CLEVELAND – Ever feel like you age a century within a week? That’s been my luxury of late, at the cusp of a new month for good measure.
Stupid bunnies. Like my endearingly cantankerous friend Jim Gaffigan says, what exactly do rabbits have to do with Easter and the birth of Jesus? Perhaps they presided at the Last Supper? (Disclaimer: I honestly harbor no ill-will toward animals…in fact, I trust them more than most humans).
I digress. This isn’t about carpenters, comedians or rabbits — it’s about crisis communication and its relevance not only for entrepreneurs or PR and marketing folk, but for anyone interested in effective business management.
So you tripped and fell flat on your face. In front of thousands of friends, followers — fans in an inscrutable arena called Facebook. Or Apple, or the Colosseum, whatever. And quite honestly, you’ve been sick and tired of being sick and tired, so it was just easier to share it with unsuspecting friends, family or colleagues. Thoughts?
Err on the side of humility and honesty. Forget semantic fluff or melodramatic spin; it won’t work. Ironically, margin for error when you publicly fail, miscalculate or overextend as a leader does not exist.
Crises are a challenge, a turning point –a proverbial adrenaline rush for entrepreneurs because it affords the opportunity to rise, reinvent and deliver results (versus spiraling into cyclical fear, anxiety, or self-pity and eventually irrelevance). There is no time for whining or wallowing; only action. Think Rivera in the 9th inning — rise and close.
Here are five things all great leaders have in common when confronting failure, challenges and obstacles — whether monumental or seemingly trivial (if they’re truly great it always seems trivial…):
1) Own it. It’s not the intern’s fault, not your mother’s or your twice-removed uncle. It’s yours. Don’t wait for someone else to throw you under — you’re already there. Acknowledge it publicly and move forward.
2) If necessary, apologize. There is nothing more disingenuous (and unattractive) than a perfunctory, patronizing sore loser. An honest mistake is one thing, but if you were a blistering jerk than the best recourse is to make sincere amends. You’ll feel better, too.
3) Respond. Reacting only exacerbates the issue. Failure’s usually the quick and easy part. What you spend months, even years building can be gone in a click, an isolated nanosecond of egregious oversight. Gauging the timing of your response is critical. Don’t wait too long, either. Remember to plan the plan.
4) Implement. Anticipate and apply SWOT to your action plan, analyzing potential strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats:
> What got you here?
> What could you have done differently?
> What policies or guidelines could have prevented the error?
> How will this shape direction and strategy for the future? Take a proactive approach to reflecting and responding with a win-win solution for all involved.
5) Move forward. All that matters is today. Though it may be difficult not to pine for what was lost, force yourself to dwell in the now and next. Be present and apply that same longing toward the future.
Fail quickly. Fail often. And fail inexpensively.
Keep Moving Forward
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