Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

First published January 27, 2012

How to flourish in any crisis 

Ever wonder why every month brings another tale of a badly handled corporate disaster (here’s last year’s haul: BP, HP, Netflix, Groupon, HP, Bank of America, News International, Yahoo, HP, Toyota, Google, Kodak), yet you have to go back to 1982 for the last example of truly outstanding corporate leadership in the face of disaster? Well, one reason of course is the nature of reporting: good stories don’t sell newspaper inches (or screen pixels), so the icky stuff gets featured much more heavily. But there is a deeper issue: The glorification of the leader as hero personified. We live in a 24-hour news cycle which must, in order to not seem like simply a random collection of talking heads, impose a narrative on events. At the time of writing we see it most clearly in the reporting of the current election campaign. Nothing is simply an event, a fact or a statement, instead everything must be parsed as part of an over-arching narrative – who’s up, who’s down, who’s next, who’s out? The same thing happens in financial reporting. Everything needs to play out as a greek tragedy, with heroes, villains, victims and innocent bystanders. As a result, when a crisis strikes, some unlucky so-and-so gets pushed to the top of the news cycle, and his or her leadership style is placed under the microscope. And guess what happens? The Visionary-, Operator- or Processor- leader finds their every move under scrutiny, and as a direct result, their V, O or P response becomes supercharged. Time and again we see Visionary leaders under pressure who take even more risks, resort to even more hyperbole, swing even further for the fences than before. Or an Operator-leader who becomes more dogged, more stubborn, more ferocious than previously. Or a Processor-leader who retreats behind more spreadsheets, more planning, more second-guessing than before the crisis hit. The answer? Behind any well-managed crisis you’ll find either a natural Synergist (very rare) or more commonly, a Synergistic team – one which knows that the answer to a crisis is not V-ing, O-ing or P-ing your way through it, but using the team’s natural VOP strengths in harmony, and with the proper choreography.

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