Tips for keeping your cool when all around you, others are losing theirs

The majority of small and mid-sized nonprofits, including those with a faith base, are one bump in the road away from disaster. Hence the deer-in-the-headlights look on many a CEO’s face. When margins are slim to none, the chirpy advice of organizational gurus touting innovation, risk-taking, and daring to fail is about as “helpful” as noisy gongs and clanging symbols to the ministry leaders with whom I consult.

For even the most faithful and faith-filled among us, calm doesn’t come easy when waiting for the next shoe to drop. Which it will. If not today, soon. We can pray until we’re blue in the face, but it’s the way of the world that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike.

Crisis is part and parcel of institutional life and by extension, of leadership. So . . .

Be prepared.

Keep your cool.

Make smart decisions.

Here’s how, based on lessons learned by “executives who have had to weather crises of all kinds.” Their hard-earned counsel was summarized and posted to the Harvard Business Review blog by authors Mark Bonchek and Karen France.

You can’t pick your crisis, but you can choose your team and your tools. Brian Irving, former CMO of Hampton Creek, concurs: “Your crisis is not the one you think it’s going to be.” The important thing is to have the right people, data, tools, process, and mindset to handle whatever might come your way.

The story is worse than reality. A consequence of the tendency to “bunker” the executive team is a lack of information flow to the wider organization. Brian Irving has observed that “when there’s a void of information, people will create their own story. The story they create is usually ten times worse than the reality.”

It’s not what you say. One of the consequences of digital and social media is that a story can grow exponentially and go from zero-to-crisis in a matter of hours. You need to create a bank of goodwill when times are good, so that when a crisis comes, a community of advocates is ready to speak up, reassuring critics and reinforcing your message.

Fix the underlying problem. Sometimes a crisis is simply not your fault. But sometimes it’s a symptom of a deeper problem in your culture, product, or operating model. If you don’t fix the underlying problem, the crisis will go from “one-and-done” to one that goes “on-and-on.” It’s too easy in a crisis to just treat the surface symptoms, and not look to the underlying issues.

We all have to get better at overcoming obstacles, dealing with uncertainty, and staying focused in a changing environment. It’s good advice for everyone to be prepared, stay true to your purpose, involve others in solutions, control what you can, and work on the underlying issues.

If you can do all that, you’ll be a leader worth following.



What's your take on this topic?

%d bloggers like this: