Got A Crisis? Take Ownership and Get Started on a Solution

Beth Miller |

Businessman writing a positive concept

As news of the collapse of a garment factory building in Bangladesh unfolded in April, 2013, we watched in horror as the death toll mounted and we felt sadness and pain for those affected by the tragedy. But many of us also felt a sense of guilt. Were we, as consumers, partly to blame? What were we to do? Stop buying clothes manufactured in overseas garment factories? Would that help the surviving families now suffering? What was the right thing to do?

As consumers grappled with these questions, one company, identified as having contracted work at the garment factory, stepped forward. Canadian discount retailer Loblaws, whose Joe Fresh clothing line was being made at the building, made an immediate decision to step into the glaring and harsh spotlight. The company has since started a conversation with other clothing retailers to find long overdue solutions to an untenable situation. Loblaw’s immediate action and the leadership role they have exhibited has likely rescued the clothing line from the brink of its own potential disaster.

Why did this risk work and can other companies and organizations learn from this course of action that will allow them to better cope with their own crisis situations?

1. Be direct and deliver immediately

In retrospect, Loblaw’s response may strike us as an obvious and humane gesture made in the face of a horrific tragedy. Your problems are insignificant in comparison, you say? Thankfully, maybe they are, but pay attention to problems when they arise, whether they be misguided employee behavior or misconstrued media images. Don’t delay feedback. It is always much more effective when feedback is provided as soon as a negative behavior is observed.

2. State the reason

Once you have come forward, be clear about why you are having the conversation. Take ownership of your concerns by saying, “There is a problem I am concerned about …”

3. Focus on the facts

Be specific about actual events, data, and details. By doing so you lessen defensive reactions, disarm attackers and reduce negativity factors. Don’t make it personal.

4. Describe the consequences

When someone understands the consequences of NOT changing a behavior, then you have set the stage for a change. Motivation to change comes from understanding consequences and the overall impact if change doesn’t occur. Lay out the potential outcome clearly, “If this doesn’t change, then …” 

5. Describe how you feel

This step is an important part of the process and is often overlooked or skipped. Your feelings are yours and yours alone. No one can challenge another person on how they feel. You can say things like, “I am concerned about this …” “I feel frustrated by this …”

Negative and potentially disastrous situations will arise and sometimes a company or an employee will have to step up and take responsibility and ownership of the problem. Good leadership is crucial to helping a company or an employee cross the bridge from crisis and chaos to creative solutions and positive change. 

If you have had to manage a necessary change, what other tips can you share with our readers that led to positive change?

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Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

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