Unexpected things happen. An employee embezzles funds. A disgruntled staff member attacks another member. A volunteer sexually assaults a constituent. Such crises can threaten the operations, reputation and overall health and well-being of the organization. While the crisis itself is damaging enough, it can get worse when managed unwisely. The following are ten tips for managing an organizational crisis.
Be quick and decisive. To ignore what is emerging or delay in taking action will only allow the situation to worsen. It is much less difficult when you do not let the crisis get too far ahead of you. If the crisis poses a threat to public safety, the primary concern should be to act quickly to ensure the safety of others. Failure to do so will increase the damage from the crisis.
Don’t jump to conclusions prematurely. Gather the facts before making statements and major decisions. Premature decisions or incomplete information can result in making the crisis worse.
3. Seek Guidance.
It is often valuable to seek legal, organizational and public relations counsel early on in managing the crisis.
Depending on the nature of your organization and the crisis, it is wise to inform those above you regarding what is taking place. This may be a supervisor, board, insurance carrier or legal authorities.
5. Be visible.
Demonstrate that someone is in charge and working to make things better. A visible leader will calm the natural uncertainty and anxiety that arise during such critical events.
6. Put people first.
In a crisis, leaders will sometimes adopt a “cover yourself” or “cover the organization” attitude. Don’t allow utilitarianism to prevail by placing personal or organizational interests first. Put people first. Depending upon the circumstances, it may be those who believe they were harmed or those who were accused.
7. Own it.
If there is something the leader or organization needs to take responsibility for, do it. Apologizing is always the right thing to do even if the crisis was unintentional. However, some apology strategies are much more effective than others. If you desire to put those affected by the crisis first, take note of the following four practices when apologizing.
- Don’t attack the accuser.
- Don’t blame others for the crisis.
- Don’t deny that the crisis happened.
- Don’t make excuses for why the crisis happened.
Taking responsibility and offering a sincere apology goes a long way in healing.
8. Communicate liberally and consistently.
Designate a primary communicator. The best way to prevent or minimize rumors is to share as many of the facts as possible. Make sure what you share is accurate and consistent. When mistakes are made, they must be corrected, but that will also make the organization look incompetent. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know, and don’t speculate.
9. Document everything.
Keep a file of notes and documentation to help you acquire clear understanding and make wise decisions. Such a file should be kept in a secure place since it will contain very confidential information.
10. Declare an end.
Some organizations perpetuate a crisis by continuing to make it the focal point for too long of a period of time. Remember, the crisis is not the mission. It is important to officially declare an end to the crisis (but not prematurely) and once again share the compelling vision for the future.
When faced with stressful times, most organizations are uncertain how to lead with wisdom and integrity. Our consultants will help you make wise decisions and guide your ministry back to health.
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of ministry assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include a B.S. in Bible, a M.Ed in Instructional Systems Design and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership.