A Teachable Moment in Trump’s Testing Positive for COVID-19

Overnight the world learned that President Trump and the First Lady both tested positive for COVID-19. I wish them a full recovery.

But our challenge isn’t that Trump has COVID-19; it’s that the nation does. And it didn’t have to be this way.

A Teachable Moment: Patterns of Crisis

We are in a very teachable moment.

Crises follow predictable patterns. One is that most harm in a crisis is self-inflicted. Sometimes the initial crisis event itself is self-inflicted. But even when it isn’t, most of the loss of trust, confidence, and competitive position is self-inflicted because of an ineffective response.

A foundational principle of crisis response is to understand the scope and severity of a crisis and the risks it represents, and to respond based on those risks. Donald Trump never did.

On January 28 Trump’s national security advisor told him that COVID-19 would be the single largest national security threat in his presidency.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, Director of Columbia University’s Pandemic Resource & Response Initiative

On February 7 Trump admitted to Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward that COVID-19 is spread in the air and is more deadly than the flu.

Three weeks ago Dr. Irwin Redlener, head of Columbia University’s Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative, estimated that if the nation had gone to national masking and lock-down one week earlier, with a constant masking and social distancing policy, 150,000 of the 200,000 fatalities would have been avoided.

Ten Crisis Missteps

In two of my books, Reputation Management and The Agony of Decision, I describe ten predictable missteps in a crisis:

  1. Ignore the problem. Trump did.
  2. Deny the significance of the problem. Trump did.
  3. Compartmentalize the problem or solution. Trump did.
  4. Tell misleading half truths. Trump did.
  5. Lie. Trump did.
  6. Tell only part of what you did. Trump did.
  7. Blame others for your failures. Trump did.
  8. Over-confess. On this one, Trump did not.
  9. Panic, leading to bad decision-making. Trump did.
  10. Shoot the messenger when you receive bad news. Trump did.

Trump has committed nine of the ten missteps when it comes to COVID-19.

The Human Consequences of the Missteps

COVID-19 cases on October 2, 202

Unlike other crises, this has had significant human consequence. At least 75 percent of the cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. would not have happened. And 150,000 people, according to Dr. Redlener, would still be alive.Leaders are judged based on how they deal with their most significant challenges. Trump failed this leadership test. Given the magnitude of the failure of crisis response after Trump was fully aware of the risks, this may be the single worst failure of leadership in American history.

I have previously published that I believe Trump’s handling of COVID-19 to be the single worst handled crisis, and largest leadership failure, in American history.

Again, I wish both the President and the First Lady a full recovery. But perhaps now we can move to a national masking, social distancing, contract tracing, and testing policy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese Language Edition of The Agony of Decision Now Available

Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press is pleased to announce that the Chinese language translation of its book The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis has been published in Beijing.

 

 

The Agony of Decision is the first title published by Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press in July 2017.

The author is Logos Consulting Group president Helio Fred Garcia.

The Chinese publisher is Posts & Telecom Press, a leading publisher of business and non-fiction titles in China. The Chinese translation had been scheduled for publication in February 2020, but the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic delayed publication. Given the continuing recovery in China that began in the last few weeks, the publisher is now positioning the book as an essential tool for Chinese leaders in all sectors to be able to restore trust of critical stakeholders that was lost in the pandemic.

 

 

As with the English edition, the Chinese edition is available as a physical book, an e-book, and an audio book. The Chinese language title is 从危到机: 危机中的决策之痛与领导之术, which translates roughly into English as From Danger to Opportunity: The Agony of Decision-Making and Leadership in Crisis.

The Chinese edition is available at all major Chinese online markets, including Dangdang, JD, Taobao (Alibaba), and Amazon China (e-book available for download only in China).

The Chinese edition was translated from English by Xinyin Lu, deputy director of the Institute of Corporate Communication at the Academy of Media and Public Affairs at the Communication University of China, and by Dr. Steven Guanpeng Dong, Chair Professor and Dean of the School of Government and Public Affairs at the Communication University of China, the leading Chinese university specializing in journalism, communication, documentary filmmaking, and related disciplines. Dr. Dong also wrote the foreword to the Chinese edition.

 

Dr. Steven Guanpeng Dong, translator and author of the foreword.

