I have often been puzzled as to why managers forsake their training, disciplines and processes when they are confronted by a serious problem or crisis. The time when the above are most valuable is when one is confronted with a crisis. Crisis management should be the optimum time to utilize the skills we have developed over time and use on a daily basis. However, there is something about a crisis that makes one forget the assets that promoted them to a management position.
One of the phrases I have often heard when a manager is faced with a crisis and is reminded to use the discipline or process used on a daily basis is “not now. I have a real crisis on my hands. Don’t bother me with that stuff. This is serious.” What is it about a crisis that creates that kind of response? A major contributor to that reaction is a manager’s inability to control or harness their emotions. As Oscar Wilde said many years ago: “The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray.”
Many managers find it easier to give advice to others than to give advice to ourselves. Many managers are faced with this option frequently. The reason it is easier to give advice or direction to others is we have less emotion involved than when the matter involves us. Without the millstone of emotion we can think clearer, bring appropriate learning to the matter, and make a sounder and more confident decision.The challenge lies in removing emotions from matters involving us. It is a discipline that must be practiced.
Managing emotions is not the only issue that must be addressed when faced with a crisis. The desire to do something different when the stakes increase must be controlled by the maturity that comes from trusting your experiences. If a process works well daily why scrap it once the stakes increase? If it works why dismiss it?
The Sydney office of Saatchi’s utilized a great discipline for creative development. Before any creative work began the team at the agency signed off on the brief and then got the client to sign off on the brief. Then the creative work began, and creative was developed against the brief. At one of our worldwide meetings an agency president told the group his team had presented 55 creative ideas to the client for the launch of a new car and all had been rejected. When he was asked if the agency and client had agreed to the brief and questioned further as to whether the client had signed off on the brief he exploded. He told us “I don’t have time for that %#@&. I have a crisis on my hands. If I don’t sell our creative they may look for a new agency.”
The advice from the group was to follow typical discipline, get an agreement on the brief and then move forward on creative. However, none of us had any confidence the advice would be followed by the agency president. The solution was simple. The advice sound and backed by the success of all the other agencies who followed the discipline yet the agency president wanted to deviate from a successful process because he had a crisis.
The first step in crisis management is bringing your emotions under control. Crisis management means it is the best time to use your disciplines, use your processes and use your training and experience to solve the crisis.