“Do nothing. Say nothing. Now try leading an organisation out of a crisis.” Jo Yeaman is MIH Solutions’ Managing Director, and has more than 25 years’ experience of protecting, enhancing and growing the profiles of leaders and their organisations. Here, Jo reflects on some attitudes she has encountered, and why hitting rock bottom presents an opportunity for leaders to demonstrate their prowess, inspire positive organisational change and enhance reputation.
Times have changed since I joined the public sector, but there are still too many occasions when I see or hear: ‘No-one was available for comment’ reported in a newspaper or broadcast on a critical issue.
In my experience, few ever escaped a crisis by doing or saying nothing and, while the impact may not be immediate, doing nothing is likely to have profound and long-term consequences. A lack of clear communication often leads to confusion and concern, does immeasurable damage to organisational cultures, employee morale, and harms reputations and loyalty.
The words ‘no comment’ can cause so much damage, so quickly, altering how service users, customers, employees, the media perceive organisations – sometimes forever.
These two small words send a message of:
- I/We don’t care
- Something’s gone wrong but I won’t admit it
- I don’t know how to handle this and I’m afraid to say anything
- I/We don’t have a grip on this
- If I hide, this will go away (hopefully)
Is this reflective of a great leader who will pull an organisation out of a crisis with confidence, integrity and authenticity? (I’m hoping that you just said “no’”). Therefore, doing and saying nothing is never an option.
By acknowledging that something is wrong, openly sharing the necessary improvements, and engaging people in your plan to address the issue, you will empower people to recognise and challenge an organisation’s shortcomings. In turn, you will inspire the desire in others to improve.
In speaking openly and honestly about your crisis and what needs to happen – including a heartfelt apology if needed – you will instill confidence that shows you genuinely care about people and the impact your organisation has. You will also demonstrate your commitment to getting the best out of everyone and everything, and that anything short of that is unacceptable.
Transparency, alongside your expressed dedication to achieve the best results, is extremely powerful in motivating those around you to work collaboratively towards achieving your vision and goals. Being honest about the challenges and your commitment to addressing them can drive positive cultural change, particularly in an organisation that is underperforming or isn’t achieving its best.
A good leader does not successfully lift an organisation out of crisis by saying or doing nothing. A good leader embraces failure or mistakes, and seizes the opportunity to inspire others to challenge poor performance, identify and deliver improvements, and commit to achieving the very best.
It takes courage to recognise when help is needed, and if the thought of leading or managing a complex crisis makes you want to run and hide, take solace in knowing that experts like us are here to help. We quickly get up to speed and work with you to ensure your crisis is not only well-managed, but that your leadership and organisational profile recover and continue to strengthen and grow.
Be the leader you want to be. We are always here whenever you need us.