or your company/organization do this intentionally, maliciously, or negligently?”
  2. Bad situations often have a moral dimension and questions that need to be asked promptly to assess the moral dimension, if any. Asking these moral questions early can trigger prompt, appropriate detoxifying actions and decisions and assess appropriate ethical behaviors.

Failure to ask questions can be considered an ethical failure by omission. Ask the right questions early as suspect situations are developing. Moral questioning may help you to head off serious difficulty or perhaps even enhance the value of your decisions and actions.

Using Power Words and Phrases to Win

Avoid defeat from Color Words and Threats Be Specific – Stop Your Wandering Generalities

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.

The need for Power Words is essential to most of us, especially when we find ourselves in difficult, challenging and often murky, negative situations. The tendency upon hearing negative, emotional or accusatory language is to repeat and then respond. Power Words enable you to avoid repeating negative words and inflammable phrases, and to move in very constructive directions from the very beginning. Some examples:

Contrast Analysis

Negative, Emotional, Accusatory LanguagePower Word Responses
1. So you admit you bungled the chance to do this properly…1. What we did was essential and important to resolving the issues these individuals faced.
2. Many thought your behavior was simply weird and uncalled for.2. We first identified the crucial issues we felt needed discussion and proceeded to empathetically and powerfully work to resolve the questions.
3. How do you respond to this aggravating and unfortunate situation?3. Three actions: detect the issues; deter future negative actions; and provide essential and critical advice to move beyond the existing problem and situation.
4. Even some Wall Street analysts say your company should be ashamed of what it did. How humiliating is this for your company?4. The significant facts are these: first, we always acted with empathy and responsibility; second, our culture has a strong sense of what is right and what to avoid. Our actions, as well as our words, demonstrate our commitment to these concepts. Finally, the most crucial information is that provided by victims and survivors. They uniformly praise our simple, sincere, sensible and responsible approach to their problems.
5. You stand accused of being callous, careless, arrogant, and insensitive. How many of these allegations are true?5. Three things about our behavior and intentions are true: Everything we’ve been doing are preauthorized by those most directly affected; our actions and intentions are sensible and clear, we have been candid, and we have been truthful in every instance; lastly, as events unfold, responsible and knowledgeable commentary will prevail, but there will always be a handful of critics who remain to be convinced. We are being as direct and forceful with these individuals and organizations as we can be, telling our story and listening carefully for their views and comments.

Power Phrases Packaging and Bundling

Power Phrases consist mainly of numbered bundles of adjectives. The use of this technique in speaking and writing is extremely powerful. In both of these instances, speaking and writing, if you use the technique, you will literally force people to write things down or take better notes than they might have otherwise.

            Package and Bundle Crucial Information:

Keep the number of ingredients or components low, generally five or fewer. Three seems to be an optimal number. We’re talking about:

Three AnglesThree Options
Three AttemptsThree Parts
Three DecisionsThree Perspectives
Three ElementsThree Phases
Three IncrementsThree Stages
Three IngredientsThree Steps
Three OpinionsThree Units

Some other examples could include the use of a single, powerful circumstance, such as, “The single, most important ingredient in this formula is…” or, “The most urgent issue we currently face is…”

The smaller the number, the more powerful the statement.

Some examples of two-component phrases include,

  • “Your choice is between action and inaction.”
  • “Let’s just start with the two worst circumstances you face and see what we can generate from there.”
  • “A couple of things are on my mind.”

These power phrases make you more important, more influential, more memorable and share those enhanced attributes and skills with those around you. Most of all, this technique forces people to write down what you’re talking about, which is one of the most important actions you can create in someone you’re trying to help, guide, direct, coach, or counsel.

