Psychologists are going to tell you that there are somewhere between five and seven emotional responses to a crisis. We’ve all heard of them, most notably the fight or flight mentality.
In my book, “Only Morons Say ‘No Comment,’” there’s a rule: flight, flight, or strategize. This rule explains the fact that we don’t live in caveman times anymore. Disruption will hit you, and our instincts and emotions are wired to either beat it or run from it. What we have to do as civilized human beings is fight that emotional response. And, by looking at the seven responses that most crisis managers will agree upon, there’s really only one correct approach.
When I was just starting out, I would walk people through these scenarios. How should ABC company respond to XYZ situation? I would use the seven responses as a template to determine a response.
For example, there was a facility that felt the media had wronged them in terms of the negative coverage and backlash they were facing. Regardless of the media being right or wrong, this facility chose to attack. They put out a statement that basically said, “You’re all stupid, and how dare you.” It was extremely aggressive. That’s an approach we walked people and companies through at one time.
Another response is to defend. “But, we’re the greatest. It wasn’t our fault!”
And then you have ignore. “Let’s just pretend like it never happened.”
There’s also apologize. “I’m so sorry!”
Going through that exercise, we would only ever arrive at one response — every single time.
So, let me cut the fat and get you to the right answer without going through every one of these seven responses. Learn from my mistakes, failures, and experience in figuring this out.
The answer to business disruption? It’s always to sell.
I’m not talking about infomercial-type selling. Rather, advocating what you’re doing to get through the process now.
Your team, customers, employees, vendors, owners — if you’re letting people know what you’re doing, you’re selling. That’s what it is.
Instead, when we hit a crisis, we circle the wagons. We get defensive. That response is built into our DNA.
As a civilized human being, you have got to fight your DNA, transition from freaking out, yelling and screaming, and trying to run from the problem. Breathe for a second. Now, your job to get through this, as cleanly as possible, is to advocate and sell what you’re doing, correctly.
Speaking of advocating, Caissa is doing a few things right now. For one, we are getting the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. We may not need it, but we are doing so to set our company up for success.
The point is, I’m letting my team know what we’re doing to protect them. I’m selling what the company is doing, so that they don’t experience gaps in information and start filling those gaps with negative information. That is a completely different issue — companies don’t give enough information out to people (going back to the caveman mentality).
If your goal is to advocate, to sell what you’re doing right, it changes your mindset going forward. It makes you more proactive. You can’t simply say, “Be more proactive!” Because what does that mean? The same goes for a business “crisis.” It’s not a crisis; it’s a disruption.
Your mental/psychological approach to the situation we’re in right now will dictate whether or not it’s simply a disruption or a crisis for your business.
You will get through it. You’re going to come out the other side stronger, better, faster, and more capable. Because you’re going to treat it as a bump in the road — a disruption — and not a crisis. Crisis leads to panic, to the fight or flight mentality.
Crisis brings out the psychological presets and biases that lead you astray and do anything but the right thing. If you characterize the situation, mentally, as a disruption, it lets you know that there is another side to this.
So, here’s how you emotionally treat it as a disruption and not a crisis.
Recognize the set of responses to every situation like this. If you pick fight or flight, you’re treating it as a crisis. If you pick defend or counterattack, you’re treating it as a crisis. The only way you treat it as a disruption, to get through it faster and cleaner, is if you treat it as a method to advocate what you’re doing right. That’s the only psychological response that is not innate in your brain. It’s the only one that does not come naturally to you. The other responses will come easy to everyone, depending on their psyche.
My natural response is to attack. Some people want to run, apologize, or ignore what’s going on. All of those are emotional responses and not the best way to navigate difficult situations.
Slow down and advocate. That’s how you’ll see and treat the situation as a disruption.