We have recently been working with the leadership teams of two very different companies where the proverbial sh!t has hit the fan . . . through no fault of their own.
A sad fact: Bad things can happen to good companies, which means that bad things can also happen to good people in those companies.
Figuring out how to move forward through a crisis is an important act of leadership, one that can help the company come out on the other side of the crisis with staff commitment and stakeholder confidence.
From our perspective there is one key behavior that can make or break success and that’s communication.
Communicate, communicate, and then communicate again.
It’s important to get control of the narrative within your organization as soon as possible. You may not be able to control what’s being said outside the company, but it’s your job to make sure that what’s being said inside the organization is accurate.
You’ll want to be as transparent as you can be within the legal bounds of the situation and then communicate in ways that help to mitigate the fear. When needed, seek legal guidance to ensure that your communications are within the bounds of the law and as open and transparent as possible.
Regularly bring the leadership team together to create a shared understanding of what has happened and to discuss corrective actions that the organization needs to implement to keep the crisis from escalating.
The team should develop a communication plan so that all staff members understand the details of the incident and how to deal with any misinformation. You’ll also want the organization to respond internally and externally with integrity and effectiveness so make sure everyone is on the same page before leaving the meeting.
If you, the team, or the organization contributed to the difficulties, own it, apologize, and be clear about what you’ve learned, how you’ll behave going forward, and how you’ll demonstrate this was the exception, not the norm. Occasionally, intentionally ignoring something makes sense but more often owning it, apologizing, and explaining next steps is the best course of action.
In business today, good companies can have bad things happen. The difference in the outcome is what the leaders do in the wake of the bad to create a more resilient and agile team, as well as to rebuild credibility and trust with external stakeholders.
This week consider whether you and the people you lead with are solid enough as a group to thrive in the wake of something bad happening in your company.
There’s no better time to build deep trust and credibility in your willingness to engage in the tough conversations, commitment to challenging self-reflection, and ability to support one another through derailing surprises than now.