Wednesday’s Smart Shibboleth #11: Lukaszewski’s Crisis Realities

Word count 249 ( One minute 30 seconds)

Crisis Definition

A people-stopping, show-stopping, product-stopping, Trust busting, reputationally redefining event that creates victims and/or explosive visibility.

Grand Crisis Response Strategy

  • Stop the production of victims
  • Manage the victim dimension
  • Communicate internally
  • Notify those indirectly affected
  • Manage the new media, legacy media, bloggers, guessers, and
    people smarter than you

Crisis Truisms

  • Bad news always ripens badly
  • Crisis management is fixing mistakes faster than you make them
  • Critics and victims accumulate
  • Every moment of indecision creates unseen but avoidable
    collateral damage
  • Failing to talk promptly is the death of any effective response
  • Failing to talk to your critics rots your internal credibility
  • Failing to talk to your critics triggers people to make things up that
    you end up owning
  • Negative aggressive responses empower your opponents, aggravate the victims, and give all media bad headlines you will live with forever.
  • Once a critic, enemy, or victim, always a critic enemy or victim
  • Silence is the most toxic, top executive career-busting strategy
  • Speed beats smart every time, when in doubt do something . . .
  • Talking to your critics builds your credibility and silences or invalidates key adverse audiences.
  • There is no such thing as 2020 hindsight because there is no such thing as 2020 foresight
  • There will always be bellyachers, bloviators, gripers, secondguessers, and backbench complainers

See also:

LUKASZEWSKI’S CONTENTION SURVIVAL MANIFESTO – Keeping Yourself and the Things That Matter Under Control

Wednesday’s Smart Shibboleth #10: The most toxic, reputation defining, career devastating, mistake in crisis

Word Count: 461 (3 minutes READING TIME)

One word: Silence.

  • This fatal mistake is intentionally made in most crises. Management thinks it can beat the odds.
  • This is a behavior that lives forever. Once you fail to speak, your reputation will be forever tainted by the question, “Why did you wait so long to talk? To act?”
  • There is no rational, believable, sensible, or plausible explanation for silence. It is leadership run amuck in reputational quicksand. Yet the perpetrator is only 240 characters away from avoiding this permanent, toxic reputation stain.
  • A sensible, successful response strategy leads with speaking immediately. You can use my grand strategy below for responding even as the fire trucks, victims and media assemble.

Grand Crisis Response Strategic Steps (The First Two Hours In Every Crisis):

1. Stop the production of victims. Continuous victim production is what drives media coverage, public interest, emotionalization, plus commentary and criticism from 1000 different sources.

2. Manage the victim dimension. This is what leaders and senior managers should be doing rather than stalling and second-guessing the command center.

3. Communicate directly and frequently with employees, stakeholders, and those directly affected. Calm and settle people down. Help insiders and victims know what is going on.

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 hear from you promptly.

5. Manage the self-appointed and the self-anointed
; the new media and the legacy media, those who simply opt in, the critics, the bellyachers, the backbench bickerers, the bloviators. Management and leadership need to help all bystanders focus on resolution and caring for victims. Far too many response plans have only legacy media public relations driven tactics. Crisis communication is driven by a simple, sensible, constructive, positive, and clearly open and achievable strategy.

The Crisis Guru’s Truisms of Crises Response

  1. Bad news always ripens badly, it gets worse before it gets better.
  2. Every moment of indecision creates unseen but avoidable collateral damage.
  3. There is no such thing as 20-20 hindsight because there is no such thing as 20-20 foresight.
  4. Silence is the most toxic strategy and the greatest permanent response mistake.
  5. Critics and victims accumulate.
  6. There will always be bellyachers, bloviators, gripers, second guessers, and backbench complainers.
  7. Once a critic, enemy, or victim, always a critic, enemy, or victim.
  8. Speed beats smart every time. Act now, fix now, change now, stop now, decide now. Perfect fixing mistakes quickly. There will be many. That’s what crisis is.
  9. Lead by wishful thinking and cohort led guesswork, the Boss gets big bonus on exiting.

