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I'm great in a crisis! (But I'm not that great a leader.)

Posted on September 12, 2013 at 12:55 AM

By Tami Marler, MBA

Some managers pride themselves on managing crises. Fixing problems and saving their organization from the brink of death is a badge of honor.

While crisis management is one important characteristic of an effective leader, chief executives have to ask, why are we always managing crises, and do I need a crisis manager or a more effective manager?

Often, the fact that your organization finds itself in crisis at all can be investigated back to a lack of planning and (brace yourselves) poor management. Sure, it’s important for your leaders to be lithe, spontaneous and flexible, but fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants management will, more often than not, lead to crisis after crisis.

According to Tim Connor, CSP, an internationally-renowned crisis management, sales and leadership speaker and author, there are specific characteristics, attitudes, behaviors and philosophies inherent in companies that operate with crisis mis-management as a standard.

Following is Connor’s list:

  1. A heavy top-down corporate culture when it comes to information flow.
  2. Organizations where everyone consistently has too much on their plate.
  3. Senior management or ownership that has their ego too vested in outcomes.
  4. Poor communication throughout the organization.
  5. High turnover at the mid and lower levels in the organization.
  6. Poor employee morale.
  7. Organizations that have excessive politics throughout.
  8. Organizations that are more concerned with who rather than what.
  9. Organizations that reward incompetence rather than performance.
  10. A lack of confidence, skill or experience on the part of managers and executives.
  11. Censorship.
  12. Unclear and/or poorly communicated goals, objectives and corporate direction.
  13. Arrogance.
  14. Employees and/or managers that are insecure or lack a positive self-image.
  15. Procrastination.
  16. A lack of accountability or organization discipline.

Connor summarizes the above characteristics into five major contributors: Ego, ignorance, arrogance, politics and communication style. Businesses that operate with these five attributes as driving forces find themselves with poor employee morale, no trust among managers and line staff, high turnover, low accountability, customer base erosion and clueless management.

So, what do you do if your organization is caught up in a whirlwind of crisis management? Following is a list of recommendations that will help you minimize the chaos and ensure your leaders are spending their time on things that keep your company in forward motion:

  1. Develop a strategic plan with clearly-defined vision, mission and core goals. Have every employee participate in the planning process and make sure every employee—from the top down—understands his/her role in ensuring the strategic plan is followed.
  2. Examine incentive-based pay with individual and group milestones tied to the strategic plan and the company’s measures of success.
  3. Make the incentive program and an abbreviated version of the strategic plan available to all employees. Include it in new employee orientations, employee evaluations and all messages to staff.
  4. Develop a meaningful communication program that keeps information coming and going. When employees make suggestions for improvement, use them whenever possible. When you ask employees for input, show them you are listening by employing some of their ideas. Look for opportunities to say yes, rather than roadblocks to say no.
  5. Ensure your managers are educated and experienced in the positions they hold so their subordinates can respect their directives.
  6. Provide your managers with the support they need from qualified, well-trained, experienced support personnel—not just people who have been with your organization for a long time.
  7. Only reward and promote people whose performance results (according to your strategic plan) warrant co-worker respect. In addition to determining whether the employee has exceeded what he/she was hired to do, consider conducting peer evaluations prior to rewarding or promoting anyone to a leadership position.
  8. Have a concise employee evaluation program with a schedule of evaluation periods. Ensure employees know your expectations (and how expectations are measured) by providing them with their evaluation forms during new employee orientation, and make the information available at all times. Give employees cheat sheets to succeed!
  9. Manage by walking around. Visit with employees often and respond to their comments—not with platitudes, but with action.
  10. Throw ego out the window and focus with laser precision on your corporate mission. If you are not on the path to achieving your mission because of ego or pride, get yourself back on the right course.

 Avoiding unnecessary crises requires planning, accountability and effective leadership. It takes courage to take a searching and fearless inventory of your personnel and processes to determine whether you have the right people in the right places doing the right things. But taking such courageous steps might save you some britches, because you'll find yourself flying by the seat of them far less often.

Categories: Career

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