TanveerNaseer.com

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

4 Keys To Successful Crisis Management In Today’s Wired World

Successful-crisis-management

In the face of today’s continually evolving, 24/7 global environment, it’s becoming an increasing necessity for organizations to learn how they can become more agile and responsive to change. The faster-paced, interconnected nature of today’s world also means that leaders need to become more responsive and hands-on when things inevitably – and often unexpectedly – go wrong.

It’s a situation that the principal at my daughters’ high school recently had to deal with and her response and actions gave forth some interesting insights into how leaders everywhere can better manage mistakes and failure in today’s wired world.

Last month, my daughters’ high school experienced a major technical glitch in their student absentee reporting software that caused hundreds of parents to be sent emails informing them that their child hadn’t shown up for school that day.

In years past, this would’ve certainly been a serious issue that our principal and her administration team would have to handle. In today’s wired world, where information can be easily shared with a wide audience on several communication channels – this single email message created a surge of worried and anxious parents numbering in the hundreds flooding the school’s various communication channels looking for news about the whereabouts of their children.

Of course, when news broke of the message being in error, anxiety and fear soon transformed into a firestorm of phone calls, emails, and irate voice messages from outraged parents all directed at our principal and the other members of her administrative team.

Although my daughters were not among those affected by this technical glitch, my wife and I were nonetheless included in the follow-up emails from our principal, providing updates on the situation as things evolved. How our principal managed this crisis – being fully aware of how easily her every word and action could be shared through the various online channels – proved to be a great case study on crisis management in today’s wired world.

Here now are 4 measures that every leader should employ in today’s wired, 24/7 world for successful crisis management.

1. Keep everyone – not just affected parties – informed of what’s going on
The first email I received about this crisis was one sent to all the parents of this school, informing them of the software glitch that had occurred in their student absentee reporting system which lead to the mistake of hundreds of parents being informed that their children hadn’t shown up that morning for school.

In her email, our principal explained in detail how this student absentee reporting system normally works, why it’s a valuable tool for the school, after which she openly addressed the situation of what went wrong that morning. She also made sure to advise all parents that while this error didn’t impact all students, she still wanted to make sure that all parents were informed of the situation to ensure that everyone understood what had happened.

It was a simple message and again, being one of the unaffected parents, it was more of a ‘for your information’ note as compared to those parents whose mornings had been completely upturned by this unexpected turn of events.

And yet, what this gesture did was it allowed our principal to control the narrative; to ensure that – like in the childhood game “telephone” – the message and situation didn’t get distorted as information was passed about from parent to parent.

Similarly, when a crisis hits your organization, it’s important that you take control of the narrative early on. Doing so will help you to ensure transparency over the whole process because your employees will be able to better understand why the next measures you take to address the situation are necessary, as well as the potential impact it might have on those otherwise unaffected by the current issue.

2. Apologize and openly take responsibility for the situation
After informing all the parents about what had happened that morning and why, the next thing our principal did was openly apologize for the worry and concern this glitch created for the affected parents.

But she didn’t stop there – she also went on to assure parents that she would personally oversee the resolution of this problem. She also invited parents who wanted to be sure their child was accounted for to call the school (this despite the fact that her office had been flooded since that morning with phone calls from upset parents).

What was interesting about this measure was how – regardless of the fact that the source of this problem was a software glitch in the student absentee reporting program – our principal took personal responsibility for the situation. She didn’t simply apologize for the situation and defer it to another department to correct. Instead, she let the parents know that she was going to be accountable herself for making sure it doesn’t happen again.

The value of employing this measure in your organization is that it will communicate to your employees that your focus is not on deflecting blame to protect your image and level of influence in the organization. Instead, your focus is on the shared purpose of your organization – of what it is you want to help your employees accomplish.

Consequently, when unexpected problems or failures crop up that impede your collective ability to achieve it, your focus will be on what your employees require from you both to address the current problem, as well as put into place new measures to ensure it doesn’t occur again.

3. Tell them exactly what you’re going to do to fix things
After apologizing to all parents and then promising to take personal responsibility for this situation, our principal then informed parents that she had taken the program offline and that it would not be used until they had not only corrected the glitch, but had run tests to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. She also explained how student absences will be reported during this time when the system will be put offline.

In the days that followed, our principal sent additional emails informing parents of the person who would be calling them should their child be absent during this period where they will be testing the system and ensuring the problem is resolved. She also sent updates when they identified what caused this problem and with it, what measures were being taken to both resolve it and prevent any future recurrence.

By laying out what specific measures were being taken to address the situation, she reinforced not only her apology for the mess, but also how she was in fact taking ownership of the situation. And this measure not only allowed parents to know who they should follow up with, but it also communicated to her team that she would handle the irate parents to allow them to do what needed to be done.

In today’s business environment, we’ve seen many cases where leaders apologize when mistakes are made, but they fail to share what specific measures they are going to implement to address the problem. Instead, what the public is given are vague ideas of what will be done to resolve the current problem.

Such vagueness not only creates doubt about how transparent and open you are about the real nature of the issue, but it also leads to questions about how sincere you really are about doing what’s necessary to ensure the problem is properly addressed and rectified.

Providing clarity over what next steps will be taken to resolve the situation will also show your team that you have their back and will protect them while they do the work that needs to be done to correct the situation, as opposed to having to focus on defending their own status and position within your organization.

4. Share lessons learned and what will be done going forward
Once the problem had been properly fixed and confidence in the proper functioning of the reporting system was restored, our principal sent out one last email not only informing parents of when this system would go back online, but she also described what new measures will be put in place going forward to ensure parents are given up-to-minute information about their children’s whereabouts and the status of the school.

She also made a point to once again apologize for the hardships and pain this caused to the school’s parents, not to mention the frustration parents experienced in not being able to reach someone at the school because of the overflow of voice mails and emails from worried parents.

The tone and message of her last email regarding this situation not only reinforced her understanding of the parents’ reality in this situation, but also of the lessons learned by the school’s administration. It also pointed out to parents that the school’s administration was working on ways to improve the means by which they can better inform and connect with parents.

This last measure is one that so many leaders tend to overlook in large part due to our relief at finally having a problem resolved that we just want to move on to other matters. However, as our principal demonstrated, to regain the confidence and trust of those under your care, you need to be open about the lessons learned, about your understanding of the difficulties a crisis or failure in your organization has on those you serve – both inside and outside your organization.

It’s also important that you provide a clear roadmap for what you are putting in place going forward to reassure everyone that the problem has not only been fixed, but that your organization now has the insights and experience to be more responsive in addressing similar issues in the future.

In looking at how this technical glitch became a major communication and public relations crisis for our principal and her staff, it’s a stark reminder for all of us that we no longer live in a world where information can be controlled and communication channels limited to protect our organizations from similar public relations disasters.

On the contrary, as leaders we now have to come to terms with the new reality that every word, every action we make can almost instantaneously spread throughout our organization, in times taking on its own narrative as people add their own spin on possible underlying messages in your actions and words.

It’s a reality that’s especially important for us to recognize and deal with in those moments when a crisis hits our organization if we are to be successful in not only guiding our employees through the storm, but to ensuring our organization becomes more responsive and stronger when we surface on the other side.

How Leaders Promote Collaborative Environment

Promoting-collaboration-through-leadership

When it comes to thriving in today’s fast-changing, interconnected global economy, one of the attributes of organizational success that often comes up is ensuring that we promote greater collaboration among the various teams and departments within our workplace.

Indeed, the ability to foster collaboration in your organization has become a critical leadership competency as technological, process-driven differentiators give way to people-centric ones in today’s knowledge-based global economy.

Unfortunately, while leaders may state that they want to engender a more collaborative environment in their organization, they don’t realize how often own actions are actually serving to stifle collaboration, promote the growth of silos, and ultimately hindering their organization’s ability to innovate or incur any real forward momentum.

Time and time again, I’ve met with leaders who are eager to champion collaboration among their different teams and departments, but who unknowingly create or reinforce barriers that prevent their employees from challenging their assumptions or beliefs of how things can be done.

Although in some cases, the actions and behaviours are specific to a particular situation, there are nonetheless some common missteps these leaders share which have only served to impede collaboration among their employees.

To address and prevent these common mistakes from happening in your organization, I’d like to share the following four measures that leaders should take to ensure that they’re creating an environment where employees are compelled to dedicate their discretionary efforts to the shared purpose of their organization.

1. Define at the start what to expect from one another
At the start of any new initiative – whether it’s the development of a new product or service line, a change initiative to improve things, or coming up with an action plan to address a current crisis, there’s the natural and understandable tendency for all involved parties to Click here to continue reading »”How Leaders Promote Collaborative Environment”

Can Your Team Really Trust You?

Leadership-and-trust

The following is a guest piece by David M. Dye.

Oh No…!
Our team of teachers and high school students had just finished a rafting trip, changed into fresh clothes, and loaded up our convoy of vans to head out to our hotel.

And I was the leader.

I confidently led our convoy out of the parking lot and onto a frontage road that ran parallel to the highway before it crossed over and merged – or so I thought.

With the other drivers in tight formation behind me, I led the team up a hill, but as I crested the hill and descended the other side, it looked like the road narrowed. I slowed a bit, but kept going – we were in the mountains after all and roads there aren’t always built perfectly.

However, as I continued down the hill, the asphalt dwindled until it was just wide enough for one vehicle…before it took a sharp right turn and disappeared out of sight under the highway.

Then I saw it.

A round “cornering mirror” – the kind of mirror you see in grocery stores or bike paths with blind corners. The type of mirror that allows bike riders to see approaching traffic around the corner.

Yes, bikes… Click here to continue reading »”Can Your Team Really Trust You?”

3 Personal Lessons On How To Succeed At Leadership

Personal-leadership-lessons-from-writing

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had the distinct honour of being recognized by two organizations for my work in the field of leadership. The first came from Inc. Magazine which recognized me as one of the Top 100 Leadership and Management Experts, putting me alongside such leadership heavyweights as Sir Richard Branson, Vineet Nayar, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Peter F. Drucker, and placing one spot below Bill Gates.

The second recognition I received came from Kelly Services in their list of the “Top 7 Blogs Every Manager Should Read”, where I found myself being included alongside such preeminent sites as the Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Management Blog, The Gallup Blog, and Seth Godin to name a few.

Naturally, I took to my various networks to share this news, both to invite others to join me in celebrating these recognitions, but also as an opportunity for me to express my appreciation for the continued support and encouragement I’ve received over the years that has helped to place me in such esteemed company.

Among the various congratulatory wishes, renowned leadership expert, best-selling author, and award-winning leadership speaker Jim Kouzes posed an interesting question to me – looking back at the journey that has lead to me such accolades and recognition, “what would you say are the 3 to 5 lessons you’ve learned along the way?”

Although my reply to Jim’s query focused on some of the lessons I’ve learned from writing this blog for the past 5 years, I realized that some of these lessons also apply to the field of leadership, in how they can guide us to become the kind of leader our employees need us to be so they can succeed and thrive.

So here now are 3 lessons I’d like to share from my own experiences to ensure that we’re not only successful in our efforts to guide and inspire those we lead, but that we’re able to achieve the underlying vision and drive that defines why we commit ourselves to serving those under our care. Click here to continue reading »”3 Personal Lessons On How To Succeed At Leadership”

How Successful Leaders Build Teams That Thrive

How-leaders-build-successful-teams

When it comes to leadership in today’s fast-paced, interconnected world, there’s no question that the only constant we should expect is change. It’s a reality that came to mind recently after I announced my decision to resign my position as the chairman of the Governing Board at our regional high school in order to run as a candidate in the upcoming school board elections for the chairman of the school board position.

Since making this news public, I’ve found myself reflecting on the past 3 terms that I’ve served as the Governing Board chairman, and the wonderful opportunity I had to be able to serve such a great team.

Of course, great teams are not simply a product of the various people who comprise the group. It is also the result of the actions and words of the group’s leader who understands how to tap into the collective talents, insights, and experiences of the various team members, and direct those elements towards a common goal or shared purpose.

As I look back back at my experiences leading this Governing Board team, I want to share three tactics I used which not only helped to strengthen our team cohesion, but which has built the foundation that has allowed our team to be a productive and thriving one over these past three years.

1. Build relationships to understand the needs of those you serve
One of the interesting challenges that came with serving as the chairman of this Governing Board was the fact that the team members changed every year as different teachers, students, and parents came on board to represent their segment of our school community.

So while our long-term goals might have remained constant, how we viewed them and what routes we thought were best to achieve them would naturally change and evolve as the team dynamics changed with the departure and arrival of various board members.

Consequently, one of the things I always made a point to do at the start of each mandate was Click here to continue reading »”How Successful Leaders Build Teams That Thrive”

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