Wednesday Smart Shibboleth#9: Lukaszewski’s Civility and Decency Manifesto: 39 Paths to Decency

Word Count: 320 (2 minutes 15 seconds)

39 Paths to Decency

The true test of civility is a commitment to verbal, written communication, deeds, and actions that benefit a recipient more than the sender. Here are 39 possible paths that can get you to civility, decency, integrity, and trust. Always pick as many as you can, as frequently as you can.

1. Accountability
2. Apology
3. Calmness
4. Candor
5. Character
6. Charitability
7. Chivalry
8. Civility
9. Compassion
10. Constructiveness
11. Courtesy
12. Decency
13. Dignity
14. Empathy: positive deeds that always speak louder than words
15. Engagement
16. Forgiveness
17. Gratitude
18. Helpfulness
19. Honesty
20. Honor
21. Humility
22. Integrity
23. Listening: the greatest decency
24. Openness
25. Peacefulness
26. Pleasantness
27. Politeness
28. Positivity
29. Principle
30. Respect
31. Responsiveness
32. Sensibility
33. Sensitivity
34. Simplicity
35. Softness
36. Tact
37. Thoughtfulness
38. Transparency
39. Truthfulness

Use this shibboleth as a personal and organizational decency accomplishment checklist.
  • Make other additions to this list of things you have already been doing
  • Make this list become a living instrument to help you and those you know, and organizations you belong to commit to a broad array of decent behaviors and higher levels of civility.
  • Develop examples and illustrations of each of these and the ones you add from your own experience.
  • Keep a log.
  • Find opportunities to talk about these activities, beliefs, and ideas where they will motivate others to emulate what you’ve learned to take such pleasure in doing.

Remember, the reverse of any of these words, ideas, or behaviors only lead to trouble, problems, and delayed mitigation and resolution; plus revictimizing those who have been injured.

Let’s talk about it. I’m always interested in helping colleagues perfect their own personal decency pathways. Reach out to me at 203-948-7029 or

James E. Lukaszewski
Americas Crisis Guru®

ABC, Fellow IABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, BEPS Emeritus (2015) 

Mainstreet Village, 7601 Lyndale Ave S, STE 32, Richfield MN 

Wednesday Smart Shibboleth #8: Lukaszewski’s Civility and Decency Manifesto: Stopping Incivility In Its Tracks

Word Count: 399 (2 minutes 42 seconds)

16 Ways to STOP Incivility Before or After It Starts

The true test of civility is a commitment to verbal and written communication that are predominantly positive and declarative and behaviors that are simple, sensitive, sensible, constructive, positive, helpful, humble, empathetic, and always benefit the recipient more than the giver. Any other pathways lead only to trouble, prolong problems and delay mitigation and resolution. Empathy means positive deeds that speak louder and more constructively than words.

How to STOP Incivility in Its Track

1. When your words, deeds, actions, or intentions turn to vilification, STOP.

2. When you use sarcasm to ridicule and damage, demean, dismiss, diminish. or humiliate, STOP.

3. When your words are arrogant, causing needless but intentional pain and suffering, STOP.

4. When your words clearly express anger and irritation, STOP.

5. When your words, deeds or actions are demanding and bullying, STOP.

6. When your words are just plain mean, STOP.

7. When your words insult, STOP.

8. When your words become corrosive and disrespectful, STOP.

9. When your words become disparaging and tone deaf, STOP.

10. When you speak and behave without empathy, STOP, reconsider.

11. When your words mindlessly injure, STOP.

12. When your words, deeds or actions intentionally injure, STOP.

13. When your words spread accusations and suspicion, STOP.

14. When your words exhibit overbearing and overzealousness, STOP.

15. When what you propose is negative, punitive, defensive. and harmfully restrictive on others, STOP, choose another pathway.

16. When your words exceed the boundaries of decency, civility. and integrity, just simply STOP. Choose another path.

There are so many pathways to civility, decency, and integrity, pick as many as you can.

Start with Powerful Civilities & Simple Decencies: Actions That Defeat Indecency.

– How can I help you?– Please let me help you.
– How nice of you.– Please forgive me.
– I can do that.– Thank you. What can I do for you?
– I’m sorry.– What would be more helpful?
– My pleasure.– Yes.
– Please ask me, I’m ready to help.– You’re welcome.

Let’s talk about it. I’m always interested in helping colleagues develop their own personal principles. Reach out to me at 203-948-7029 or

Coming up in Shibboleth #9: “39 Pathways to Decency”.

James E. Lukaszewski
Americas Crisis Guru®

ABC, Fellow IABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, BEPS Emeritus (2015) 

Mainstreet Village, 7601 Lyndale Ave S, STE 32, Richfield MN 

Wednesday’s Smart Shibboleths #7: The Platinum Rule: Provide the Help Others Need to Achieve Their Goals and Aspirations

Word Count: 378 (2 minutes 30 seconds)

The Platinum Rule is a big step beyond the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule gives you a better today. The Platinum Rule helps you move someone else into their tomorrow. The Ethical and Practical principles I follow support both rules. Share your own version of this approach with others who work with you and people you’d like to work with. Find ways to discuss these ideas, explain them, and ask and answer questions about them. Everyone you care about or those who care about you should be aware of ideas like these. Help them live and learn from their own principles.

The Ethical and Practical Principles That Guide Jim’s Practice

1. Act ethically, promptly, and urgently.

a. Ask better questions than anyone else.
b. Be 15 minutes early.
c. Consistently challenge the standard assumptions and practices of our profession, build its importance, and enhance the ability of all practitioners to better serve others from their perspective. Raise your hand.

2. Do the doable; know the knowable; get the getable; arrange the arrangeable.

a. Expect to be helpful and useful.
b. Focus on what really matters. Apply your ethics audit analysis.
c. Go beyond what those you work with already know or believe.
d. Intend to make a constructive ethical difference every day.

3. Intentionally look at every situation and circumstance from different helpful perspectives

a. Look out for the real victims.
b. Remember, it’s your boss’s “bus.” They get to drive it wherever they want. If you don’t like it, or can’t deal with it, hop off and go to somebody else’s bus, or drive your own.
c. Clarification: Your role on “the bus” is to help the driver drive better. Taking the wheel is out of the question. If you want to take the wheel, get your own bus.

4. Remember that every issue, question, concern or problem is a management or leadership issue, question, concern, or problem before it is any other kind of issue, question, concern or problem. Always start where management and leadership are. Starting somewhere else only leads to trouble, confusion, and failure.

Let’s talk about it. I’m always interested in helping colleagues develop their own personal principles. Reach out to me at 203-948-7029 or

James E. Lukaszewski
Americas Crisis Guru®

ABC, Fellow IABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, BEPS Emeritus (2015) 

Mainstreet Village, 7601 Lyndale Ave S, STE 32, Richfield MN 

Wednesday’s Smart Shibboleths #6: Establish Your Personal Credentials Quickly with A Useful Professional Profile

Word Count: 528 (3 minutes 33 seconds)

The Purpose of A Personal/Professional Profile

One of the most important steps in crisis work is quickly establishing a connection with senior people. Many years ago I developed a personal/professional profile which briefly and succinctly explains: who I am, what I do, how I work, and what I believe. It has always been a conversation starter. Each topic leads to me sharing relevant recent experiences and talking about next possible steps for the client’s problem. It generates questions you need to hear and promptly respond.

Establishing connections at any level, but especially at senior levels, is up to you and the sooner you accomplish it, the more quickly serious work can begin. Fail to connect early makes progress difficult, maybe even impossible.

