Thought Leadership–Crisis Articles
Leadership, “Reputation Matters,” Forbes, March 11, 2022
Over the years, the obligation organizations, their employees, customers, and stakeholders have felt to address — and redress — tragic wrongs in society has grown and grown.
Corporate social responsibility has been a topic for decades. But it is only now, as the concept of B corps (a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency) has intersected with the dereliction of various countries and their leaders to “do the right thing,” that companies have truly begun to find their voices. Often, they have needed to become the only adults in the room.
“#MeToo,” the murders of George Floyd and other black men and women caught on video, racism as a whole, atrocities at our border separating parents from their children, climate change and its devastating consequences, the importance of vaccines to fight the pandemic, and the pandemic itself — are all examples of controversial, politicized issues some corporations have begun to weigh in on.
Whether those issues directly involved the company or not, some leaders — management and board-level — chose to speak out. It is as if companies now not only have their own “brands” and “reputations,” they are developing their own personalities that they must stay true to: the company as global citizen. The corporate conscience. […read more]
Netflix CEO’s “Non-Apology Apology” Over Dave Chappelle Show Misses The Mark As Sarandos Struggles To Navigate Culture Wars
Leadership, “Reputation Matters,” Forbes, October 20, 2021
No one has ever said that being CEO was easy. And today, as the top leadership role has expanded to encompass “spinner-in-chief” — getting the message right becomes mission-critical.
But, as Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos is so publicly finding out, this is awfully hard to do, especially when you’ve placed yourself squarely in the middle of the culture wars.
And you know what, “Voice-of-God,” “from-the-mount” proclamations do not work so well anymore. Sensitivities are on high alert. Inclusion means that you really have to listen and be sensitive to diverse voices, even when you disagree. And you need to communicate to all of your key audiences orders of magnitude more than you ever had to before. So it’s hard. And the rules are changing fast. […read more]
Disney Ignites A Firestorm By Dissing Scarlett Johansson: How To Damage An Iconic Company Brand In One Move
Leadership, “Reputation Matters,” Forbes, August 1, 2021
Disney just shocked the industry, movie goers, Marvel fans, Scarlett Johansson lovers, and media watchdogs alike with its unnecessary, nasty response to Johansson’s suit regarding “Black Widow’s” changed distribution plans.
Instead of taking the high road in their public response to what is essentially a business matter — albeit an important financial one — they decided to go low and go mean. And in so doing not only have they angered industry leaders like Johansson’s agents at CAA, action movie fans, and women’s rights advocates, they have seriously put a dent in their reputation with their “un-Disney-like,” off-brand behavior. Nasty, mean-spirited ad hominem attacks are just not what the public expects from Disney, or Marvel. These are supposed to be the good guys, after all. […read more]
Leadership, “Reputation Matters,” Forbes, July 20, 2021
Covid Crisis Rule #7: It is not over just because you want it to be.
Do you remember that ill-starred speech in the middle of the Iraq War, when President George Bush stood on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, with a banner hung behind him that announced “Mission Accomplished”?
Of course, the mission had not been accomplished. In fact, guerrilla warfare escalated and the vast majority of casualties in the Iraq war occurred after the speech had already been given. The whole affair turned into a huge embarrassment that President Bush later called one of the bigger mistakes of his career.
It turned into a global symbol of the triumph of wishful thinking over the truth.
But the President wanted the war to be over; everyone did. There were indications that it was winding down. And frankly, the war that started as apparent revenge for 9/11 had become such a political hot potato that he needed it to be over. The ambiguity was simply insupportable politically and practically, and so everyone jumped on a lie as if it were a lifeline.
Of course, we are in the middle of making another such mistake, and it is a classic crisis management mistake that can hurt us even more: This pandemic is not over, and we pretend it is at our peril. […read more]
50+ Days Of “House Arrest” — What You Can Do To Feed Your Soul, Heal Your Spirit, Keep Hope Alive — And Save The Planet
Leadership, “Reputation Matters,” Forbes, May 5, 2020
It’s been 50+ days now, give or take, since America has been sequestered at home. Whether you’re still on lock down, or beginning to plan a return to semi-normalcy; whether you’ve been sick, had loved ones sick, or are still worried about catching the virus and passing it along — for most this perpetual ambiguity we find ourselves in is not just getting old, it’s gotten ancient, unbearable.
