Is your organization prepared to face down a potential crisis?
Most businesses wait to assemble a crisis team until something catastrophic happens—but this approach couldn’t be more backward. Having a solid team ready to jump into action at any given moment is the best way to protect your company from full-blown disaster.
A Good Crisis Management Team Is a MUST
I’ve traveled all over the country to meet with CEOs and business owners about their crisis management strategies. While I’ve seen more companies taking the opportunity to plan ahead than in the past, only about a quarter of the executives I speak with attest to having crisis management teams in their organizations.
Without a team to rely on, business leaders run the risk of navigating crises independently. This approach is typically ineffective, as a leader’s perspective, opinions, and emotions can get in the way and prevent them from taking the right course of action for their imperiled business.
Team members—and potentially some trusted outsiders—can serve as the sounding board executives need to make appropriate decisions and take practical actions during a crisis.
How to Build a Crisis Management Team
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to putting together a crisis management team. But keep in mind that the team is only as effective as its members are competent. Executives should think intentionally about who they want in their corner and make their selections accordingly.
Consider your business and the types of crises you may face. Each team should include the CEO; whether you need sales representatives, environmental or health professionals, engineers, IT employees, or external counsel will strongly depend on various factors unique to your organization. Of course, you always need a communications pro to ensure your messages will resonate with your key stakeholders. While you brainstorm, don’t rule anyone out. Different perspectives and skill sets are beneficial in times of significant stress.
One person I recommend my clients have on their team? That executive or manager in your company who always speaks their mind—you know the one! Sure, you may not want to have this person over for dinner. However, during a crisis, you need people in your corner who are unafraid to give you the unvarnished truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be.
Once you’ve built a team of trusted individuals (team sizes range from a few people to a dozen or more), you’ll have completed the first crucial step in protecting your business. But there’s still more work to be done.
Next Step: Creating a Crisis Plan
Even the most competent team won’t be effective unless they have a solid plan to follow, so the next step is creating elements of a crisis plan:
Schedule a brainstorming session
Bring your whole team together to start brainstorming risks and vulnerabilities. A diverse roster of people will help cover all the bases here, so it’s vital to encourage everyone to participate and give their honest assessment and opinions.
One type of crisis that CEOs often overlook is their own death. Lack of succession planning has derailed many companies. From workplace violence to the death of an executive to on-the-job injuries or fatalities, these scenarios are critical to include in your crisis planning.
Ask the right questions
With your list of potential crises established, begin imagining how these incidents might unfold and how your company might respond.
Though you don’t have a crystal ball, try to work through the possible outcomes, including the reactions of the public, your customers, your audience, and your employees.
Keep up the momentum
Once you pick up the momentum regarding your crisis planning, don’t drop the ball! Host a crisis simulation annually so your team stays sharp and up-to-date on protocols. Ensure that everything is documented so everyone clearly understands their role in the event of a crisis.
I conduct crisis simulation exercises with several of my clients annually. We simulate a crisis for an entire day, allowing everyone to participate and hone their responses. It’s the best way to be confident that all the hard work you’ve put into crisis planning doesn’t go to waste.
Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking steps in advance to establish a crisis management team and prepare them for the worst-case scenario can save your company time, money, and significant stress in the long run.
If you need support developing a crisis management strategy, please know that I am here for you. Reach out to me today, and let’s get started!