My Profile

Purpose:Through helping resolve the significant troubles of others, find and do what will be the most important things I will ever do in my career and life.
Vision/Aspiration:To be an authentic trusted Communicator, Coach, Counselor and Strategic Thinker; to be the first call when leaders and managers face their toughest, touchiest, most sensitive and devastating situations. And the last call before taking action.
Mission:To be the table, truly strategic; promptly finding those exceptionally achievable, ethical, honorable, powerful, and sensible ingredients for solutions to the most challenging leadership, management, and organizational problems.
Disciplines:Trustability; Verbal clarity; Management Perspective/sensitivity; Findable, Gettable, Doable, Achievable, Knowable approaches; Tomorrow focused; Thoughtful, incremental advice; Intuition-Pattern Sensitivity; lifelong learning; Teach, Coach, Counsel to inspire and expand Management and leadership influence and success.
Values:Constructive approaches; Curiosity; Honesty; Inconsistency*; Positivity; Pragmatism; Promptness; Truthfulness.
Principles:Candor; Communicate Promptly-Intentionally; Destiny Management; Empathy/Compassion/Apology; Engagement; Openness; Responsiveness; Transparency; Truthfulness.
Passion:Help all staff functions i.e. PR, HR, Law, Security, Strategic planning, etc. be more effective, have critical access, influence, and impact; be sought after earlier and have more productive successful impact and influence on events.

This connection step is so important that if a technique like this one fails to work for you, it’s likely best to help your client find someone they can connect and work with. Be prepared to get out of the way.

Remember, in true crises, where victims are caused, usually only the boss’ job is in jeopardy. They know it. Early connections must happen fast. That means to always act in the client’s best interest rather than yours.

*Inconsistency is the greatest hallmark of strategy and a strategist. It can also be one of the greatest roadblocks to executive decision-making. Most solutions to serious problems involve intentionally thinking differently about results, decisions, and outcomes.

Remember, every senior person believes that they are a better communicator than anybody, even you. They also believe that their communication skills are why they have the job they have. Remember, too, if all you have is information about how the news media works and how reporters behave, most senior people have made up their minds about these topics already. Focus on finding useful, appropriate, and often inconsistent options for them to choose to develop the solutions their problems require.

James E. Lukaszewski
Americas Crisis Guru®

ABC, Fellow IABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, BEPS Emeritus (2015) 

Mainstreet Village, 7601 Lyndale Ave S, STE 32, Richfield MN 

Wednesday’s Smart Shibboleth #5: A Trust and Credibility Shibboleth for Leaders and Organizations

Word Count: 270 words (~1 minute, 40 seconds reading time) 

When it comes to credibility and trust, the fundamentally trustable behavior of organizations is reflected in its leadership’s behavior and leadership’s commitment to trustable decisions and actions. 

Management’s Credibility Mantra: Credibility is Conferred On Us Based On Our Past Behaviors. 

These six actionable tasks or assignments, if executed by everyone in the organization, especially by leadership example, will foster trust and credibility, as well as demonstrate extraordinary integrity. 

  1. “When problems occur, we’ll be prepared to talk openly about them and act quickly to respond to them operationally.” 
  1. “If the public should know about an issue or problem which could affect them, we will voluntarily talk about it as quickly and as completely as we can.” 
  1. “When the problems or changes occur, we will keep the community posted on a schedule they set until the problem or changes have been thoroughly explained or resolved.” 
  1. We will answer any questions the community may have and suggest and volunteer additional information on matters the community has yet to ask questions about.” 
  1. “We will be cooperative with the news media, but our primary responsibility is to communicate directly with those most directly affected by our actions as soon as possible.” 
  1. “We will respect and seek to work with those who oppose us.” 

James E. Lukaszewski
Americas Crisis Guru®

ABC, Fellow IABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, BEPS Emeritus (2015) 

*Shibboleth, Jim’s Definition: practical information you can use today and tomorrow, and lasts a long time. 
Mainstreet Village, 7601 Lyndale Ave S, STE 32, Richfield MN 

Wednesday Smart Shibboleth #4: Destructive Language Decimates Trust

Word Count: 170 words (~ 1 minute, 5 seconds reading time)

Leadership language choices in difficult situations are often early indicators of the dysfunctional nature of leadership. In fact, their behaviors and language choices are often diagnostic of this dysfunction. Here are some examples to watch for:

  1. Denial
  2. Defensiveness
  3. Deflection
  4. Denigration
  5. Disrespect
  6. Demeaning
  7. Discrediting
  8. Disdain

Not only do these behaviors, attitudes, and language choices destroy trust, they create victims, critics, and angry people, families, and organizations.

