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

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.