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Weathering the Storm: Three Ways Board Members Can Guide Company Leaders Through a Crisis

by | Aug 26, 2021 | Features, Career, Productivity, Diversity, Life

“In crisis management, be quick with the facts, slow with the blame.”

– Leonard Saffir

Every organization is just one misstep (or unexpected event) away from experiencing a full-blown crisis that can impact its stability and future. Common types of business crises include financial, personnel, organizational, natural and technological.

A financial crisis can occur when a company can’t repay its debts or it loses some or all of its value in the marketplace. Gold’s Gym experienced a financial crisis in 2020 that required it to close 30 of its gyms and file for bankruptcy protection.

A personnel crisis can happen when a representative or employee of a company gets involved in illegal or unethical deeds. WeWork experienced a personnel crisis when its former CEO lied about the company’s valuation.

An organizational crisis occurs when a company wrongs its employees or customers. Organizational crises can include deception, management misconduct and skewed management values. Wells Fargo went through an organizational crisis when its managers encouraged employees to open millions of illegal bank accounts in order to meet sales quotas.

A natural crisis occurs when an earthquake, wildfire, pandemic or other natural disaster impacts a business. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted businesses by requiring new health protocols, remote work solutions and temporary closures.

A technological crisis can occur through customer data breaches, software bugs, website hacks and broken servers. Google experienced an authentication system outage in 2020. For nearly an hour, users couldn’t access YouTube, Gmail and a variety of Google WorkSpace products.

How Board Members Can Guide Company Leaders Through a Crisis

As a board member, you represent shareholders and protect your company’s interests. During a crisis, your role will require you to focus on handling immediate threats. Let’s explore three ways board members can guide company leaders through a crisis.

1. Be Engaged and Active

A company crisis requires active engagement. Regardless of your personal or professional schedule, you must be readily available to handle a company crisis at a moment’s notice. Be prepared to brainstorm and implement strategies with other members and executives.

What active board engagement on a Board of Directors looks like:

  • Know the company’s mission and take actions to advance it.
  • Generate new ideas and strategies to improve revenue, build brand awareness and support leadership.
  • Prepare for meetings and review documents in advance.
  • Participate in the meetings by offering ideas and providing constructive feedback.
  • Attend fundraisers and other key events.
  • Team up with other board members to come up with solutions.

2. Tap Into Your Network

Your professional affiliations could be the key to forging collaborations and partnerships that can benefit your company. Make a list of people in your network who can help you. Reach out to them for assistance.

How to connect with your network:

  • Be as honest as possible about the challenges your company is facing.
  • Request a meeting via email or phone.
  • Ask for ideas and actively listen to the responses.
  • Be sure to thank your colleagues for their support.
  • Help your colleagues when they need it.

3. Apply a Solution-Focused Approach to Crisis Management

There is always someone or something to blame for causing a crisis. But why spend time on blaming others when you can work toward solving the problem? Playing the ‘blame game’ delays positive outcomes and only leads to frustration.

What a solution-focused approach to crisis management looks like:

  • Gather the facts and review them.
  • Remain empathetic without letting emotions drive your decisions.
  • Focus on the root cause of the crisis.
  • Take the next steps immediately.
  • Remain positive in your actions and speech.
  • Encourage all board members and executives to take ownership of the problem.
  • Inspire innovative solutions.

About Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC)

Want to network with corporate leaders from top law firms and global corporations? CCWC can help. At Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC), our organization supports in-house attorneys who are women of color. If you are ready to connect with other women attorneys, join CCWC today.

Explore the following resources that can help you sharpen your crisis management skills.

  • Crisis Communications: The Definitive Guide to Managing the Message by Steven Fink
  • How to Lead in Crisis: Be the Calm in the Storm, the Voice of Reason and Lead Into the Future by Mark Edward Davis
  • Resilience Ready: The Leader’s Guide to Thriving Through Unrelenting Crises by Vivian Blade

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