I wrote about crisis management once before but I want to look at it again as a new situation arose and I saw how some of my colleagues reacted. Basically can you claim to be a leader if overreaction and instant resolution is what drives you and is more important than remembering that there are two sides to every issue?
This new crisis arose when complaints from some employees about their supervisor were filed and, of course, it had a Hollywood doomsday scenario – that if we didn’t take some type of immediate action, people may be seriously hurt or killed (some on Council wanted to fire people right there based on one side’s story). As we discussed the matter it basically broke down that a few colleagues proposed the following actions (I added my views to the actions to show my responses to matter):
- We need to intervene immediately and take whatever action we must. Let’s think about this more a minute. First are we even sure that what is being said is even correct (even partially). Sometimes it’s best for everyone to back up, take a deep breath, and look into the incident(s) before running, cleaning house, and then dealing with the legal ramifications afterwards.
- Let’s solve the issue by getting rid of the problem maker. Okay but are we sure who really is the problem or are just getting one side of story and ignoring the other side. Is the situation even correct or is there a personal or professional reason to get someone out of the way? And if we do act before we know all the answers are we going to put ourselves in liability because of it, also have we even thought about how we will run the program afterwards.
- The people that are complaining are troublemakers so let’s just ignore it. Okay the exact opposite of the other’s response – so we can from one extreme to the other. Well now we want to turn a blind eye to the matter and hope it goes away. But what happens if it’s true either in full or even if parts of it are (though there may be some embellishment). Again we could face a liability if we ignore the matter just as if we go head-in first without thinking.
I’m not perfect, mind you, and in fact I’ve been part of taking some the actions that I listed above and in return I’ve been burned a couple of times. It’s relatively easy to happen when you are new and unsure what the best course of action to take. But after nearly four years, the lessons I’ve learned is there are always to sides to the story and that jumping the gun only makes the situation worse.
These lessons that I follow may not popular and have created tension between the “shoot first and ask questions later” or “bury your head in the sand” crowds. But carefully reviewing an issue and even advocating taking a slower approach doesn’t make you indecisive, but rather shows that in a time of crisis you can be counted on to make rational and sound decisions and protect yourself and organization from negative ramifications. Jumping headfirst into matters without knowing what is really going in hurts you and your organization in the short and long-term through legal liabilities and loss of people’s respect.
How do you want to be thought of as a leader…as a person whose reacts haphazardly to every accusation, innuendo, or gossip that arises OR as a person who can fairly listen to all sides and make an informed decision (even though it may mean taking some time). I’ve made the choice of how I want to govern these situations and for better or worse, it is something I can hold my head up and be proud of. What about you?