Posted tagged ‘Crisis Management’

Establishing the Foundation for the Leadership Interview

June 22, 2010

A leadership interview is a little more delicate. In fact, I would categorize this discussion as more of a conversation than an interview. There are several reasons why this is so.

The candidate being interviewed is typically more mature. Usually, this person has managed departments or divisions, if not other companies. Therefore, this applicant is more comfortable with the proceedings.  For this level candidate, it truly is an opportunity to shine and demonstrate the depth and breadth of the knowledge and experience that has been acquired over an entire professional career.

These factors by themselves make this interview different.

It is as much about making sure that there is a stylistic and cultural match as it is about the skills that the candidate possesses. And the candidate also usually understands on some level that a poor match will not work for him or her.

To make this conversation more effective and easier, I typically explain that I am assisting n this process. My intention and goals is to find a fit so that the candidate can be happy and fulfilled for years to come and so can the company.

This allows for a conversational shift toward getting to know the person. The context and the most fundamental rule to apply is that we are here to “screen out” inappropriate candidates rather than “screening in” people.

The purpose of the questions that we outlined in the previous post is now clear. The se questions have been designed to facilitate the discussion and they are clearly in the best interests of the applicant as well as the company.

What to Evaluate When Hiring Executives

June 16, 2010

There are certain items that are prerequisites when hiring an executive. Ideally, the candidate should be either knowledgeable in the industry or the skills that are required by the organization to fulfill its mission.

Typically, when I enter the hiring process, the candidates have been vetted in these areas. What I look for are the leadership qualities that are invariably required for success.

Here’s my Top 10:

(1) Positive Energy: Staff always takes their cue from the person on top. If that person isn’t excited about coming to work, every staff member will be affected by that malaise.

(2) Energize Others: Effective leaders need to motivate and inspire.

(3) The “Edge”: This is a term borrowed from Jack Welch. It speaks to the ability to make tough decisions

(4) Vision: Any effective plan starts with a direction. You can’t lead people unless you know to where you are leading them. Part of this skill is the ability to “see around the corners,” and anticipate what may occur and manage for these eventualities.

(5) Execution Skills: The effective leader needs to help people identify the right tactics, sequencing and hold them accountable for delivering results.

(6) Passion: This is a higher level of positive energy. It’s more about a deep and resounding commitment to the client, the staff, the shareholders and the work.

(7) Crisis Management: Crises happen and they happen to everyone. A leader must be planning oriented, possess a cool head and be able to take charge when everyone else is losing focus.

(8) Authenticity: Leaders must be true to their own selves.  This trait also addresses the leader’s ability to recognize his or her strengths and weaknesses and compensate for both.

(9) Ability to Learn: More than ever, today’s leader must be able to learn about their industry, their people and the world around them.

(10) Commitment to Teach: The fundamental role of leadership is to grow the next generation of leaders. Patience and a desire to educate are therefore core to the effective leader.

This list is not sequenced by importance and, naturally, the degree of strength in any area is relative to the “heart of the assignment.”

How NOT to Apologize

January 14, 2010

Earlier this week, Mark McGwire “came clean” on his use of steroids. Among the analyses that I read, one noted how major league baseball was getting quite good at learning how to apologize. It’s even become somewhat of a formula.

First, you issue a press release. Then you arrange a sitdown interview with a favorably inclined organization such as MLB Network – although you should have an accomplish journalist interview you. After that, make yourself available to some media outlets to answer questions. When that is all complete, have a couple of interested parties laud you for stepping forwrad. Presto! You’re done and everyone will allow you to move on with your life.

Only problem — the public is not responding favorably at all — which leads us to thinking about why this is so.

A closer examination of McGwire’s apology statement offers some lessons for all of us in how to apologize.

  1. “Now that I have become the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, I have the chance to do something that I wish I was able to do five years ago.” Apologize because it is the right thing to do not because you are afraid of the consequences. Try not to make your apology self serving. Sincerity and motivation are important.
  2. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.” Got it…shame on the era for forcing me to take steroids. Take responsibility.
  3. “During the mid-90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed 228 games over five years. Don’t load up your apology with statistics. It makes it look like the statement was written by a third party and not you.
  4. I experienced a lot of injuries, including a rib cage strain, a torn left heel muscle, a stress fracture of the left heel, and a torn right heel muscle. It was definitely a miserable bunch of years and I told myself that steroids could help me recover faster. I thought they would help me heal and prevent injuries too.” Alot of other players were hurt and they chose to stay within the rules. Eliminate the rationalization. Don’t make excuses.
  5. I’m sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids. I had good years when I didn’t take any and I had bad years when I didn’t take any. I had good years when I took steroids and I had bad years when I took steroids.” Still, Mark, everyone seems to think that steroids makes players better hitters. Don’t minimize or ignore the impact of your transgression.
  6. “Baseball is really different now – it’s been cleaned up. The Commissioner and the Players Association implemented testing and they cracked down, and I’m glad they did.” Hard to tell if you are glad they cleaned it up or glad that they waited until you left the game. Don’t kiss up.