Power Words

Power Words are the words of tomorrow. Power words have the energy and the punch to get attention and help surge beyond the negative and the emotional. Power Words provide a sense of constructive positivity that can move your conversation, issues and ideas to much more constructive, helpful and successful territory. Power Words add the simple, sensible, positive, constructive and forceful ingredients to power up your language and intentions. Words like:

1. Aggressive26. New
2. Attack27. Powerful
3. Authorize28. Prevention
4. Avoid29. Prioritize
5. Candid30. Protection
6. Clear31. Purposeful
7. Crucial32. Responsible
8. Critical33. Seasoned
9. Defend34. Sensible
10. Detect35. Significant
11. Deter36. Simple
12. Different37. Sincere
13. Direct38. Steady
14. Emphasize39. Strip
15. Empathize40. Strong
16. Energize41. Surge
17. Essential42. Suprized
18. Exciting43. Tender
19. Fascinating44. Tough
20. Forceful45. Truthful
21. Important46. Unique
22. Intentional47. Unusual
23. Legitimize48. Urgent
24. Necessary49. Valuable
25. Needed

Avoid Color Words

These words always create bad news. Avoid them. Power your way past them with Power Words and Power Phrases.

Crucial negative attributes of color words that make them toxic to your communications. Color words always are:

  1. Always disruptive, destructive, demoralizing, and sometimes devastating.
  2. Always emotional. Just seeing these words on the list can grab your guts and make them feel bad. This is why reporters, opponents and angry people use them.
  3. In many cultures we are taught that failing to answer directly the question asked damages our credibility. Forget that rule and always counter color words with power words.
  4. Review the previous section on contrast analysis to see how power words can be used to defeat color words.

Color Words…Collected from Hundreds of Media Interviews that were Driven into the Ditch by Color Words.


Stop Your Wandering Generalities, Be Meaningfully Specific

A note about the concept of packaging and numbering adjectives. This is the most powerful verbal tool you can use. It works on happy people, sad people, angry people, agitated people, confused people and people you need to convince. Some simple examples:

Wandering GeneralitiesMeaningfully Specific Translation
1. “We’re a great company.”1. “We are a powerful company, leading three important business sectors, digitalization, transmission efficiency and end user acceptance.”
2. “Everybody loves our company.”2. “We use three techniques every month to test our customer acceptance; direct contact with key users; short, direct questionnaires; seeking testimonials.”
3. “We’ve successfully dealt with this problem in the past.”3. “We made three crucial improvements in this process four years ago:  first, we significantly reduced defects, second, we began more careful education of our customers, and third, we introduced a monitoring program to catch defects earlier.”

I Love Working On This Stuff

Getting good at contrast analysis and using power words makes you a better more persuasive and memorable spokesperson, speaker or representative. These are really cool problems to resolve. If you’ve got a particularly sticky circumstance or troublesome set of colorful accusations, send them to me at and we can quickly detoxify them together.

Promote Organic Goodness: The Harrison Decency Principles of Happiness

Steve Harrison, the co-founder and chairman of Lee Hecht Harrison (now LHH Division of Adecco, Switzerland), was truly passionate about constantly finding small decencies for those around him, those actions that people may not even notice but ultimately do, that are done by individuals who expect nothing in return.

He was an executive you could genuinely say was beloved by those who worked for him. He spent time with them, listened to them, and thought about them and countless ways to do small decencies. He had those in leadership positions in his company do the same.

His forceful answer to the question, “…but Steve, how do you get decency started in an existing organizational structure?” “OBSESSION!!, he would practically shout, and often did, Be the one or find the one that is obsessed with decency, civility, and integrity.”

In our 2021 book, The Decency Code, The Leaders Path to Building Integrity and Trust ©2021 MacGraw Hill, Steve outlined his Principles of Decency. These principles are the ingredients for establishing organic goodness in an existing organizational structure. His principles are a roadmap and paths to much happier employees.

The Harrison Organic Goodness Principles of Civility, Small Decencies, and Happiness.

