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
I’ve had my new iPhone now for a month and am wondering how I ever lived without it. Yes, I’ve added a few games (I’m still not proficient in Angry Birds, but working on it), however the majority of the apps I’ve either downloaded or purchased have been great time saving tools. For instance…
- I get all my business reading done quickly, efficiently, and often while standing in line or waiting for someone. I have Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Seattle Times, CNN and the two local papers on my phone. Tom Petty was right…the waiting is the hardest part! Use your time wisely.
- Every contact I need is stored and backed up on the phone. I always have the information I need at my finger tips. My ability to quickly and easily find locations, restaurants, and contacts saves me time. My calendar is always handy (I keep it on Google Calendar). I can’t tell you how many times those features have saved me embarrassment and/or valuable time.
- On a personal note, I’m surprised how often I’ve used my flashlight and level apps. I’m not good at keeping the real-life tools handy, but when you need a flashlight, you need it now. Have phone will flashlight travel!
Bottom line – a smart phone is an investment, especially if you’re in business. Apps were developed to make your life easier. Find the tools that best fit your situation and take advantage of them.
Now it’s time to get those dumb pigs!
© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
Excellent story from CNN for all employers out there. You do have human assets, not just human resources. Helping to “makeover” yourself and your team leads to improved morale and higher efficiency. This leads to better client service and ultimately increased income. Bottom line – it’s a win-win-win.
© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
The events of last Saturday are emblazoned in the minds of all Americans.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords from Arizona was critically injured in a shooting where she was targeted during a rally at a Safeway store. Six other were killed and many others wounded. Our prayers and support go out to all the families involved. This calamity involves a lot of moving parts and creates a crisis for many. Here is a sampling…
- The Safeway store in Tuscon. This was the location of the rally. How did the store deal with this in relationship to its employees, its customers, and the indelible sight of the Safeway brand on CNN and the other media outlets? Did they have a disaster plan in place that they could fall back on?
- The State of Arizona. I saw the Governor on television and heard from the representatives from the state. Had they been fully prepared to talk with the media, reach out to victims, and handle collateral damage?
- Politicians. National, state, and local politicians all have another peril to be concerned about. I don’t recall another shooting like this since 1981 and Ronald Reagan. The big names all have their entourages. What about the congressional leaders, state leaders, and even local leaders? What changes now have to be made?
- Firearms dealers. You may only sell hunting rifles, but you are back on the front-line in public perception. How do you allay the fears of the public, while being able to legitimately carry on your business?
These are only a few examples. In looking at risk as a crisis manager, you must be prepared for even the unthinkable. You must take precautions to avoid crisis, mitigate damage if it does happen, and make sure your reputation is only enhanced in how you dealt with it. All this takes planning, preparation, training, practice, and implementation.
This is an opportunity for you as a business executive and organization to look at situations. How do you handle the unthinkable?
Gather your team together and brainstorm. Determine what areas of vulnerability you have. What are the worst-case scenarios and how do you best deal with them? How do you communicate to your employees, investors, supply chain, and media? Too often, this is brushed aside to be dealt with only if it happens. Take my word for it, that is the worst time to deal with it. You must be prepared and plan it out. Just like a basketball team practices for any situation, you must prepare for yours, too.
© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved