Can You Crisis-proof Your Lead? 

Do you remember the 2000 movie – Perfect Storm? Nearly a dozen well-known, highly-awarded actors were in that cast. Have you led or lived through a ‘perfect storm’ at work? At sea, the churning five-story waves in pitch black darkness, toss the ship up and down, rocking it from port to starboard as it blindly navigates the wrath of the storm. Chances are you have a similar group of highly-skilled, well thought of leaders by your side. How are y’all dealing with the perfect storm at work? In the movie, it looked like the end of the world! I hope that’s not the case with what you’ve been through at work?

One day you’re calmly sailing through the days at work and then seemingly overnight, all hell breaks loose. 

Were you or are you prepared for that eventuality? What about your team, department or division? Returning to safe waters requires the Captain to navigate with all-hands on-deck performing at their best during the crisis. But they didn’t start out as high-performing swabbies! Before the storm, the captain must prepare the crew to effectively adapt to the unexpected – the unknown. Expect the best, yet prepare for the worst.

You can’t keep relying on your Rockstars to do all the heavy lifting everytime it’s required. Every storm is different and each one is ever-evolving. What if you become incapacitated during the next crisis? An example I ran into was a family-owned and operated business where the owner suddenly died this month. We’d spoken on several occasions about a succession plan and eventual exit as his children weren’t interested in continuing his business. They are now liquidating his estate, which wasn’t much, the 60-something widow is applying for jobs and the two kids aren’t sure how they’ll complete their degrees without assistance.

All of this turbulence could have been avoided! And, yes I place some blame at his advisors’ feet – the accountant, attorney and insurance agent – because we had these discussions. We had a plan he could implement with no risk and minimal investment that would’ve recpatured lost wealth in his business. But because the advisors egos didn’t want another ‘hand in the cookie jar’ (their term, not mine), and they felt threatened and voted no. Now, everyone loses!

Crisis proofing takes vision and planning pre-event and it takes development en-route to. There is growing research from multiple sources suggesting organizations need to be more adaptive, flexible, agile and nimble to the nebulous, uncertainty all while leading the controllables, improve and expand problem solving capacity and rapid decision-making.

To accomplish this feat is to have a solid foundation of trust amongst co-workers throughout an organization. Elegant Leaders understand this dynamic and diligently work toward expanding problem solving capacity to become more anticipatory.  It’s not enough to be able to just prevent a crisis; predicting requires a mindset that also improves calculated risk-taking. [kleo_gap size=”12px” class=”” id=””]

How do leaders initiate progression in their organizations enabling their people to comfortably adjust to an ever-changing environment where the best-way ahead may be an unknown quantity?

Buy, Borrow or Build Leaders at Every Level of Your Organization

Establish, Build and Demonstrate Trust with All Relationships.

Encourage and Expect More Anticipation by Allowing Decision-Making of Others

Lencioni calls out the following:

  • Build trust amongst members  and remove fear of vulnerability
  • Encourage productive conflict versus pacifying artificial harmony
  • Yield Commitment eliminate ambiguity
  • Full Acountability requires full accountability
  • Embrace Rhythm of Ego, Results and Rhythm [kleo_gap size=”12px” class=”” id=””]

We’ve been crisis-proofing leaders for nearly two decades at Brookestone and setting the stage is one thing. Ensuring you can execute and implement under duress is another. The top-leader must set the stage and admit they don’t have all the answers, but together we’re going to win! Without that simple step, your efforts will fail for several reasons: do you have the fortitude to gut it out or will you quit on them, your people are watching your every move and you’re implicit behaviors looking for a crack where will you compromise your integrity. Crisis-proofing also requires the following 6 steps:

Create a Sense of Urgency. There are finite windows of opportunity your business must take advantage of before they close. Everyone needs to have their eyes out for each one and each threat (like looking out on the horizon for the next storm; you can take advantage of it or it can take advantage of you). Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately – and call it out! In sailing, sailors yell, ‘TACKING’ to alert the crew the next move with urgency.

