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.
- Identify and understand the crisis.
- 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.
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.