After the fallout from the G.M. ignition switch debacle—and most recently with VW’s emission issues—clients have contacted me asking for suggestions on how to handle the adverse publicity, for how to keep their team focused, and on how to prepare them for customer’s questions and concerns. Of course, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all remedy; and, while what I’m suggesting in this piece is far from the final word on the topic of crisis management, you may find some ideas to help you deal effectively with adversities like G.M. and VW. If your organization isn’t burdened by bad publicity at the moment, file this away for when the day comes. If you’re in business long enough, it’s likely to eventually show up; it could be triggered by a financial institution you represent, a supplier, or as it has been lately, a manufacturer.
1. Maintain focus on what’s controllable:
Don’t allow the negative publicity and its ensuring burdens to become a crutch for under-performance. Managers should be reminded to focus on what they can control, and to coach their people to do likewise. They can’t control conditions, but their good daily decisions to do what’s right can marginalize adversity. Here are a sample dozen things people can largely control every day by making the right decisions, and not getting distracted by out-of-their-control conditions:
- Their attitude.
- Their work ethic.
- Their level of discipline.
- Their character choices.
- Where they spend their time.
- With whom they spend their time.
- Whether they’ll plan their day.
- Whether they’ll prospect.
- Whether they’ll practice.
- Whether they’ll work on themselves.
- Whether they’ll follow prescribed processes.
- Whether they’ll follow up.
That’s a fairly substantial list of areas people can execute to impact results daily. It’s all about coaching them to focus more on what’s before them, than on what’s around them.
2. Project robust enthusiasm and attitudes: If customers bring up the issue to personnel, each team member—from the receptionist to the CEO—should be prepared with a consistent and concise answer or explanation. In the case of an issue like VW, something along the lines of:
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