Tuesday, October 06, 2009

WBF and 7 Lessons for Leading In Crisis

There will be lots of blog posts today. I am a featured blogger at World Business Forum (WBF). What this means is I have been given press credentials and a free pass. WBF is a star studded lineup of speakers including such people as Bill Clinton, Patrick Lencioni, George Lucas, T. Boone Pickens etc.

The venue is Radio City Music hall. The format is a huge auditorium with thousands of attendees (I have been to previous ones). Each speaker gets about an hour to speak and answer questions.

This will be 2 days of live coverage of the event.

For me, the event started last night with a reception put on by Bill George, author of "7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis". Bill is a very accomplished leader. He was CEO at Medtronics. He is now a Harvard Business School professor. He is also an accomplished author with his previous books - Authentic Leadership and Finding Your True North.

In person he seems bright, witty, and personable.

He did give me an autographed copy of his new book. As the title implies, it is 7 short lessons on leading in crisis. The lessons:

1 - Face Reality -starting with yourself. The gist of the message is "take full responsibility". Wishing it was somehow different will not make it so.

2 - Don't be Atlas - get the world off your shoulders. Despite facing reality, you have resources that can help in any crisis. Use them. Worry is not productive but creative thinking can be. Be willing to be vulnerable.

3 - Dig deep for the root cause. It can be easy to mistake symptoms for cause. You cannot devise a solution if you do not have the right problem.

4 - Get ready for the long haul. It is tempting to think of crisis as something the weather until things get better. I know in this economy, I see some companies calling this strategy. And of course he says, cash is king.

5 - Never waste a good crisis. The implication is there is always good in bad situations. In many cases it is the learning.

6 - You're in the spotlight - follow true north. In this section he plays on his earlier books. Be authenitic, be genuine. Be yourself - and choose to be good.

7 - Go on offense - Focus on winning now. Half the crisis is defense and getting through it. Now is the time to learn and grow through the crisis.

And of course, I have only just scratched the surface in this review.

From Zach Clayton's Amazon review:

Decades ago, my grandmother explained to me that "character" is who we are and what we do "when no one's looking." There are also times, such as the situation George describes, when we aren't "looking" either and lose our way. Crises have a way of attracting, often commanding our attention but, when doing so, they can also bring out the best or worst in us. In this context, I am reminded of a U.S. Open golf championship years ago (perhaps at Shinnecock or Oakmont) when many of the players angrily complained about the severe conditions (the fairways were too narrow, the greens too fast, the pin placements "impossible," etc.). In response, the U.S.G.A. official who supervised the course conditions replied, "We're not trying the embarrass the world's best golfers, we're trying to identify them." I think this is one of George's key points in this book. Those in leadership positions who possess and rely upon their True North are more likely to "stay on track" and make the right decisions when under severe stress. The importance of those decisions is compounded by the fact that others trust and depend upon these leaders to do what is difficult but necessary (e.g. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill) rather than what is easy or at least expedient.

The book is targeted at a business audience and uses business examples. I think much of it would apply to crisis in other areas.

It is a good book. Although it is short (139 pages), there is a lot of value in the 7 Lessons. It is a meaty book for its size.


At 10:05 AM, Blogger Jude Jennison of Leaders by Nature said...

Great post Jim and a timely one for me. I'm having a mini crisis which I've been worrying about. I don't usually worry about things.. I usually get creative. This time, because it's such a new siutation, I've been spending far too much energy worrying rather than being creative.

I particularly liked 1 and 2 from your list, particularly the idea that "Wishing it was somehow different will not make it so." and "get the world off your shoulders. Despite facing reality, you have resources that can help in any crisis. Use them. Worry is not productive but creative thinking can be."

So true and I'm off now to be resourceful and creative about my mini crisis!


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