How to Handle Yourself When Things Go Wrong in Your Business
You may have heard the saying, “Conflict builds character, but crisis defines it.” Sooner or later, something you’re working on in your business will not go as planned — perhaps with disastrous results — and you’ll have to deal with it. How you handle yourself in such situations is a defining moment in the development of your leadership ability.
As a leader and decision-maker, you must be prepared to handle unexpected crises with honesty and integrity. Following are some actions you can take to prepare for, deal with, and learn from when the going gets rough:
- Plan ahead. If you don’t have a team plan for a crisis, put one together and make sure that all members are on the same page regarding the following:
- An explanation of what constitutes a crisis for your business
- How to address all legal issues
- How to address public perception of what happened and what it means
- The people responsible for putting the plan into action to ensure that, when bad things happen, the plan is brought forward to guide immediate action
- At the time of the crisis, take action. Move immediately to address risks to public or employee safety and offer clear information about what is going on.
Crisis experts traditionally give less than 48 hours to provide information to the public or to staff, but with the advent of social media and its capacity for instant communication, you have much less time than that. Without information, expect people to speculate.
- Show true compassion for the people affected. Due to the violence people are exposed to every day — violent TV shows and video games, ongoing military operations, and so on — the public psyche is often numbed to general tragedy. However, when loss is experienced at a personal level, it’s very real. Therefore, when you take action during a crisis in which your business or product harms the public — whether that harm is physical or to the public trust — you must speak from your heart and put yourself in their shoes. Otherwise, your response comes across as insincere.
- After the dust has settled, find out what happened and then share that knowledge. Your goal after the crisis is not to seek someone or something to blame, but to learn from the situation. Put together a team of employees from throughout the organization and give them the job of collectively reflecting, documenting, and then sharing what is learned. Remember, sound organizational judgment comes from learning and then sharing.
A crisis can be the catalyst for doing things differently for greater benefit. It breaks up patterns and gives you an opportunity to replace useless or ineffective habits. But you don’t have to wait for a crisis before you decide to think creatively about your processes.