The Whisper of Change

Have you ever found yourself in a season of doing, doing, and more doing?

Everythings good. You’re happy. The team is happy. And your board is awesome.

Life is not boring. You wake up everyday grateful for the priveledge of living the “exciting Christian life”. 

When suddenly, nawing relentless questions begin to dance in your mind. Untitled design

Questions such as:

“Am I really doing what I am supposed to be doing?”

“As the leader, am I focusing on doing the right things for my organization?”

“Why is there an unease in my spirit?”

Every leader faces these questions from time to time.

If you are a visionary leader, this is especially important for you because you’re all about growing your organization. Change does not feel threatening to you. You gladly embrace the challenges of change head on.

I’ve learned (both personally and from my clients) that when this happens it generally means one of four things.

First, God has a completely new direction for me to take which means serious far-reaching changes.

Second, my organization has moved into another level on the corporate life cycle and I didn’t catch the signs that this was happening.  (Hmmm… perhaps I didn’t see the signs because I was so busy ‘doing’). Now,  I need to stop and assess what’s not working so I can put energy and resources into what is working.

Third, I need to determine if our firm’s activities continue to align with our brand, goals and mission.

Or fourth, it’s time to focus on expanding or adding new services.

Should you someday find these or similar questions tip-toeing through you mind, consider if one of the top four possiblities could be at play.

* Are you feeling that you’re so deep into your organization’s forest that you cannot clearly see the trees? Click on the “Coach” tab above and ask for a free 30-minute consultation.

Honesty, An Important Crisis Communication Principle

blog post 4When a crisis first hits your organization, always refer to your emergency policies and procedures that should be in place.

Keep in mind that eighty percent of your crisis communications procedures should work in most cases. But the fact is that few procedures will be right for every situation when dealing with a crisis.

Crisis has the ability to take on an energy of its own that can force leaders to change direction or even add another action.

Don’t wait. Create communicaton response statements and take action as quickly as possible.

Implement both internal and public responses.

If your organization messed up, admit it. Own your mistakes and tell the truth. No blaming or making excuses.

Summary: In a crisis, take communication action quickly.  Control the narrative. Always be honest. 

You’re Not That Powerful

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Identifying & Understanding The Problem

In my last blog post, I shared how it’s been my experience that most leaders who are facing an internal or external conflict experience degreees of ‘denial’ before they have the brain power to tackle identifying and understanding what is happening.

While ‘denial’ is common, it should not last more than one or two days because, the longer a leader lingers in the denial stage the more momentum the crisis picks up.

Crisis should always be mitigated as soon as possible.

Okay, assuming that you’ve pushed through the disabling ‘denial’ stage, you’re now ready to focus on Step #1 which is identifying and understanding what is happening.

STEP #1: IDENTIFYING and UNDERSTANDING

First, a basic leadership principle is the bigger the stress or crisis, the more the leader must lead through being present, communication, and never letting their emotions drive the response.

While no one can control how they feel, you can control what you do, what you say, and the tone in which you communicate.

Never let negative emotions (anger, fear, frustration, etc.) be the driving force by which you deal with a crisis. (Be angry and sin not)

Below are some actions that I recommend for this step:

– Very Important: Secure a consultant who specializes in crisis management and communication strategies and who understands your organization’s work. Most leaders are too close to the situation and will benefit from someone outside of the situation. Everyone needs a coach once in a while.

– Remember that everything that you write or say can be used against you.

– I recommend that communication via email ceases so as to reduce liability and other risks. Emails can be subpeoned, forwarded without your permission, and are not secure.

– Determine who is at the heart of the crisis and who are being sucked into the drama.

– Identify your stakeholders. These are people who will be impacted by the crisis. (e.g., staff, volunteers, board, donors, churches, public at large)

– Collect all evidence related to the crisis. (e.g., letters, documents, notes)

– Talk to everyone who can help you understand the issues. Keep an open mind.

– Make sure that you follow any policies that apply to this situation (e.g. personnel manual, crisis management policies). There is legal protection in policies.

– Distribute your conflict resolution policy to all staff and volunteers. I’ve found that having an all staff meeting to go over this policy is beneficial so that everyone knows the rules and the leader’s expectations.

– Stay in constant communication with your board of directors.

Next post I’ll introduce Step #2 which covers some principles for crisis communication strategies.

When a Public Relations Crisis Hits Your Organization

I have over 1,200 organizations that I call my primary customers or clients. There are several aspects in which I serve them, but among my favorites is in the area of strategic alignment and risk avoidance. I have a passion for teaching principles regarding what to do in advance to avoid as much as possible internal or external crises.

But even the finest risk avoidance techniques may not divert all crises. I have witnessed many times that people will behave like people and cause a crisis for even the best prepared of organizations. Then my consulting work must turn to advising them on how to navigate through their predicament.

The good news for me is that I’ve discovered I actually enjoy working in the world of crisis management and I seem to have a God-given gift for it.

I’m not sure what this says about my personality. After all, who likes dealing with conflict and drama?

But I feel so blessed to be a part of helping organizations in crisis to successfully navigate the perils of an internal or external crisis and watch their leaders emerge stronger than ever as they do the right thing and trust God for the outcomes.

