I will never forget last year’s May Day protests. My wife Barb and I were in New York City and sat in Bryant Park watching protesters peacefully march with signs around the Big Apple. The New York City Police were out in force, looked serious about their jobs, and everyone stayed cool, calm, and collected. We never felt like we were in danger, nor felt fearful. Imagine our surprise when we returned to our hotel and saw our very own Seattle on the news. May Day riots were out of control in the downtown area with protesters smashing windows and setting cars on fires. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Here I was safe and sound in one of the biggest cities in the world, and my relatively small hometown was being ravaged.
This year, things are different. The police have already started preparations and are sure not to be caught flat-footed again. In addition, businesses are being much smarter. I just saw a push notification on my phone indicating that US Bank in downtown Seattle was closing up shop at 3 pm due to the expected protests. They made a decision in the best interest of their customers and employees. While they might not be able to prevent damage to their building, they do have control over the people they serve and employ. While it might be a slight disruption for customers, my guess is that it pales in comparison to anyone being injured.
The lesson for you as a business owner is this…
You need to learn from history. I can’t tell you how many times in my years as an insurance agent and consultant, where I have seen business owners ignore history and trends to their detriment. For example, if you have a fleet of cars that continually racks up rear-end accidents, and you take no preventative action to educate and/or discipline your drivers, you will fall victim to larger self insurance costs, higher premiums, and loss of production and revenue. In this case today, US bank knows it’s located right in the heart of the rally. They know that banks are a target. They saw what happened last year. They made a decision to avoid calamity in the places they can control. Kudos to them.
You need to be skilled at spotting trends. If you have a strong, professional relationship with your insurance agent, they should help you. This is an area that consultants are invaluable. The net result of learning from history is that you don’t repeat the bad stuff; only the good stuff! At least one business in downtown Seattle has figured it out. Have you in your business?
© 2013 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
I was in New Jersey this past week for a couple of speaking events when the Rutgers University Men’s Basketball debacle hit the national headlines. For those of you who
missed it, Head Coach Mike Rice was shown in videos of practice verbally and physically abusing players. He was throwing basketballs at them; punching and shoving them; using gay slurs; and literally acting like a maniac. The video was made available to Athletic Director Tim Pernetti back in November, 2012. At that time, rather than fire Rice, he tried to rehabilitate him through a $50,000 fine, suspension for 3 games, and mandatory anger management treatment. Next thing you know, ESPN’s Outside the Lines program is showing the world the actions of a coach gone mad. The reaction from the sports world was harsh to say the least, and also drew the ire of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Rutgers is New Jersey’s most prominent state school, and this was a crisis that was spreading like a wildfire.
In the following days, Rice was fired; his assistant coach resigned; AD Pernetti resigned; and the President is under fire. As I write this, I am listening to the press conference by the president. According to Pernetti in his letter of resignation, they followed advice from the University’s Human Resources Department, Legal team, and outside counsel. He regrets now the decision of rehabilitation over dismissal. He wishes he had it to do over again because he would change his decision. Hindsight tells us that he should have known these tapes would be leaked. In today’s world, things like this never stay silent. But, that’s hindsight. Let’s use a little foresight for you.
Crisis doesn’t have to come in the form of a windstorm, fire, or data breach. Your reputation as a business or organization is priceless, and may be more impactful to
your bottom line than those other examples. For Rutgers University and its President, board, and leadership, this is a train wreck. Now, all eyes are on them on how they diffuse and react to the situation. It gives us a chance to learn from them.
Here are a few tips and suggestions on lessons learned…
- Understand plainly that electronic and written communications and information rarely will stay private. What is written in emails even securely (see David Petraeus) can and will come to light, and is usually damning to you and your organization.
- Poor behavior of employees and leadership will be held to account by your clients, prospects, investors, key stakeholders, community, and the media. You need to be prepared to respond to it publicly.
- You should have behavior clauses in your employment agreements regarding poor behavior, including what might be done or written on social media.
- Silence after a crisis like this is bad. You need to be proactive early. In the Twitter and Facebook world we live in, public opinion can be swayed and determined very quickly.
- Practice for events like this. Role play mock interviews and press conferences and hope you never have to perform them live. At least with practice, you can work on your game.
- Respect and have empathy for those who have been injured in the debacle – whether physically or mentally. The wost thing you can show is arrogance or indifference. Contrary to what you might have heard, apologies are not only acceptable, but necessary if they are warranted.
- Do the right thing. Legal and HR have value, but if the right thing to do is fire someone because their actions were intolerable, then you fire them.
