Governance, Management and Work Amid Covid-19: Professor Christine Pearce Shares Her Unique Perspective
PANDEMIC CRISIS MANAGEMENT
Following the 9/11 terrorist strikes, Professor Christine Pearson, who has authored six books on crisis management, put together a list of 10 guidelines to help organizations avert having to enter crisis mode. Her IBJ article on the topic, “A Blueprint for Crisis Management,” can be found here. But with today’s organizations already in the “wolves-at-the-gates stage,” Pearson—now a professor at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, where she is finalizing a new book on contemporary crisis management—recommends executives focus on the following five actions.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst: According to Pearson, it is important to improve (or initiate) crisis management thinking and action, expectations, and resources as an ongoing, evolving approach throughout your organization.
Make your role model proud: When making decisions and taking actions, Pearson advises following your strongest ethical influencer. “Remember that you can’t talk your way out of things that you behave yourself into, so do the right thing from the start. Never lie. Yes, that’s right, never lie, even when circumstances are dismal. Remember, too, that facts and fake news can circle the globe in an instant. So, face into the truth and tell it quickly. If others tell your story first, you may have to dig your way out of being cast as the villain.”
Create a diverse, superb crisis management team: In today’s hyperconnected, volatile, uncertain, tech-infused global environment, Pearson notes, “crisis approaches and decisions must exceed the reach of the C-suite and the home office. You need a dedicated team who can tap into expertise, insights, needs, and resources across your organization’s vulnerabilities, opportunities, and threats. Make a brilliant selection of team members who understand the diversity (e.g., employees, sites, customers, products, services) of your organization’s reach and provide them guidance and resources to be outstanding.”
Treat your employees right: Always put employees at the top of your list for updates. As Pearson points out, they “are your first line of defense. Empower signal detection and simplify signal reporting for all employees. Don’t punish messengers of bad news, listen to them wisely. When a mistake occurs, be very slow to blame operators because contextual limitations, policies, and organizational norms are usually the root causes. When meeting with employees (F2F or virtually), give them your full attention. When making tough decisions about employees, don’t be cheap: they are your organization.”
Model healthy self-care: “Crises are marathons spiked with uphill sprints that can be treacherous and unexpected,” Pearson notes, “so you need to retain and restore your own stamina, and to be an exemplary role model for everyone else. Abide by reliable, fact-based advice (e.g., mind the 6-foot gap). Adhere stringently to the basics: eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise. Include restorative behaviors daily (e.g., break from screen-addiction, e-connect with friends and family, make time for a diversion that you enjoy).”