Crisis plans - get in early and avoid getting to the 'nothing we can do' point...Ashton Bishop and Gary Wilkinson's article in Mumbrella has some really good insights into strategy during crisis situations.
Being prepared for disasters is one thing – having a plan of action will on occasion lead to the required action. But not always – those on the Tenerife plane who stayed seated had seen the same safety demonstration as Paul Heck. Hayward himself had previously noted after a BP Texas City refinery blast that killed 15 – “We have a leadership style that is too directive and doesn’t listen sufficiently well. The top of the organisation doesn’t listen sufficiently to what the bottom is saying.” He was on his way to become CEO.
So information and planning is not always enough to overcome the search for normality. Telling a stressed CEO/CMO that all is not OK may well lead to them seeking reassurance elsewhere and you being cut out of future decisions or the whole relationship. If you say or do nothing then you may simply invoke the ‘bystander effect’. Social psychologists Bibb Latane and John Darley showed in 1970 that people are less likely to help others in distress the more witnesses or bystanders there are.
So you need to say and do at the same time. But what to do? We believe the answer may well lie in the findings by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University. In a series of experiments they showed that people who do not have the skill set to solve a problem consistently overestimate their ability to do so. They also underestimate the skills of others to solve theproblem. In contrast, those who are skilled tend to underestimate their ownability.
The point is, if your client or a colleague is in trouble and you haven’t been through a similar experience or been trained in the area (Dunning and Kruger also found that training led to a more accurate self-assessment of skill level) you probably can’t directly help. Find someone within the organisation or a specialist advisor with experience in handling the issue. Engage them early (‘milling’ delays action) as you don’t want to get to the ‘nothing we can do’ point. Follow their advice and let them be the guide to action – don’t underestimate their skills. If you have been through a similar situation don’t underestimate your own ability to determine the right thing to do.
And if you’re the one in trouble quickly find your own version of Paul Heck to take you by the hand and lead you to safety – every second counts.
Ashton Bishop is the head of strategy at Step Change Marketing and Gary Wilkinson is a behavioural psychologist and founder of Bliss Point Research. Read the full article at Mumbrella