- You better be good at public speaking. When issues related to bad behavior in your business pop up, you can bet you will have to address them to the media. You’d better have some skill in this area. If you don’t feel like you’ve “got game” in that area, now is a good time to change that…or delegate it!
I’m not hear to throw Rutgers under the bus. The leadership has acted pretty swiftly for an organization like this. The post event decisions seem to be good. This
article is more about what you can learn as a business owner, executive, or organizational leader. Now, some of you might be thinking, “This stuff doesn’t happen to me. I’m just a small business owner.” That’s where you may be tragically wrong. You may not end up on ESPN or CNN, but a bad report in your local paper or television station can be just as devastating. Don’t think it happens? Spend some time reading your paper.
Bottom line – Bad behavior happens all the time in many organizations. You need to be prepared as the leader to prevent it through education and consequences; mitigate damage if it does happen; and bring your team together to move forward after it’s calmed down.
© 2013 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
September is National Prepardeness Month and to “celebrate” that, I am offering a very special teleconference on September 18th from 12:00 to 1:00 Pacific (3:00-4:00 EST). My guest
will be nationally renowned branding strategist, Dorie Clark.
We all know that being prepared for crisis is critical to surviving one. Whether it’s a natural disaster, an economic crisis, or a travesty like what happened at Penn State University, you must be ready to make tough and smart decisions.
Is part of your process on how to protect your brand and reputation?
Reputation risk may be just as damaging as the crisis that started it. Just ask BP! You must have a plan in place to communicate effectively to employees, investors, clients, prospective customers, the media, and your community. Failure to do this will lead to distrust, loss of reputation, and lost revenue. Having a plan in place, on the other hand, will set you in a postion to not only protect your good name, but take advantage of the opportunity to thrive.
In this teleconference, Dorie will share with your strategies, tactics, tips, and suggestions on how to prepare your business or organization to respond to a crisis both internally and externally. You will walk away with new ideas on how to:
- When and how to effectively work with the media
- How to inspire and lead your employees when chaos is all around you
- How to communicate with your supply chain and key stakeholders
- How to protect your brand
My guest, Dorie Clark is the President of Clark Strategic Communications in Boston. Dorie is recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated Press, She honed her crisis communication skills as a spokesperson for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign and as the press secretary for former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s gubernatorial race. Today, she is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and the American Management Association’s publications. She is also a columnist for Mint, India’s second-largest business newspaper. She consults on marketing and branding strategy for clients like Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation, and is the author of the forthcoming Harvard Business Review Publishing book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (2013).
Dorie has taught marketing and communications at Emerson College, Tufts University, Suffolk University, and Smith College Executive Education. She has also lectured at universities worldwide, including Harvard University, the University of Michigan, and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. She is quoted frequently in the international media, including the New York Times, NPR, the BBC, and more. At age 18, Dorie graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College, and two years later received a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School.
One of my clients recently suffered a tragedy. An employee had a heart attack and died in the office. He was in his mid-50s and this came as a shock. To add to it, the spouse also works for the company. My heart went out to them as individuals and as an organization.
As tragic as this is, it does bring to light a serious business situation. What happens when you, or an important member of your team, gets hit by the proverbial bus? Are you prepared as an organization to respond to the imminent emergency and the long-term ramifications?
We hear the word “redundancy” all the time in business, particularly for technology. We have back up systems, back up to backups, risk management plans, and other fail safes. What we often overlook is human redundancy.
Take a look at your organization and answer these questions honestly…
- As owner or chief executive, what happens if I can’t show up for work tomorrow (unexpectedly)? Who knows what I do and who can step in?
- What if you lose your best sales person, executive, manager, or technology guru? Who holds the extra keys; passwords; or other important business tools and strategies?
- How do you deal with the trauma of losing a part of your family? What emotional help do you need to provide?
- Are you prepared for emergency? Do you have first aid kits and a defibrillator?
- Do the people next in line know that they are next in line? How good is your communication with them?
- How good is your communication system for the entire organization? Do you leverage technology for this or still use a phone tree?
- Have you ever practiced for a disaster like losing someone? If not, how do you know it will work?
- Are you afraid to find out what you don’t know?
Bench strength is critical for sports teams. The ability to plug someone in when injury occurs is critical to success. Teams know this, so they plan accordingly. You should know this, too. People leave; get injured; switch positions; and maybe even win the lottery. Some also get hit by that bus. How good is your bench strength and are you prepared to survive?
How you answer that question will go a long way into helping you become a better crisis leader.
