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מוסקל מדיה - תקשורת, ייעוץ אסטרטגי וניהול משברים
מוסקל מדיה - תקשורת, ייעוץ אסטרטגי וניהול משברים
מוסקל מדיה - תקשורת, ייעוץ אסטרטגי וניהול משברים
מוסקל מדיה - תקשורת, ייעוץ אסטרטגי וניהול משברים
מוסקל מדיה - תקשורת, ייעוץ אסטרטגי וניהול משברים
מוסקל מדיה - תקשורת, ייעוץ אסטרטגי וניהול משברים
מוסקל מדיה - תקשורת, ייעוץ אסטרטגי וניהול משברים
מוסקל מדיה - תקשורת, ייעוץ אסטרטגי וניהול משברים

The Ten Commandments for a Manager in Crisis

Avi Muskal

Statistics tell us that every medium-sized company, or larger, will be caught up in a crisis at some point. The question is not if it happens but when. In recent years, I have accompanied CEOs, business owners and directors of organizations in times of crisis: initially, as a journalist, who used to reveal events and report about them. Later on, as a I became crisis manager, I began to help executives to lead through the crisis, based on an effective communications strategy.

Those who prepare in advance, and who respond ahead, can cope and grow out of crisis. According to a comprehensive international survey, almost half of the directors (42%) reported they saw an improvement in the state of the company following the crisis. Only 19% said they were worse off. Those who prefer to bury their heads in the sand may pay a very heavy price – this policy could cost them their own reputation and the reputation of the company; to the point of jeopardizing its' existence. Therefore, my first commandment to a manager in a crisis is:

1. Do not lie to yourself. Denying the problem or suppressing the crisis does not make them go away, but grow bigger.

Most company owners and CEOs will only attend a meeting with a crisis- manager, when the crisis is already at its' peak. The stage at which a manager makes a decision to deal with the crisis, attests to his character. Moreso, it may be fateful. Recently I had a conversation with such a senior executive at a strong financial company, who even after the news about his crisis spread over multiple pages in the newspapers' economic supplements, he kept repeating the same message to journalists and to his close associates: "It's a minor, insignificant event."

Suppression is a mental defense mechanism, which is designed to protect ourselves by pushing difficult or unacceptable thoughts out of our conscious awareness. Freud extensively researched this need and the great energy that is subsequently invested in maintaining the perception of reality as we used to know and perceive it.

Denial is another, and even more dangerous defense mechanism. Denial is rooted in childhood but most of us tend to occasionally use it also as adults. Contrary to suppression, when in denial, we simply do not recognize or face the problem, and completely deny its' existence. According to Freud, difficult emotions such as anxiety, shame or guilt trigger these mechanisms, but clearly – they do not solve the problem.

Think about it – just how much energy you put on repression or denial, making excuses, and preserving the reality's perception you've embraced, towards yourselves and others.

Now, imagine the power you can generate by harnessing the same energy into creative solutions, recognition rather than denial, and action rather than paralysis.

And that brings us to the second commandment:

2. Do not allow yourself to fall apart, it may trigger a domino effect.

After you have addressed the mental defense mechanisms, repression and denial, hold your head up and gather your energy. Employees, customers and the general public look up to you and examine you closely. Any sign of weakness, any stuttering and defeatist statement, may not only predict the defeat but actually bring it to you. Crisis situations are often unpredictable. In addition to anxiety for the company's survival, its' reputation – as well as your own. It is precisely in such moments that directors and executives are tested: their ability to rise above personal distress, and to make rational decisions which are not derived out of hysteria and fear. You are tested in how you manage through the crisis, how you operate the system and the employees, and at the same time, how you create the setting and sense of confidence that will allow them, too, to perform in a proper manner.

3. Do not run away. Not just mentally and spiritually, also physically! Your presence and visibility are essential.

Let us state the obvious: before we start a discussion about what is the right way to work properly, we must physically be there, show up. When a crisis occurs, the most natural impulse is to avoid the situation and distance ourselves from the events.

Indeed, your board is excellent, you have confidence in your deputies and senior managers and I do hope you choose good advisers to manage the crisis. And yet, it is you, personally, who must show up, not disappear, also in the acute stages of the crisis, when it requires work around the clock. Your staff and employees need to see you there, struggling at the front, at all times.

