Imagine you have a fear of flying. You board your flight full of fear, dread and a sense of terror. Engines whine towards full power, the superstructure groans. Unnaturally you head towards the clouds and terra firma is gone. You eventually settle back. It’s not too bad. A short sharp shock of tummy flipping turbulence puts you firmly in your place. The terror has returned, fear is coursing through your veins.
You are vulnerable, powerless but more importantly, you are at the mercy of somebody else’s ability, nerve and calm. Let’s call him ‘the pilot’. Better still, ‘Captain’
You seek shelter, solace and comfort but you are out of your depth. The tannoy kicks into life, it’s The Captain. Your senses heighten you hang on his every word. He has a choice;
The first; He screams, swears, yells and roars. It goes something like this in a high pitched voice ;
“Ladies and Whooooa Gentlemen we are – Oh God no, please no – we are encountering some rather severe – Bleep bleep Oh My Lord – turbulence and if we do manage to survive it will be better than winning Euro millions”
The second: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I apologise for the little inconvenience the turbulence caused. However, we are now routing directly into calm beautiful sunshine and will have you at the airport 15 minutes early”
Dealing with a crisis always gives you two clear choices. First, you can be personal, emotive, out of control and tense. Second, you can be calm, confident and professional.
The first will add to the terror, the second will extinguish the fire. The first will drive your customers and staff away, the second will keep your market happy.
Similarly, how you deal with a crisis will determine many things.
It will reflect on you and once a rabbit is out of the box it’s hard to expect to return him. Secondly, it will impact on your team. It will break trust and it will drive a wedge between you. Thirdly, you will receive edited information. The agenda will have changed and the editing will be designed to keep your volcanic response on ice. Next, it will be seen. Once seen, it won’t easily be forgotten. Then there is the impact on the guest. They will examine you, scrutinize you and judge you. And what about the brand, your brand? A brand is the personality of the business, it needs to be something I can trust. If I can’t trust you I don’t trust your brand. If I don’t trust your brand the end is nigh.
When a storm comes the leader, above all else, must remain calm, collected and confident. As Henry Kissinger said;
“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been”
When all about you are losing their head, your job is to plan, deliver and not lose yours. It also means taking responsibility. This is not a time for delegation or abdication. It is a time for leadership.
As John Kenneth Galbraith said;
“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership”
When all about you are losing the plot, you now know what to do.