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
My alma mater, the University of Washington Huskies, got left out of the Big Dance. Even though they won the Pac-12 regular season title, a couple of bad end-of-the-season losses, kept them out of the March Madness NCAA tournament. They ended up being a #1 seed in the national Invitational Tournament (NIT).
These are 20 year olds. They were discouraged and upset about not being selected to the NCAA tournament after winning their conference. The NIT, though prestigious in history, was of little consolation. It would have been very easy to walk out on the court in the first game with a bad attitude and leftover baggage. That would almost certainly lead to an even more embarrassing loss and a terrible off-season.
On Tuesday, the Huskies defeated their arch nemesis Oregon to advance to the NIT Final Four in Madison Square Garden in New York. They won three games to earn that distinction. Now they will play on national television in the Big Apple. No matter what happens, this has been a success. They turned lemons into lemonade.
Give credit to the coaches for excellent leadership. Give credit to the players for staying tough. And give credit to the fans for sticking behind them. It was a team effort.
How often in business do we turn lemons into lemonade? In my experience, not often enough. Bad things happen every day in the business world…
- Accounts are lost
- Sales don’t get made
- People are fired
- Companies are sued
- Fires, floods, power outages, and tornado damage occur
You can come up with a bigger list. The bottom line is that bad things happen and how we respond will determine the success or failure of the company and maybe even you. Here are some ways to avoid the failure…
- Have a short memory. Dwelling on the past never helps the present or the future. Gain a “closer” mentality. When Mariano Rivera blows a save (which rarely happens), it’s forgotten by the time he hits the locker room. The next time out is about getting the save. You need to be the same way.
- Be positive. I see too many people with a “victim mentality.” It’s always someone else’s fault; it’s never going to get better; we can’t do this; the sky is falling. You know the people.If you can’t be positive about who you are, your team, and your business, it’s time to get out.
- Take action. Determine your course and take it. Be bold. Be fearless. Others follow bold, decisive leaders.
- Have fun. Some days you win and some days you lose. Have fun anyway. Life’s too short to dwell on the past failures.
Final note – my professional mentor Alan Weiss has always espoused, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying.” Life is full of failures; generally many more failures than successes. It’s how we respond to failure to find the next success that matters.
Go make some lemonade…
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
Today’s announcement of the penalties handed down by National Football League commissioner, Roger Goodell have dramatic consequences for the New Orleans Saints football
team and coaches. For those not familiar with the situation, The Saints were accused, and found guilty of, targeting opposing players (particularly quarterbacks) to injure them and get them removed from the game. The defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, developed a system (which he used when coaching with other teams) where his players would earn up to $1,500 for hard hits and getting other players injured. Basically, “Bounty-gate” as it’s being termed, was more about bad intentions than hard hits. When it comes to players safety, the NFL has taken a hard-line and made historic decisions.
The defensive coordinator Williams, has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL. It’s a minimum of a year with the chance to re-apply then. He has a new team and this impacts them substantially. The head coach, Sean Payton, who knew what was going on and failed to stop it, was suspended for a year without pay. That’s a cool $8,000,000 (that’s right – six zeros) never to be regained. He can’t appeal. He is an employee of the NFL without a union. One of the other assistants, Joe Vitt, was suspended for 6 games. The club has been fine $500,000, lost draft picks, and lost its reputation. This is unprecedented in the NFL, and maybe all of sports. It is punitive and a clear message to the rest of the teams that this behavior will end.
The reasons for the draconian nature of the penalties? The Saints were warned in 2009 by the NFL to stop bounties. The Saints said okay, but they didn’t stop. Basically, when you lie to an investigative unit, that leads to issues. In addition, the NFL smelled huge lawsuits coming at them and probably felt that they needed to make a big statement in order to show that they are doing all they can to end bounties. They did.
So what does this mean to business leaders? Read on…
1. Head Coach Sean Payton is stunned (Read article by Jay Glazer on NBC Sports). He has just lost $8M he can never get back. He is out of the league for a year. No contact. No decisions on players. Nothing. He didn’t instigate this bounty system. He allowed his defensive coordinator to do it and basically gave him full control. The similarities to Joe Paterno at Penn State are compelling. Payton (basically the CEO) ceded control to a maverick subordinate and stuck his head in the sand. He allowed bad behavior to persist in his organization even after being warned. For that, he ended up getting the deepest blow. He makes way more money than Williams. His reputation was bigger. He has lost big time. Question – As a leader, do you cede control to subordinates who are highly successful and stop minding the store? Are you willing to “overlook” things because the person who is running it is very successful in other areas? Example – your top sales producer shows poor judgement frequently with clients and potentially can damage your reputation. You don’t do anything because they are your top producer. You risk your reputation and potentially increase your liability.
2. Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis was also suspended for a year. This is your club’s top executive. Payton may have been the CEO, but this guy is all about your talent acquisition. Again, this is a case of not taking bold and courageous actions when you’re smart enough to know you should. It’s easy to say sitting here on the outside, but really tough sometimes when you are in the midst of the fire. Question – Do you take bold and courageous action when your gut tells you what you know is right?
3. Looking at the big picture. The NFL is all about winning today. Now, not necessarily later. Teams will fire coaches, executives, and players at a drop of a hat to win today. Heck, today Tim Tebow (last year’s golden boy and media sensation) was traded by the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets because Denver picked up Peyton Manning. Nobody is safe. The pressure to think only in the moment and eschew long-range consequences may be very prevalent in this environment. Question – Do economic challenges and issues keep you focused only on the now, rather than strategizing and preparing for long-term sustainability?
4. Reputation Damage Control – I’ve heard very little from the Saints today. Maybe they are still trying to get up off the floor. They have damage control to do. It starts with their fans and continues on with the NFL, public perception, and the media. This may haunt them for years as they go to different cities and receive the cat calls, the heckling, the poor press, etc. How does this affect their employees and families? It will have devastating ramifications for a whole lot of people. Question – Do you consider reputation damage when thinking about crisis management? Do you ever think about crisis management?
I have to think that thee will be more penalties levied against players. Lawsuits may pop up. It’s truly a tragic situation. Bad judgement and poor behavior is not relegated to the NFL. It happens daily in business. Although they are purely for entertainment value, television shows like Mad Men and The Office, and cartoons like Dilbert often skim that surface of reality and we recognize it. That’s why we watch, read, and laugh at them. But nobody is laughing in New Orleans or in the NFL offices today. I know it’s a baseball axiom, but there is no joy in Mudville today. Make sure that you learn from others mistakes and avoid a similar fate in your business.
© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
A great quarterback on the football field, and a great point guard on the basketball court “see the field.” In the midst of a lot of flailing arms and legs; crowds roaring; and people yelling at them, they can slow down the action and make the play.
My football career was limited to a backup quarterback in junior high. My best friend was the starting quarterback (he later went on to play in college, so I guess it was the right call). He got to practice behind the first-string offensive line against the second-string defense. I was just the opposite. My protection were guys who were just learning to walk and chew gum at the same time. My large and aggressive friends were on the defensive line waiting to attack me.
I remember dropping back to pass in practice. I would take my drop and start to survey the field. I knew there were receivers out there somewhere, running a pattern that I had called in the huddle. But all I saw was big guys with big arms chasing me all over the place. I ended up running for my life more often than not. I wasn’t talented enough to be able to stay calm in the pocket; move around as needed; and see the entire playing field.
Crisis management is like that in business. When crisis happens (and it will happen) are you running around like Dan Weedin at North Whidbey Junior High, or are you cool like Tom Brady? Would I get the same answer from your management team or employees?
Being a great crisis leader involves several things that great quarterbacks and point guards do or have…
1. Coaching. Tom Brady has a coach. In fact, he has several – Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Quarterbacks Coach, Strength & Conditioning Coach. You may have all the talent in the world, but if you can’t maximize it, you are just another quarterback. Coaching maximizes talent for athletes and it does so for business leaders. You know your business. You probably need help in other areas. Get good coaching on how to avoid, respond to, and manage crisis.
2. Vision. For Quarterbacks, this tends to be a physical feature. Yes, you can be trained, but there is an innate ability for the great ones to see the field with tremendous vision. For business leaders, the vision is in your head and it is also innate. You got to where you are by being visionary. In my experience, that is the common trait that employees use when describing their successful boss. However, when it comes to managing crisis, being visionary is tougher. If you don’t understand your vulnerabilities or the consequences, it’s tough to understand how you react. In this case, vision needs some homework. Learn your organizational vulnerabilities. Communicate and learn from your team. Decide in advance how you will handle a crisis. Make the decision before the decision needs to be made.
3. Practice. You’ve probably heard it said that becoming a rock star in your field takes 10,000 hours of “practice.” Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Magic Johnson, and John Stockton all put in extra hours on the field, on the court, and in the gym. It shows up when they play the game. How often do you practice crisis response? When was the last time you tested your insurance? How do you know your team will respond well to crisis if you’re not there? Practice is essential to being a tremendous player and seeing the field. It is also essential to you being able to survive a disaster.