4. Do not freeze. Crisis management requires action, not paralysis.

Did you show up? Great. Now, make sure you show progress. As we all know, those who do not make progress, go back. Moreso in times of crisis. We don't have the luxury of stopping the world because we want to get off. While we are inactive, the company continues to being attacked, and opponents use this opportunity to hurt us.

A CEO at a well-known company faced serious allegations. He claimed it was a competitor of his, who was behind the allegations, after he had lost his bid. The allegations included an anonymous complaint that insinuated personal immoral actions. In addition, there were baseless allegations he misused company's funds.

To this day, I believe this CEO could have survived this crisis. However, he froze. His actions - and especially his inaction – spelled guilt. Eventually, in a hysterical action, he announced his retirement. By so, linked his own image to this context in manner that lasted also in days that followed.

5. Do not delay your response. Postponement only adds to problems, it never solves them.

Like earthquakes, a crisis too, can be followed by aftershocks, and your conduct could serve as a catalyst. Any delay in decision making, postponement of vital actions in response to the crisis, may give way to another series of aftershocks.

To a large extent, it's our response, decisions and ability to keep up with the events that will affect the duration of the crisis and how it unfolds.

One of the key decision makers, of a large public organization, has repeatedly erred in doing so. Over and over again, whenever political opponents challenged him on various issues, he used to delay his decision making and comments. As a result, he was perceived as a passive actor rather than a proactive leader. For a man of his stature, who is daily in the public eye, such image can be fateful.

6. Do not keep doing what you have done so far. When things go wrong it does not help to continue business as if usual.

In many cases, senior executives continue to lead their regular routine, even in times of crisis. It's the power of inertia. It often provides them a false sense of comfort, confidence and business are as usual. They may also hope to project these feelings to their surroundings. However, crisis requires a completely different kind of strategy, decisions and actions. Some of which are unconventional and unusual. In order to cope with an unusual and surprising event, one should act outside the box.

But first, here's what you should not do:

7. Do not deny the obvious. Denial is a lie.

We promised we wouldn't lie to ourselves, and most certainly we will not lie to others. One of the most famous cases in this context is that of former President Bill Clinton. The sentence he said on camera: "I did not have sex with this woman" (Monica Lewinsky) quickly turned out to be a lie and not only became a joke at his expense, but tarnished him, beyond the actions attributed to him.

It could well be that you have not been fully aware of the things before the crisis broke, and they were exposed. Now, as the truth lies in front of you, even if for now it is known only to a handful of people, do not even think to deny it!

Do not lie to employees and customers, and certainly, under any circumstances, do not lie to the journalist who reached out to you. There's a proper way to respond, in a manner that protects you and the company. However, this response must not involve any lie. It goes without saying, if you are falsely slammed, it is our duty to deny and uncompromisingly fight it that false accusation.

8. Do not make up a cover story. Usually, it makes things worse.

When I say you can't deny things nor lie about them, this also goes to cover stories. Let's only do covers in Karaoke. For crisis management, let us put together a fact-based communications strategy. Instead of a cover story, we will kick-off our own internal scrutiny, which will enable us to respond properly, make the right decisions and eventually form our safe passage away from the sea of crises. The more we go deeper and establish the things ourselves, the more we can be prepared and ready for questions that journalists will direct at us.

9. Do not blame or point fingers at others. These are excuses and not solutions.

Looking for someone to blame is a natural tendency, and we usually prefer to find someone else to be held accountable. It does not mean an executive in a company in crisis should be like a kamikaze or, in the softer version, get off the field the same way football coach does after the team lose. On the contrary! Fight for the company's life, rather than look for someone to blame. You may indeed know who is responsible for the crisis, but attending and taking care of the company and coping with the crisis, come first. Once we've secured protection, we can move on to the next phase.

10. Do not give up. If you let go and surrender, there is no chance to win the day….

Ultimately, this is the most important message: fight for it! Take action! Under no circumstances should you raise the white flag and don't get off the field.

I've seen CEOs who overcame complex crisis situations and prevailed, thanks to a persistent struggle and a proper strategy. I have also seen such who were quick to flee and lost everything, even though there were ways prevail. We don't control the outbreak of a crisis, the circumstances and timing. However, your determination, the decision you make and especially the proper crisis-management strategy is what makes the difference about how you emerge out of it.


אבי מוסקל - ניהול משברים ומוניטין

Leverages and Crisis

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