All of us face significant challenges at some point in our lives. On a personal level, I believe we all deserve understanding, empathy, and a second chance.
But the judgments of society don’t usually agree. If you’re a public figure or otherwise highly visible asset to your business, a personal misstep can quickly escalate into a public relations nightmare. No one ever thinks the worst-case scenario will happen to them. . . but what if it does? If you aren’t careful, unforeseen events can cost you everything you’ve worked toward.
So how do you navigate your own vulnerabilities—both personally and professionally—to prevent a problem from becoming a full-blown crisis?
What Constitutes a Crisis?
A crisis may seem abstract if you’ve never been through one—although with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all experienced what a collective crisis feels like. At the individual level, crises can be random, but they often strike when we’re at our most vulnerable. Mental or physical health concerns, relationship issues, lack of sleep, and other stressors can make us prone to poor decisions that further compound and escalate our problems.
Professional crises can begin at work, but they can also start at home. Personal and professional problems have a lot of overlap—particularly in the pandemic era, where the work/home lines have become increasingly blurred. For many, stress has increased in both arenas. And since our brains are wired to make suboptimal decisions when we’re under stress, the result could be unhealthy coping mechanisms or reckless behavior.
Beyond the events that may result from compromised decision-making, there are the true worst case scenarios most of us are hesitant to even think about. A sudden death with no succession plan, for example, can leave a business in a state of total chaos. Death in the workplace, whether by an accident or an act of violence, can have a devastating and long term impact. If a business has no safety or de-escalation plans or protocols in place to address these scenarios, the consequences are significant.
How to Prevent a Problem from Becoming a Crisis
It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of a potential crisis, but there are steps that business leaders can take to prevent bad situations from spiraling out of control.
- Look inward to identify vulnerabilities. Where in your life are you feeling unstable? Are there risks or dangers that you’re ignoring? Being honest with yourself is an integral part of crisis management, and it’s the first step to seeking out necessary support.
- Reach out for help. If you’ve been struggling personally over the last year and a half, know that you are not alone. The pandemic has exacerbated mental health problems in the U.S. fourfold, with 13 percent of adults reporting new or increased substance abuse problems. When you’re in a leadership position, it can be hard to admit that you need help. But taking action is not only brave, it’s also incredibly smart and forward-thinking.
- Establish a succession plan. The pandemic has forced us all to consider our mortality in ways that we may not have before. Even if you’re young and healthy, there should be a plan in place in the event that you are suddenly incapable of working. Identify who will take over, and keep detailed records of your business interactions so your next in command can pick up where you left off should they ever need to.
- Create a workplace safety plan. It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. Having a plan in place in case of a fire, natural disaster, or an instance of workplace violence can save a lot of stress—and maybe even someone’s life.
- Get input from others. Start a system of 360-degree feedback so you can hear from your employees and they can hear from one another. You never know what other employees might pick up on that could be vital to preventing a crisis.
If you want to talk more in-depth and specifically about crisis management for your business, I’m here to help. Reach out to me today to learn more about our crisis messaging and support services.