Three Steps to Handling a Crisis

No matter what size your business is, you need to be ready to handle and crisis should one arise.

Jim Moorhead's, author of the book, "The Instant Survivor: Right Ways to Respond When Things Go Wrong," (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2012) three steps to handing a crisis are:

Be selfish. When a crisis hits, management wonders where to focus its efforts. On the consumers who may have been injured by the crisis? On the employees? On the shareholders? If we don’t act selfishly in a crisis, we prolong our problems, and the result is that we lose and the people who depend on us lose as well. A cri­sis gives you a free pass to be selfish (or self-focused if that word choice makes you feel better). Take advantage of it. Be strong in your selfish­ness because it will make your crisis shorter. You will resume your regu­lar life faster and reassure your friends, family, and others that you are in control. By doing what's best for you, you are acting in the best inter­ests of those who depend on you. Take off your Superwoman or Super­man cape, skip trying to do everything, acknowledge what’s wrong, and spend the time and energy to fix it.Secure support. Companies realize that when it comes to dealing with a crisis, the cavalry is much more effective than one lone cowboy. So, when a company runs into a crisis, the first thing they do is call upon their crisis manage­ment team. One manager would never take it upon him- or herself to attempt to solve the company's major problem alone. The crisis team will include representatives from the finance, operations, human relations, public relations, and legal departments—and others as needed. The company will also secure sup­port from individuals outside the company, individuals like me.Don't make matters worse. After we make a mistake, we must summon the strength not to worsen the situation.

Of course, the best approach, as President Teddy Roos­evelt advised, is to make great decisions from the outset so we aren't trying to dig out from a mistake. But none of us throws a perfect game in life. So after you make a poor decision, stand tall and stop it. Don't make another one. Piling one poor decision on top of another only enables people to extend the crisis so they can hurtle past more caution signals and dash past more red flags until the inevitable: a spectacular crash.

A good method is to use paper to map out options. Use this technique when you're under pres­sure to make a decision you don't feel comfortable about. Ask yourself these six questions and write down your candid, no-stone-unturned answer to each one:

  1. How will this unfold?
  2. How could this situation get worse?
  3. How will I look if the truth comes out?
  4. What do I stand for?
  5. What values do I uphold?
  6. What should I say or do so I can hold my head high for myself, my family, my friends, my organization, my country?

Honest answers to these questions will prompt you to stand tall under stress.

Jim Moorhead calls himself America's crisis advisor. A graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School, Moorhead co-founded the crisis management practice at a major Washington, D.C., law firm where he is a partner. He has helped numerous large organizations and individuals survive crises. An instant survivor of his own crises in politics and high tech entrepreneurship, Moorhead is a sought after speaker and has appeared on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, Fox Business News, and Court TV.

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