Have a Guiding Team. To withstand the storm, you will need a powerful group guiding the change and handling the crisis – one with leadership skills, a bias for action, credibility, communications and analytical skills. They help develop what to do and then you leave them alone on how-to accomplish it. You grow bigger, faster by developing a volunteer army, a guiding coalition of effective people to guide, coordinate and communicate its activities.[kleo_gap size=”12px” class=”” id=””]

Focus & Align Your People’s Energy & Urgency Around a Big Opportunity

Make it Happen. It’s more than a vision and a strategy. Clarify how the future will be different from the past, and how you will make that future a reality. Answer their, ‘why will it be different this time’? Keep communicating for understanding and buy-in. Make sure as many as possible understand and accept where you’re going. There will be those who are always with, those against you and those who haven’t made up their mind. How many times have you heard, ‘we have a strategy, but people aren’t really buying into it?’ They’re not engaged, let alone owning it. You clarify how the future will be different from where we are today and how you can make that future a reality.

Empower Others to Act. Remember the theme of safety. If you can’t establish and perpetuate a safe environment, then forget it as you’ll never give your people the ability to be empowered. They’re waiting for the ‘hammer to fall’ onto them. Remove as many barriers as possible for those who want to make the vision a reality can do so. We help you  enable action by removing barriers such as inefficient processes and unnecessary hierarchies providing the freedom necessary to work across silos and generate real impact. What happens when your very foundation of your business model shifts? What worked yesterday doesn’t guarantte it will anymore.

Small Wins Matter. Create visible, unambiguous successes as soon as possible. Small wins lead to larget wins which lead to achieving strategic vision. They are the investment for the next win. Generating wins are the molecules of results and must be recognized, collected and communicated. Wins are motivators. Highly successful teams and departments intentionally capture and share wins as a core component of their daily work. These are real, validated, quantified and qualified outcomes. Wins save time and money! This is how you scale across the organization.

Keep Going. Never let up on the throttle into the storm. Press harder and faster after the first successes. Be relentless with instituting change after change until the vision becomes a reality. To make it stick for real this time, change must be ‘storm-proofed’. Everything works on paper and during times of relative ease. The acid test is when the shit hits the fan and how everyone treats one another vs. survival of the fittest. Results come before change and are sustainable during your Perfect Storm.

Race car drivers accelerate into the curve; they don’t back off the accelerator! The Captain in the movie, revved the throttle harder to increase the momentum down the wave so it would crest the wave instead of the wave washing over the ship. A crisis requires you – the leader – to focus on the horizon, press in and accelerate through the storm you’re in. Pressing harder here after the first success establishes and builds additional momentum. You’re increasing credibility and can improve systems, structures and policies that were once slowing you down.

Instituting change is derived when leadership embraces the critical nature of opportunities before them. Maybe having a conversation is your next best step – here. If you prefer to do more research, then visit our site. If you want to uncover more of our proven-in-the-field system with our mid-market clients, or how we work with large multi-nationals, or maybe what it’s like when we work the multi-generational closely-held businesses, then read about it here.[kleo_gap size=”25px” class=”” id=””]

Scott is the Founder and Managing Partner of Brookestone Associates, a JScott Partners company, a strategy execution and culture influencing organization. He works with Executives from around the world on high-value strategies yielding extraordinary results. As a speaker and author of several books including The Culture Advantage and Influencing Culture: accelerating change with influence and impact, his mission is to grow more effective leaders who deliver high ROI results with high impact relationships.

The core question to sustainable change is:

‘When we solve this problem, what will the behaviors look like to sustain extraordinary results?’


Who is Scott Spector?

…an Elegant Leader with Voltage – a professional operator in large and mid-size companies,

…as The Culture Whisperer, he is a strategic advisor and confidant to Fortune 100 leaders,

…an entrepreneur who goes from germ of an idea to market to successful exits,

…an author of several books on culture, strategy and the authority on Elegant Leadership


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