Having assisting hundreds of organizations as they deal with various types of crises, I have concluded that there are actions that need to be taken anytime crisis thumps an organization.

I use a two-step process when helping leaders survive and thrive during an internal or external crisis.

  1. Identify and understand the crisis.
  2. Develop and implement crisis management and communication strategies.

In this post, I will address something that needs to be done before you can take the first step of identifying and understanding the crisis.

You see, there are two primal responses that will fight for dominance anytime calamity first arises. 

These primal responses are denial and the brain’s demand for facts, proof, data, and clarity.  

Denial.  It’s a defense mechanism that comes with being sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.

We’ve all slipped into denial at some point. Sometimes it becomes a comforting retreat when we are faced with what feels like an impossible situation. Untitled design (2)

While it’s a natural response, leaders must deal with it. You cannot allow it to linger or control you.

When an organizational crisis hits, denial whispers in your mind, “this cannot be happening” and butts heads with the primal brain which demands, “give me proof, evidence, data, and clarity.”

Mental health experts tell us that denial is the first step in the grieving process when someone has lost a loved one.

I have found that in the same way, denial is the first emotion most leaders face when a crisis hits their organization.

No one has complete control over their emotions when a real threatening crisis emerges.

But it’s virtually impossible for your brain to correctly identify and understand what is happening while you are caught up in the denial stage.

So, what do you do?

You apply the scriptural principle of “be angry, and sin not” and acknowledge your emotions, but you do not let them drive your actions. To do so would likely place you on the path of failure rather than success.

Dr. Phil McGraw discusses in his book Life Strategies the life principle, “You cannot change what you do not acknowledge”.

Acknowledgment is a no-nonsense, unvarnished, bottom-line confrontation with what is happening.

Most crisis situations require speedy responses from the organization’s leaders. The luxury of expending volumes of time pondering the best response to a public relations or internal crisis is rarely afforded organizations.

Life rewards actions. Moving quickly beyond the denial stage can be life or death to an organization.

Therefore, ignore the denial emotions that are screaming for your full attention and focus on giving the primal brain what it is demanding – reliable, honest, and tangible information so that you can identify what is really happening and create a powerful response.

THE FIRST LESSON

The first thing to do when hit with a crisis is to conquer denial so that you can move to the next step of identifying the crisis and implementing crisis management strategies.

I’ll share about identifying the crisis in the next post.

An Ounce of Prevention Really Is Worth A Pound of Cure

When is the best time to prepare for a worse-case scenario in your organization?

You got it…before it happens.

REAL STORY

During a board consultation, I pointed out an organizational risk. I explained the problem and provided the solution.

While it was one of ‘those things’ that wasn’t a problem until it becomes a problem, it was also one of ‘those things’ that if it becomes a problem it becomes a very bad problem.

The board ignored my recommendation and said, “it has never been a problem before so why worry about it now”.

Six-months later the organization’s executive director called me and said, “Hi Beth. You know that thing that you said we needed to fix, and we didn’t? Well, it happened. Can you help?”

Me, “Of course I will help. I’ll be there tomorrow.”

Fast forward to today.

The financial cost to deal with the problem was over $32,000.

Cost to the organization’s public trust, unmeasurable.

LESSON
It is far less stressful, expensive, and damaging to an organization to eliminate a risk than it is to ignore it.

A Conflict Resolution Model

I love the Thomas-Kilmann conflict resolution model. I use these principles personally and in my performance coaching work. I share these principles with my clients who come to me for general leadership coaching and those who must deal with organizational or relationship conflict issues — which are just about everyone I work with at one time or another.

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Any of the Thomas-Kilmann options may be appropriate for a situation of conflict. I have found that following Dr. Henry Cloud’s teaching on the wise, foolish and evil person is also very helpful when determining which of the five options would work best.

Here Are The Thomas-Kilmann 5 Options When Dealing with Conflict Resolution

1. Competing. The Competing option is at the top left of the model which means you take a wholly assertive and uncooperative approach to resolving the conflict. It means standing up for your rights, defending a position which you believe is correct, or simply trying to beat the other side.

2. Accommodating. The Accommodating option is at the bottom right of the model which means you take a wholly unassertive and co-operative approach. This might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, giving in to another person’s orders when you would prefer not to, or yielding to another’s point of view.

3. Avoiding. The Avoiding option is at the bottom left of the model which means you take an unassertive and uncooperative approach to the conflict and don’t deal with it. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.

4. Compromising. The Compromising option is at the center of the model because it is both assertive and co-operative but only to some extent. It’s the approach of “half a sixpence is better than none”. Both sides get something but not everything. It might mean splitting the difference between the two positions, some give and take, or seeking a quick solution in the middle ground.

5. Collaborating. The Collaborating option is at the top right of the model and is at the opposite extreme of avoiding. It means being willing to believe that when two parties are at loggerheads, it is possible for both sides to come out with what they want. Collabor

ating requires developed conflict resolution skills based on mutual respect, a willingness to listen to others, and creativity in finding solutions.

 For more information about the Thomas-Kilmann model click here.

P.S. If you are dealing with conflict (personally or professionally) please fill out the contact form below and Beth will reach out to you.