Here’s perhaps a more effective apology built on acknowledging, apologizing and doing something constructive about it.

I cheated. I let you down. I was wrong. I’m really sorry.

And here’s what I’m going to do about it. I’m going to speak to high school and college kids and pour my own money into getting kids to know cheating is wrong and steroids are dangerous.

It’s the least I can do…and I’m open to any other suggestions you might have as to how I can make amends for what I have done.

Now that would be an apology…


Strategy and Action in Difficult Economic Times

October 12, 2008

We are living through unprecedented economic challenges. Arguably, never before has there been such an interconnected global economy and never before has there been such a crisis capable of impacting so many.

In recent days, I have spoken to many organizations that have placed expansion and purchases on hold. Leaders from these companies are attempting to stockpile their cash reserves so they can weather this financial storm. For the most part, they would like to retain the professional teams that they have invested in so heavily. At the same time, they would like their staff to continue to be focused, productive and valuable to the organization.

The challenge then is what to do during these times when sales are difficult to come by. Here are a couple of appropriate and meaningful actions to take.

One of the unique opportunities in a difficult economic climate is to perform an intellectual retooling of the business. Specifically, there are several areas to investigate.

First, now would be an excellent time to re-envision the new world that we are entering. Reassessing client needs within the context of the new environment may enable the business to identify new wants and even opportunities. Visiting key clients and collaborating with them will help to forge bonds and strengthen the relationship for any difficult times on the horizon.

Scenario planning is also critical at this juncture. Since we all operate in a competitive environment, it is appropriate to assess how competitors might be reacting to these trends and what steps they will take. Based on this analysis, your business might recognize a different type of opportunity. If the competition is downsizing or jettisoning an not-so-profitable business line, your business might be able to attract rare talent or capitalize on an area that might prove profitable to you.

The next opportunity is to look inward. During a downturn, staff is more open at looking at ways to streamline operations and reduce costs. Re-evaluating processes and the supply chain will allow your business to fortify itself for the inevitable opportunities that will present themselves.

The re-examination that you are undertaking is really a recognition that you control your own destiny.

What other worthwhile efforts that can be undertaken during these difficult times? Please share your thoughts.

The Five Stages of Crisis-Management According to Jack Welch

October 2, 2008

As we all know, our country is experiencing a staggering financial crisis. This crisis has stunned the nation and left many fearful and concerned regarding how to address and solve it.

In September of 2005, Jack Welch, former CEO and Chairman of General Electric, wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal. The article was entitled “The Five Stages of Crisis-Management.” The context for the article was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation left behind in New Orleans.

Although we are experiencing a crisis of a different sort, it seems appropriate to revisit and synopsize the lessons that Mr. Welch shared in that article as they are helpful in contextualizing what we are experiencing today.

* * *

Stage 1: Denial

According to Mr. Welch, the first stage of that pattern is denial. This stage usually begins with the belief that the problem isn’t that bad. This is a typical reaction, in part, because people never believe that bad things will happen to them. He goes on to suggest that “one of the marks of good leadership is the ability to dispense with denial quickly and face into hard stuff with eyes open and fists raised.” It becomes the leader’s job to help people confront reality, create a new direction and inspire people to address that reality with positive action.

Stage 2: Containment

The initial symptom at this stage is for people to try to keep the problem quiet. From there, it is not uncommon to find that leaders, even those who are extraordinarily gifted, try to make the problem disappear by giving it to someone else to solve.

Stage 3: Shame-Mongering

Mr. Welch goes on to state that at this stage, “all stakeholders fight to get their side of the story told, with themselves as the heroes at the center.” In the last few days, we have witnessed a demonstration of this phase as we have listened to our present administration, Democratic and Republican leadership tell us who is to blame and who will save the day.

Stage 4: Blood on the Floor

In the fourth stage, as in just about every crisis, there is at least one high profile person who pays with his job. This crisis is no different. Leadership at AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and many of the companies that have been swallowed up have paid with their jobs. And unfortunately, again in this case, that leader often brings down many other people with him or her.

Stage 5: The Problem Gets Fixed

In the fifth and final stage, the crisis is resolved and, as Mr. Welch notes, “despite prophesies of permanent doom, life goes on, usually for the better.” The bill that passed the Senate floor tonight added in may new features for taxpayers including increases in the limit on federal bank deposit insurance, tax breaks for production of and investment in industries promoting clean energy such as solar, wind and biodiesel and tax relief for victims of natural disasters in the Midwest, such as flooding, tornadoes and other severe weather events (although there certainly are “sweeteners” that look alot like “pork” such as tax breaks for builders of auto raceways and rum producers in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico).

* * *

It seems that we are beginning to enter stage five of the crisis-management process even though it may take us a number of years to fully experience the results. It is also important to remember that crises have a positive element to them as well. They let us know where things are broken and help us identify the solutions so that future similar crises may be avoided.

Mr. Welch’s insights are extremely valuable in one other arena as well.

Knowing that there is a predictable pattern to crisis management is useful as it will help us move on to the recovery stage.


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