  1. Build trust at every opportunity.
  2. Collaborate genuinely.
  3. Demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice profits for principle.
  4. Demonstrate and applaud small decencies – “the exponential power of non-conditional acts of kindness and civility.”
  5. Establish and promote business decencies, i.e. thoughtful, meaningful gestures, offered in ways small and large that can change a corporate culture for the better.
  6. Decencies often happen outside of a CEO mandate or corporate policy. They are spontaneous rather than published as values or ethics statements.
  7. Develop and sustain a coaching culture.
  8. Genuine recognitions.
  9. Preserve rich traditions.
  10. Listen (perhaps the greatest decency of all).
  11. Model ethical-compliant behavior.
  12. Respect innovation failure. Learn the lesson failures teach.
  13. Tell the truth, rather than spinning the truth … the no BS rule.
  14. Vocalize, publicize, and operationalize core values, ideals, and ethical standards:

o In all scheduled operations and performance reviews
o In all group company functions
o In every new-hire onboarding session
o In every CEO message
o In all compliance and ethics training
o In all executive coaching programs
o In all leadership programs and talent development processes

  1. Eradicate negative language everywhere, every time.

Steve knew that Organic Goodness produced happiness for those devoted to his Principles of Goodness and practiced them every day for the benefit of others.

Elements of Organic GoodnessLexicon of Civility and Simple Decencies
Apology“How can I help you?”
Candor“How nice of you.”
Decency“I can do that.”
Empathy“I’m sorry.”
Engagement“Let me help you.”
Honesty“My pleasure.”
Humility“Please ask me, I’m ready to help.”
Openness“Please forgive me.”
Responsiveness“Thank you.”
Truthfulness“You’re welcome.”

Eradicate Negative Language Everywhere, Every Time.

The technique is simple and direct. Every time you or someone in your group or the audience mentions a negative phrase you immediately and constructively correct that phrase. For example, “Steve, that’s not the way we do it.” Response, “Help me here and tell me what you would do, could do, or should do.” You may feel a little squeamish the first few times you do this, but you’ll notice that your audience, whether it is one person or a hundred people, begins to settle down when you can give them constructive, positive, and helpful alternatives on the spot.

Your Mini Bad News Eradicators and Conversions of Negatives to Positives.

“I don’t want that”“Here’s what I want…”
“No”“Let’s figure it out”
“Never”“Let’s look for what’s possible”
“I won’t do it”“What I can do is limited…”
“I don’t like him”“What I’d like to see from him is…”
“That’s not what I meant”“What I mean to say is…”
“Stop twisting my words”“Use what I said exactly…”
“I hate that”“Here’s what I want…”
“I hate you”“Let’s find a way to work this out…”
“Not that way”“How about doing/saying/acting this way instead…”
“He won’t go for that”“He’s more likely to go for…”
“It’s always no to that approach“Let’s find a way to get this done…”
“I can’t imagine that she will agree to that”“Here’s what I think she might consider to…”
“He’s not done that before”“Let’s find a new approach…”

Using “not” makes anything you write or say a lie, and you the liar.

o I’m not a crook.
o I did not have sex with that woman.
o I am not a racist.
o That’s not possible.
o We are not responsible.

Build and maintain your own negative eradication table that you teach or share over time, every day.

See the Bad News Eradicator.

Negative talkers nearby have a limited and repetitive set of verbal bullets. Write them down.

Practice transforming them. Take the initiative and learn to publicly translate negatives into positive small, decent gestures. I often believe in the transition “Here’s a more helpful way to say that…”.

Be helpful, be decent, and suggest specific positive approaches. The people around you will thank you (privately) for helping bullies and negative leadership into a better way of doing things.

Make the conversion habit a simple, but powerful daily, giant small decency that you share everywhere you go.

A Special Message from Jim Lukaszewski
A Tribute to Steve Harrison

Steve Harrison, co-founder of Lee Hecht Harrison, later LHH Division of The Adecco Group, died July 10th, 2021. We worked together for more than 30 years beginning in 1995. Our last task together, over 2 ½ years, was to co-author a book published by McGraw Hill in 2020 called The Decency Code, The Leader’s Path to Building Integrity and Trust. His business was outplacement, and his leadership style was of extreme humility, his passion, indeed his obsession, was finding ways to encourage others to perform, to rely on, and to teach others how to bring small decencies into everyone’s life at every opportunity.

His life accomplishments are on exhibit in the thousands of people Steve helped learn how to get back to work.

Jim’s Wisdom #43 Seeking Forgiveness – Nine Steps to Rebuilding and Rehabilitating Trust

“Only the truth deserves forgiveness.”

Seeking Forgiveness is society’s requirement for relationships, trust, and credibility restoration. Adverse situations using this template are remediated faster, cost a lot less, are controversial for much shorter periods of time, suffer less litigation, and help the victims come to closure more quickly. Obtaining forgiveness involves completing the nine steps below. To achieve success in the shortest possible time, these steps should be completed as quickly as possible: like start them all today. Skip a step or be insincere and the process will be incomplete and fundamentally fail.

Step #1 Candor: Outward recognition, through promptly verbalized public
acknowledgment, that a problem exists; that people or groups of people, the environment, or the public trust are affected; and that something will be promptly done to remediate the situation.

Step #2 Extreme empathy/Apology: Verbalized or written statement of personal regret, remorse, and sorrow, acknowledging personal responsibility for having injured, insulted, failed, or wronged another, humbly asking for forgiveness in exchange for more appropriate future behavior and making amends in return.

Step #3 Explanation: (no matter how silly, stupid, or embarrassing the problem-causing error was): Promptly and briefly explain why the problem occurred and the known underlying reasons or behaviors that led to the situation (even if we have only partial early information).

Step #4 Affirmation: Talk about what you’ve learned from the situation and how it will influence your future behavior. Unconditionally commit to regularly report additional information until it is all out or until no public interest remains.

Step #5 Declaration: A public commitment and discussion of specific, positive steps to be taken to conclusively address the issues and resolve the situation.

Step #6 Contrition: The continuing verbalization of regret, empathy, sympathy, and even embarrassment. Take appropriate responsibility for having allowed the situation to occur in the first place, whether by omission, commission, accident, or negligence.

Step #7 Consultation: Promptly ask for help and counsel from “victims,” the government, the community of origin, independent observers, and even from your opponents. Directly involve and request the participation of those most directly affected to help develop more permanent solutions and more acceptable behaviors, and to design principles and approaches that will preclude similar problems from re-occurring.

Step #8 Commitment: Publicly set your goals at zero. Zero errors, zero defects, zero dumb decisions, and zero problems. Publicly promise that, to the best of your ability, situations like this will be permanently prevented.

Step #9 Restitution: Find a way to quickly pay the price. Make or require restitution. Go beyond community and victim expectations, and what would be required under normal circumstances to remediate the problem.

Liars may be forgiven but they always know and fear that they will be found out.

Jim Wisdom #42: The Boss’ Most Crucial Roles in Crisis

The Boss’ Most Crucial Roles in Crisis

Few problems are crises. But all crises are serious management problems. Preplanning executive actions can avoid career-defining moments. Include specific executive expectation instructions in all plans and response scenarios.

One of the more powerful weaknesses in crisis response is the lack of specific roles and assignments for top management. The result of this crucial gap in crisis management planning is the mismanagement, lack of management, or paralysis that afflicts crisis response efforts. This defect occurs all too frequently in plans I review, responses I analyze, and scenarios I explore
with client companies.

In the course of directing a client’s crisis response, analyzing past responses to crisis, or developing powerful response strategies, it’s clear to me that crisis response promptness and effectiveness depends on having five essential responsibilities spelled out carefully in your crisis plans for the CEO (or surviving leaders):

  1. Assert the moral authority expected of ethical leadership. No matter how devastating or catastrophic the crisis is, in most cultures’ forgiveness is possible provided the organization, through its early behaviors and leadership, takes appropriate and expected steps to learn from and deal with the issues. The behaviors, briefly and in order, are:
  • Candor and disclosure (acknowledgement that something adverse has happened or is happening) Share response strategy.
  • Explanation and revelation about the nature of the problem (some early analysis)
  • Commitment to communicate throughout the process (even if there are lots of
  • Empathy (intentional acts of helpfulness, kindness, and compassion)
  • Oversight (inviting outsiders, even victims, to look over your shoulders)
  • Commitment to zero (finding ways to prevent similar events from occurring
  • Restitution or penance (paying the price – generally doing more than would be
    expected, asked for, or required)