At the end of a normal day, I am tired and my clothes are rumpled. But, sometimes stuff happens and the day is anything but normal. And it is invariably on a day when I least expect it. What makes the days when stuff happens work for me is that I am prepared for the predictable.
I build resilience in myself by knowing what might go wrong and thinking about how I might overcome the problems that arise. It may be as simple as having a Tide pen at hand in the event I spill coffee on myself before a presentation or taking an umbrella with me if rain is in the forecast. As a sole-practitioner, it means having a substitute “buddy” who will handle any situation that arises while I am on vacation and having backups of all my computer files.
Asking 'What if?' now can spare sleepless nights
Just as personal preparation begins with asking “What if?,” so too does organizational issues preparation. Admittedly, the latter may require more than simply carrying an umbrella but the question is the same: “What if” …
- our offices were flooded?
- a member of our team becomes gravely ill or dies?
- someone in our association is accused of a crime?
- our computers are hacked?
The list of potential issues is long. Chances are you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them. But maybe you should. Not enough time in your day, you say? Well let me tell you that if any one of these things happened, your day and perhaps many days afterward are shot — and so is your sleep.
Spending some time preparing for the predictable issues in your association can make managing when stuff happens a lot easier. In fact, instead of worrying about what could happen, you will be able to place your head on the pillow at night with the confidence that you are ready for whatever happens.
Instead of being the proverbial “deer in the headlights” when your CFO is accused of malfeasance, you will have a plan to help you recover and maintain your sanity (a disclaimer: that may be a night you don’t get much sleep!). By putting plans in place to prevent the malfeasance, you have taken a giant leap. Take it a step further to figure out what to do if it does happen. Knowing the steps you will take to address the situation means your association can take the reins before the crisis spins out of control.
Even if the particular horror scenario you planned for doesn’t occur as you envisioned (it won’t), by using the time when all is calm to reflect on your values, your operations and the systems you have in place will provide you with much-needed confidence to face anything.
Crisis preparation can improve your service delivery
The common excuse I hear for not planning ahead is that there is already an overflowing list of “to dos.” My comeback is that crisis preparedness can be built into the normal business planning cycle. By doing so, you may actually uncover opportunities to improve efficiencies, save money and deliver better service.
For example, let’s say you regularly communicate with your members through a newsletter or an e-blast. A robust system to track your permissions to communicate -- to keep you CASL compliant -- is a must. Taking that tracking to identify classes of members, communication preferences, etc., may feel like extra effort – that is, until the day you need to reach out to tell them something about which they need to be informed. Scrubbing, categorizing, or worse, creating your email list while a crisis is unfolding wastes time that is precious. Every minute you delay in getting vital information out to the people you need to reach is potentially causing you more harm and allowing others to take control of your issue.
Putting processes in place to keep lists current, validate addresses and maintain accurate records pays off in getting regular information in the hands of the right people — and when a crisis hits, this information is invaluable.
Preparing for the (un)predictable pays off
Recently, I was involved in helping a client deal with a crisis that they could not have predicted — one of their employees was involved in a domestic violence incident that caused harm and resulted in the arrest of the employee. That employee was a keystone staffer with a number of projects and direct reports. And, as is usually the case with these things, the event happened on a weekend. The CEO sprung to action, laying the groundwork for ensuring his employees and clients heard the news from him. He had grief counselors available onsite and he plotted the workflow so that work could continue on key projects. It’s true that my client could never have imagined this particular scenario. But, they had thought through scenarios where a senior executive passed away suddenly. The principles developed ahead of time to manage that kind of incident helped them know what to do in this one.
While I hope that nothing like this ever happens in your association, I can tell you that because this client had prepared for the predictable, they were in a better position to deal with the completely unpredictable.
The lesson is clear. Use some “normal” time to consider “what ifs” and plan ahead. Whether it’s a simple umbrella or a full-scale audit of your operations, the payout is a good night’s sleep.
Jacqui d’Eon P.Eng., ABC, MC is the "C-suite whisperer." She helps executives achieve their goals or navigate through crises using effective strategic communications.
Jacqui is a communications professional with 20 years’ experience at P&G and 10 years as the Chief Communications Officer for Deloitte Canada. During her career, Jacqui has acted as a consultant in many demanding situations. She is accredited with the International Association of Business Communicators and was honoured with the designation, Master Communicator, in 2008.
Visit her website https://www.jadecommunications.ca/
Need more insight into crisis management? Learn to ACE Your Responses to Crises with Jacqui d'Eon on May 9, 2019 at 1 p.m. EDT. Attendance is FREE for CSAE members!