Crisis Creates Opportunity for Great Leaders

maple_leaf_foods_logo
Recently, food-borne illness was found to have caused the death of eleven Canadians. After a thorough inspection, it was concluded that the problem originated in a plant operated by Maple Leaf Foods.

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At a press conference, the President of Maple Leaf Foods, Michael McCain responded:

"Certainly knowing that there is a desire to assign blame, I want to reiterate that the buck stops right here. This week, it's our best efforts that failed, not the regulators or the Canadian food safety system. I emphasize: this is our accountability and it's ours to fix, which we are taking on fully. We have and we continue to improve on our action plans."

Honesty builds goodwill

It was so refreshing to see a leader step up and accept responsibility in an incredibly difficult situation. The report on the conference says you could see the pain in his face. He was completely honest. He took a hard stance and accepted full responsibility.

In today’s legal environment, it’s harder than ever for executives to accept this kind of responsibility. Lawyers often advise against it because it costs money. But it builds goodwill because people appreciate people who stand up and do what’s right without regard to the cost.

The 3 phases of a crisis

We found a great special report, Crisis – A Leadership Opportunity [pdf]. It discusses the three phases in the lifecycle of a crisis:

Preparation
During this phase, complacency has set in. As problems boil to the surface, leaders often ignore them to avoid any conflict. This failure to respond early leads to the crisis.

Emergency

Now the threat has been ascertained and the very existence of the organization may be threatened. Leaders direct all their energy to eliminate the immediate threat.

Adaptive
All possible attention has been given to crisis. There has been an urgency to get to the source and take corrective actions. With the crisis still at the top of everyone’s mind, now is the time to make the changes necessary to prevent the crisis from happening again. People are receptive and open.

However, many leaders fail to take advantage of this opportunity. Instead, they push the organization back to the status quo. The result? The crisis returns!

The report [pdf] goes on to discuss the seven essential success strategies for leaders in crisis. It also discusses two famous cases of leadership in crisis – Johnson & Johnson’s handling of the Tylenol poisonings and Rudy Giuliani’s response immediately after the events of September 11, 2001.

We highly recommend that you check out this fantastic resource. It will help you learn to adapt to little problems so they don’t become a major crisis. 

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(Image by mapleleaf.com)

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