Despair has set in for some, or is lurking fairly close for others. Spirits are flagging, souls are tried, and some have even begun to question their purpose and existence.
The globe’s dark night of the soul has gone on for two months, and though it may abate, there is no certain end in sight. Most of us feel relatively helpless. […read more]
Leadership, “Reputation Matters,” Forbes, April 3, 2020
In wartime they call it the fog of war.
In crisis I call it the fog of crisis — but what it really amounts to is chaos.
So as we’re surrounded by a deteriorating civic infrastructure and national political response; as our lives and businesses are put on indefinite hold; as working indefinitely from home becomes untenable in many situations and organizations; as family pressures or the pain of isolation mount when we’re all sequestered at home; as joblessness careens; as the products we need the most – in hospitals and in our own lives – continue to be unavailable; and as more people get sick and die (this time, who we know) — the result is the fog of the coronavirus crisis.
It’s murky, dense and difficult to navigate. And it probably will exceed most of our abilities to cope at one time or another.
So, here are 8 ways that might help you get through it… [read more]
Leadership, “Reputation Matters,” Forbes, March 27, 2020
As we balance on the cusp between global crisis and total chaos — and we could make the jump into full-bore chaos at any moment — it is time to explore the difference between the two.
It also is time to talk about how the rules for handling chaos differ substantially from those that govern crisis response. Because if we cling to crisis management rules in order to address chaos, it will be as ineffective as if we treat coronavirus the same way we treat the common cold. […read more]
Leadership, “Reputation Matters,” Forbes, March 4, 2020
As we enter the first full week of the global pandemic and crashing financial markets, we are all looking for who to listen to, and who to believe.
We’re looking for a trusted voice in the storm to help guide us, one that can steer us toward the truth as it unfolds, and away from lies and misstatements, be they well-meaning or malicious. This is the leaders’s task — to provide that “True North” to employees, community, customers, investors, and stakeholders.
But this is an almost impossible task in such a topsy-turvy landscape, where it can be impossible to distinguish sky from ground.
Sequestered — quarantined by choice or fiat, or simply avoiding exposure by working from home — our choices for who to listen to have changed. No more can we comfortably sit across from our boss in a group meeting and use all of our senses to tell whether he or she is telling us the whole truth. Working remotely, half of the sensors we are used to using are missing.
And while we’re incredibly lucky to have video and teleconferences, podcasts and webinars, live streaming, virtual chat rooms, and virtual galas, salons, board meetings and policy meetings — still that personal touch is missing, and with it many of the clues we use to determine integrity and truthfulness.
So who do we trust? And how can leaders establish trust? […read more]
Leadership, “Reputation Matters,” Forbes, March 4, 2020
So, it’s here. We now have a public healthcare crisis in front of us that is already disrupting global markets, businesses, and lives, and has the potential to do much more damage. Or not, depending upon who you are, and what and who you believe.
Just as with the climate crisis, while the facts are the facts, how we respond to the COVID-19 crisis says more about who we are, and how we lead, than it does about the crisis itself.
So, it’s probably a good time to begin recasting more generic crisis management rules into a specific set of rules for our current challenge. Whether the current Coronavirus crisis is ever dubbed a pandemic or not, we surely need to develop some advanced thinking on how to deal with it.
Following is a new set of 8 pandemic ‘best practices,’ for your consideration. […read more]
Great Crisis Management is Counter-Intuitive: That’s Why Boeing, Wells Fargo Are Getting It So Wrong
Leadership, “Reputation Matters,” Forbes, April 7, 2019
It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, especially for huge companies facing huge problems. But too many companies, like Wells Fargo and Boeing, are getting it all wrong time and time again.
The stakes for their failure – doing the wrong things in crisis and not understanding why – are too high. And consumers, investors, partners, and stakeholders are suffering the consequences. Why the blind spots? Why the inability to get it right when crisis hits?
Why Companies Are Getting Crisis Response So Wrong
The core reason that so many big companies, who should know better, fail in crisis is because the best crisis management is counter-intuitive, sometimes even illogical, and they absolutely do not understand that.
So they listen to the wrong people, consider only partially the impact and ramifications of their actions, ignore emotion or the zeitgeist of the moment, reflexively make the wrong decisions, dig themselves into holes, and then are loathe or incapable of digging themselves out again. […read more]