Monday, April 27, 2009

Handling Crisis: A Tale from Black Monday

Davia Temin (pictured) tells an interesting "Black Monday" market crash story in her recent client letter. Temin, president of Temin and Co. Inc. and a longtime colleague, is a top adviser to managements on mission-critical marketing, communications, and reputation management matters. Her client letter is intriguingly titled Crisis and Marketing Strategies for 2009: Swimming Naked with the Black Swans.

I'll let Davia tell her story. It's one that all directors and senior management can appreciate in these days of coping with business and financial crisis. From here on down in this posting, drawing from her "Swimming Naked..." client advisory, it's all Davia:

"It is widely known that stress brings out the best and worst in us, but crisis is the ultimate Rorschach test. And people—boards, CEOs, managers, clients, co-workers, family—are watching. And judging.

"I do a great deal of communications and crisis coaching at the C-level. One of the things leaders are most concerned about in their organizations right now, apart from survival, is the morale and behavior of those who are left after downsizing, bankruptcy, restructuring, and 'compensation readjustments.'

"Who sees clearly? Who remains laser-focused on mission and sales? Who keeps his or her cool and quickly figures out new ways to adjust?

"Alternatively, who acts out? Who uses the stress to excuse the worst kinds of cut-throat behavior and internal politicking? Who remains courteous and, yes, even compassionate, throughout the process? Who remembers the human costs of this global disruption?

"On Oct. 19, 1987, the day of the huge, precipitous drop in the markets called Black Monday, I was working at a major global money management company. The head of the New York headquarters was roaming the halls that day, looking into every office, instead of talking to his own clients. I thought that was a bit odd, and asked him why. He told me he wanted to see how people were handling the stress, and that their behavior would be taken into consideration the next time managing directors were chosen.

"No matter how bad the crisis, people still have to come to work each day and be productive—if they are lucky enough to be employed. Leaders have an obligation to guard the psychic well-being of their employees as well as the bottom line. Employees have an obligation to put their anxieties aside and work tirelessly for their organizations, as well as to help their less-fortunate colleagues and communities.

"So, model good behavior in your own organizations and families—it will rebound well for you in ways we cannot even know."

Davia's full "Swimming Naked with the Black Swans" client letter can be read on her firm's website, click here.