Leadership means more than looking good in the corner office. It involves powerful communication skills, courage, vision, and humility. It also means that you have the understanding that the future of your business, its people, and your supply chain are counting on you to be Tom Brady. When you are facing an all out blitz, can you make the right read and complete the pass on 4th down? You may not be on a football field. You may instead be dealing with an issue that determines your business continuation and survival.
Are you prepared to be Tom Brady?
© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
There is a tragic story coming out of Oklahoma State University this morning. Head Women’s Basketball coach Kurt Budke and his assistant Miranda Serna were killed in an airplane crash following a recruiting trip. This happens as college basketball is getting started and leaves the university both mourning and grasping for answers.
Certainly, the focus is on the families of Coach Budke and Coach Serna. However, their loss at such a critical time is also an example of how important it is for organizations to be prepared for “human redundancy.” Certainly, the team has other assistants, but these were the head and first assistant. How well prepared the assistants are to take the reigns of a major college program will soon be seen.
What about your organization? Who is next in line if something happens to you? What if a crisis occurs like this where the top two or three go down?
This is often a difficult subject to talk about, but it must be done in businesses of all sizes and even families. Tragedy usually occurs suddenly and having to make decisions in real-time can lead to problems. Take the time now to work out those issues and potentialities. None of us are invulnerable to them…
© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
I guess maybe the Board of Trustees read my blog post today. They have relieved Coach Joe Paterno of his duties immediately.
This isn’t the last we will hear of this. The fallout will be widespread and legends and reputations tarnished. This isn’t a scandal that involves boosters buying a car for a kid. This has serious issues related to damaging lives.
Damage to reputation has the chance to harm more deeply than any other peril. How do you protect your organization’s reputation?
It’s a question to consider in calm times; not in real-time…
© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
This morning, I had the great pleasure of sitting in a dentist’s chair for an hour having a tooth re-filled. My dentist is a great guy, a client, and a golf partner, but I could think of a lot more exciting ways to spend my morning. As he was doing all the work in numbing my mouth and preparing me for his work, we chatted about my teeth. I mentioned that in over 40 years of my life, I had never had a broken tooth. Now in the past 2 and a half years, this was my third. I was hoping to chalk this up to my age, rather than a progressive problem that might jeopardize my teeth .
Gene chuckled and said it was pretty much about age. We do a lot of daily work with our teeth and over the course of time, a tooth breaking is a reality. This one he was working on today wasn’t going to go to a crown yet. We caught it very early and he was going to refill it with a very strong adhesive that would give it about 5 years more life before a crown was needed. He went on to say that proper care of teeth and gums wouldn’t get rid of all the issues that come with age and accident, but would over the course of your life set you up to have a healthy mouth full of your own teeth when you get old. My takeaway…taking care of your teeth by doing all the “not very fun” preventive work will ensure that you stay healthy and are able to deal effectively with crisis.
The same is true with your business or organization. You know that old saying about an ounce of prevention, right? The reason it’s an old saying is because it’s true!
Think of your business as your teeth. A lot of times, you only think about your teeth when they hurt or break. Many business owners only think about responding to crisis when the business hurts or breaks. By then, it’s too late and going to cost you a lot of pain and money.
Take preventative measures with your business. Consistently and regularly “brush and floss” by…
- Getting a second opinion on your insurance protection at least every other year.
- Performing an annual vulnerability analysis with your team to better understand what can hurt you.
- Practicing your team’s response to crisis through simulated exercises like Corporate War Games or Table Tops.
- Committing to implementing changes and monitoring them for success.
- Surrounding yourself with experts in risk management that will provide you with valuable recommendations, strategy, and insight that you don’t have internally.
- Fix your “hot spots” before you need a root canal!
Going to the dentist isn’t any fun (nothing personal Gene – I’d rather meet on the first tee). However, I go at least twice a year and take Gene’s advice on when to fix my “hot spots.” If as an executive or business owner, you don’t do the same thing with your business when it comes to risk and crisis management, you’re liable to be toothless. Let’s be honest – you face crisis every year. If you can be better prepared to respond you will save money; save time; improve morale; reduce your insurance premiums; enhance productivity; improve your peace of mind; and have a bigger smile on your face at the end.
Start today. It’s a pretty painless process. If you don’t know how or where to start, ask. Ignorance is no excuse. Your business continuation and the well-being of your employees, customers, and supply chain count on you.
And, don’t forget to floss!
© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved.