Opportunities in Crisis by Carl Sylvestre

It was sudden rush to the head. I knew that this was no longer business as usual. We were in a crisis. To comfort me, my old friend Oscar Wilde offered words of wisdom but in my haze I garbled the words. To lose one event partner may be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose the whole group was just pure carelessness.

So there it was, an event with five sponsors was about to be cancelled because in the space of a day, for a multitude of reasons and two days before the press announcement, everything was off. Months of hard work evaporated. This was not meant to be. However, the turnaround that followed had me thinking, is governing in a crisis a blessing in disguise?

By its nature a crisis is a testing moment for anyone or organization. It is about a change that is understood to be very negative and whose impact could be catastrophic. It often comes with little warning, or so we think.

The first reaction in confronting a crisis is one of disbelief. That is followed by the need to keep things in control so that it doesn’t get worse. The matter has to be stabilized and that often means asking lot of focused questions, coming up with new solutions and building a team whose goal is to save something at all cost. All of a sudden we have a collective rush to the head, new ideas come to life and the impossible is now the possible. Suddenly there is a renewed purpose, a new line has been crossed and it is time to make major decisions that at one time we were too cautious to even consider.

To move forward, the team pushes aside fear and faces the knowledge that not acting means certain failure. Managing in a crisis is overcoming fear, speaking up and choosing your weapon to fight.

Crises can bring about changes that should have taken place a long time ago but were pushed aside because of fear. It becomes that moment where values are tested and an impossible battle is deemed winnable because there is no other acceptable outcome. In the process, there is freedom to discard some rules and embrace new ideas.

While we may not wish for a crisis, if dealt with correctly it is often the best game changer for an organization. A big crack, can be a learning experience to tear down walls and rebuild on a foundation that is stronger, more resilient and road tested.

What did I learned from my crisis? Mr. Wilde’s concept was right. We were careless because we failed to invest in teamwork. We swept under the rug many details that were too messy to attend to. The foundation was crumbling for a long time but every day living got in the way and we chose to ignore that fact. In the end, we learned that we had a group of committed people waiting to help but we didn’t let them in before. I wouldn’t wish a crisis on anyone but often as managers we need to think about where it might come from. Its source is often a slow burning ember that with the right heat, could ignite and leave us with no other option than to face the blaze head on or perish.