These negative examples waste time, often trigger similar even more emotionally negative responses in return, foster contentiousness, confrontation, contempt, confusion, and consternation. These behavior choices are likely to require strong, positive, remedial behaviors.

Watch for the Shibboleth on reputation and trust recovery following a crisis.

James E. Lukaszewski

Americas Crisis Guru®
ABC, Fellow IABC; APR, Fellow PRSA; PRSA BEPS Emeritus 2015

Wednesday’s Smart Shibboleth #3: Manager of First Impressions – The Two-Minute Schmooze

Word Count: 413 (2 minutes, 45 seconds)

Steve Harrison, one of three founders and Chairman of Lee Hecht Harrison, the world’s leading Talent management company, had just hired a new COO, Ray. He had an MBA and was recently retired from the US Army with the rank of brigadier general.

So he could get to know as many people as possible, Steve took Ray on a tour of the company. At their first branch office stop, Melissa, the receptionist, was on duty.

“How are you, Melissa?” Steve asked.

“Fine. And you, Steve?”

“Great. Have a good day.”

“You too.”

Steve proceeded toward the interior offices, but Ray pulled them back to Melissa’s desk.

After introducing himself, Ray launched a dialogue with Melissa. “How long have you been with us?” “How did you hear about us?” “What did you do before you joined our firm?” “What kind of dog is that in the picture?” “What do you think of this business we’re in together?” The collaborative language was infectious. It communicated that Ray and Melissa were in the enterprise as equal partners. Ray also asked Melissa if she had any questions. He waited, Melissa asked a couple, Ray answered them candidly. Melissa was clearly delighted with the exchange.

Finally Ray said, “Well, nice to meet you, Melissa. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’. I look forward to seeing you next time I’m here.”

With that, Ray and Steve went inside to meet the rest of the staff.

Steve asked Ray, “What was that all about?”

Ray said, “That’s called the two-minute schmooze! Receptionists meet or talk to more people critical to our company in one month than you or I ever do in a year: people at all levels, from all our branches everywhere, our customers, suppliers, colleagues, bosses, applicants, and job seekers. Most of all, receptionists talk to each other. They are a key part of our reputation.”

Ray’s two-minute schmooze is how Steve first learned the power of small decencies, its perfect example of decent leadership and the impact small decencies can have on organizations.

Sometime later Steve authorized LHH receptionists to have business cards with the job title: Manager of First Impressions.

Lee Hecht Harrison is now The LHH Division of Adecco, the world’s largest job placement agency, based in Switzerland. In 2021, Steve and Jim Lukaszewski coauthored the book “The Decency Code: The Leader’s Path to Civility, Integrity, and Trust”, © 2021 McGraw Hill. This story is on pages 46-48.

*Shibboleth, Jim’s Definition: practical information you can use today and tomorrow, and lasts a long time.

Wednesday Smart Shibboleth #2: The Ten Constructive Ethical Intentions of Public Relations

Word Count: 200 words (reading time: 1 minute, 30 sec)

Getting a Handle on Ethical PR

1. Candor:

truth with an attitude, right now!

2. Openness:

the willingness to talk, listen, converse, teach, explain.

3. Truthfulness:

unconditional honesty from the start.

4. Apology:

admission, explanation, lessons learned, forgiveness seeking, restitution, the moment they are needed.

5. Responsiveness:

answering every question, whatever the source; keep answering and re-answering questions until the questions stop.

6. Preemptiveness:

provide the questions people should be asking with answers before they need to ask.

7. Empathy:

actions speak louder than words, let the deeds do the talking.

8. Transparency:

do only what you want your mother to know about.

9. Engagement:

the most powerful communication always takes place face-to-face. The greatest decency is careful, engaged listening.

10. Correct and Clarify:

It’s YOUR destiny. Explain, describe, clarify, and correct promptly, or someone else will, and you won’t like it.

*Shibboleth, Jim’s Definition: practical information you can use today and tomorrow, and lasts a long time.