Crisis Management: How to Handle A Crisis Like A Pro – Part 3: Post Crisis
By Michael Kunert,
Welcome to Part 3 of our discussion on handling a crisis like a professional. In Part 1,we talked about steps to take in your pre-crisis planning to prepare your team better should a crisis occur. In Part 2, we talked about going through the crisis and the importance of staying calm, focused, and thinking through the crisis.
This week, we’re talking post-crisis. What to do to learn and make your team better for the next “hit the fan” moment.
Phase 3 – Post Crisis
So your team made it through the crisis. Your message resonated with the community. The media is pleased, and everyone is taking a much-needed sigh of relief. Now what? Well, the campaign still needs to run, there’s still an election right around the corner.
However, in order to learn from the crisis, those involved should, as soon as possible after the crisis, debrief the events that occurred. This truly is the best way to learn from any failures the team may have experienced.
Debriefing (A Crisis Management Method)
A debrief is an after-action assessment of the crisis. The goal is to use the crisis as a teachable moment to better your team. As you approach the debrief, everyone should address the negative but focus on the positive. Questions you want to answer include:
- What did we do right,
- What did we do wrong,
- What could we have done better
- How do we prevent this from happening again
For debriefs to work effectively, those participating must be brutally honest with themselves and others. Everyone involved should have a say. As you go around the room, members should point out their observations of what went wrong and what they think could have been done better. Again, everyone must do their best to remove their emotions. This should be a learning exercise.
However, try as you might to remove emotions, if the crisis is big or bad enough, this exercise may cause some hard feelings because no one likes being called out in front of a group for making mistakes. One way to take some of the sting away is for each person to identify what they did wrong before pointing the finger at someone else. So, the format should be,
- “Here’s what I did wrong” or “This is what I did wrong” or something similar
- “This is how I’m going to correct it”
- “Here’s what I saw we did wrong” or “This is what I think went wrong” or something similar
- “This is what I think we can do better next time”
Listen To Others
Allow others to chime in to correct any misperceptions that might have happened with the person speaking. A person may have thought there was a mistake but not aware of another situation that had to be overcome, which caused them to think the way they did.
Observer: “I think where we went wrong was not opening the doors when we said we were going to. People were getting antsy, and I heard people making comments.”
Campaign Manager: “Thank you for that. What you were unaware of was right before we were going to open the doors, we lost power to the stage, and we wanted to correct that before we brought the guests in. Do you think there was a better way for us to handle this next time?”
This process also allows for a 360-degree view of the crisis. Sometimes we get so caught up in the event that we don’t recognize what we are doing might be adding fuel to the crisis. Having someone point out mistakes you’ve made that you were unaware of is humbling but done correctly can be a teachable moment.
Campaign Manager: “John, I know there was a lot going on at that time. One of the problems we had during all this was the candidate forgot to charge his cellphone, and it died, and the media couldn’t reach him. Is there any reason why you didn’t bring the backup batteries and cellphone chargers that you were responsible for and how do we correct this next time?”
John: “That’s my fault. Next time I will pack them in my personal backpack rather than in the electronics bag.”
People who take ownership of their mistakes and work to correct them are the ones you want on your team. Those who continually make excuses for their mistakes are the ones you should look to replace when it’s convenient to do so.
Focus On The Positives
Lastly, the goal is to focus on the positive. No one should leave that room with any ill will. No one should leave the room embarrassed. If someone did something so egregious that it would call for their dismissal from the campaign, that should be done privately. Crisis management should me taken with all amount of seriousness and zest.
Conducting a debrief in this manner helps your pre-crisis planning for your next campaign. Also, analyzing the crisis during crisis management in a post-crisis setting may expose how critical the crisis may not have been and may help reduce your stress level the next time around.