In a Crisis, Do You Lead or Manage?

Like most of you, I’m watching the news of what’s happening with the Gulf oil spill very closely.  It’s very easy to be frustrated and ask why anyone didn’t anticipate something like this.  But let me ask you this, how many of you are prepared for a crisis?  How many of you are prepared to lead proactively as opposed to managing reactively?  You may think it can’t happen to you or your business.  What if your sales manager walked out the door?  Your customers start calling you saying that they’re being approached by your competitor, represented by, you guessed it, your old sales manager.  What do you do?  That’s the kind of crisis anyone can have.

Crises happen every day in every industry, it’s not unique to oil or gas companies.  I’m reminded of an excellent article I read by Ian Mitroff about the shift from Crisis Management to Crisis Leadership.  The article pointed out the necessity of every organization having what he referred to as a Crisis Portfolio.  Crises fall into seven categories:

  1. Economic, such as labor strikes or market crashes
  2. Informational, such as the loss of computer data or false information
  3. Physical, such as the loss of key facilities or equipment
  4. Human resources, such as the loss of key executives or personnel
  5. Reputation, such as slander, rumors, or workplace violence
  6. Psychopathic acts, such as product tampering
  7. Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods

Any type of crisis can happen to any company.  While many companies prepare for the most obvious crises, such as having off-site data backup in case of a fire or flood, you should also plan for crises in each of the seven areas above.  A Crisis Portfolio is a plan of action your company would take for each of the seven categories.  You’re essentially planning for the unthinkable, the worst case scenario. 

When brainstorming your Crisis Portfolio, create a team of people from different parts of the organization.  This brings new perspectives on how to handle the crisis. 

You won’t be able to plan for every possible scenario, but having a plan in place increases your readiness to handle a crisis when it comes up in a proactive way.  Think about it.  If you were in the same situation BP is in now, wouldn’t you like to have a plan of attack ready?

Tripp Braden is an IT marketing and sales consultant who specializes in developing seven figure partnerships and businesses.  He is also the editor of Market Leadership Journal.   Discover how to grow your company through extraordinary partnerships by visiting where you can find information on the Software Marketing Toolkit.

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