- Crisis Management
If you're the CCO when a crisis hits your company, what would you think if the CEO called you into his office to remind you to be open, straight-forward and transparent? To bring him the bad as well as the good news and to shut down anybody who tries to dissemble or hide the truth?
You might leave thinking, “He sounds a lot like Arthur Page. Is he for real?"
In fact, Bill George, the former CEO of Medtronic, does seem to reinforce Page principles like truth-telling and professional behavior. As for real? Authenticity is his stock in trade.
Since 2007, George has come out with three books, joined Harvard as a business school professor, and gone on the lecture circuit as a persistent advocate of trust-building leadership, with communications as a core management trait.
At a Page Society conference two years ago, George pointed us toward his “True North" and “Authentic Leadership" concepts organized around the principle that we all have within us an essence of leadership that can be developed and satisfying if we put it to work.
Now, based on his most recent book, "7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis", George has provided hard-nose tips to CEOs in the post-BP, post-Toyota (need we go on?) business environment.
Along with his counsel to leaders on the financial drain that can come with the physical downside of a crisis—“in a crisis, cash is king" so “build a mountain" of it that the company can draw on—George effectively constructs a crisis communications playbook.
His emphasis on reality, facing the situation without denial, is an obvious boon to CCO strategies. How much more effective it is to implement a confident, ongoing information flow when, to quote George's note, “everyone on the leadership team must be willing to tell the whole truth."
That's like assembling the C-suite officers like a pre-game football coach and reminding them they have a potentially winning game plan, with everybody doing his part to support, and not to undermine, the job of the field quarterback.
George also gets behind the notion of life after crisis—possibly a better life and certainly a changed life. As we tell our students in the masters program at Georgetown, in a crisis it's best to think “there is no over." The organization is changed, with new challenges and, if one plans for it, opportunities—new products, new services, and strategic competitive advantages in the marketplace.
As I see the CCO's job, the goal is always the creation of stakeholders in the company's business. The role in the C-suite and in the field is essentially to counsel other top team players on, and then to lead the execution of, information flow and stakeholder perception management.
It's an asset to be able to apply Page Principles. And during a crisis, the CCO can be very influential in preparing for the best benefits of post-crisis-climax change, with a CEO who thinks the way that Bill George does.
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