 

Translator Xinyin Lu

 

The Chinese edition of The Agony of Decision has been endorsed by:

  • Yang Yujun, dean of the Academy of Media and Public Affairs at the Communication University of China, former head of the Information Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense of China, and former spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense of China. Both Yang and Dr. Dong are part of the Expert Committee for the COVID-19 pandemic in China.
  • Du Shaozhong, vice chair of All-China Environment Federation (ACEF), and former deputy director and spokesperson for the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.
  • Wang Lianglan, former spokesperson for The National Medical Products Administration (the FDA of China)
  • Lv Dapeng, spokesperson for China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (NYSE: SNP, $1,217B market cap)
  • Wu Huanling, managing director of China Public Relations Association (CPRA), former vice president of General electric medical system (China) Co., Ltd.,

Dr. Steven Guanpeng Dong

The Chinese edition was made possible by Dr. Steven Guanpeng Dong, Chair Professor and Dean of the School of Government and Public Affairs, and Provost for Faculty of Professional Studies, Executive Education and Continuing Education at the Communication University of China.

Dr. Dong is also Vice Chairman of the China Public Relations Association (CPRA) and Vice Chair of Communication and Education, All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce.

He is one of the official advisors for transparent governance, strategic communications and crisis management for the State Council Ministries.

Dr. Steven Guanpeng Dong conducting a television interview at Communication University of China, 2015

Prior to his current appointments, Dr. Dong was a presenter for the BBC World Service in London and a morning news anchor for the China Central Television (CCTV).

Dr. Dong was among the founders of Journalism School and the founding Chair and former director of the Institute of Public Relations and Strategic Communications at Tsinghua University. He is also a very popular professor of strategic communications for the prestigious EMBA, EDP and DBA programs at Tsinghua University.

He was appointed the Shorenstein Fellow on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University in 2009, and most recently as an Eisenhower Fellow by the Eisenhower Fellowships in Philadelphia, USA.

In 2019, Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership awarded Dr. Dong its Outstanding Leader Award in recognition of his consequential professional achievement that sets the standard to which other leaders may aspire; his use of strategic communication to change the world; and having inspired and empowered the next generation of leaders through teaching, mentoring, for their advocacy on behalf of others.

Logos president Helio Fred Garcia presenting the Logos Institute Outstanding Leader Award to Dr. Steven Guanpeng Dong, May, 2019

The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis is about how leaders and the organizations they lead can maintain reputation, trust, confidence, financial and operational strength, and competitive advantage in a crisis. First, by thinking clearly; second by making smart choices; and third by executing those choices effectively.

But making smart choices in a crisis can be agonizing.

The difference between leaders who handle crises well and those who handle crises poorly is mental readiness: the ability some leaders exhibit that allows them to make smart choices quickly in a crisis. And this ability creates real competitive advantage. One of the predictable patterns of crisis response is that the severity of the crisis event does not determine whether an organization and its leader get through a crisis effectively. Indeed, two organizations, similarly situated, can see dramatically different outcomes based on the quality and timeliness of their individual responses to the crisis events.

And the ability to respond effectively in a timely way is a consequence of mental readiness. This book is for leaders of organizations who need to be good stewards of reputation, trust, and confidence; and for those who advise those leaders, whether in public relations, or law, or other business disciplines.

Graphic of The Ten Most Common Mis-Steps in a Crisis, from the Chinese Edition of The Agony of Decsion

 

In 2018 The Agony of Decision was named one of the Best Crisis Management Books of All Time (#2 of 51) by the leading nonfiction book review site BookAuthority. It is currently listed #3 of 100 All-Time Best Crisis Management Books. BookAuthority uses a proprietary technology to identify and rate the best nonfiction books, using dozens of different signals, including public mentions, recommendations, ratings, sentiment, popularity and sales history.

 

The Agony of Decision has been adopted in a number of universities and professional schools in the United States and abroad.

Garcia was planning a teaching and speaking trip to China in conjunction with the publication of the Chinese edition. But the COVID-19 crisis in the United States makes such a visit impossible for the foreseeable future.

 

Logos Institute Thought Leadership in China

 

Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership has been a thought leader in China for nearly ten years.

The Agony of Decision is the second book by Helio Fred Garcia to be published in Chinese. The first was his 2012 book The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively.

In 2014 Power of Communication was published in Chinese by Pearson Education Asia Ltd in Hong Kong and Publishing House of Electronics Industry in Beijing under the title 沟通的力量.

In 1991, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia was invited to be an International Distinguished Scholar at Tsinghua University as part of an international exchange on crisis management among academics, business leaders, the government, and outside experts. Tsinghua is consistently named the top one or two university in China.

At Tsinghua, Garcia taught graduate students in the Institute for Public Relations and Strategic Communication of the School of Journalism and Communication.

He also taught at a number of Chinese government ministries, including the Ministry of Finance and the Chinese Food and Drug Administration. And he did a workshop for the chief spokesperson of all the ministries. He also keynoted conferences for a number of non-governmental organizations and associations.

In 2015, in conjunction with the Chinese language publication of The Power of Communication, Garcia conducted an extensive teaching and speaking tour of China.

He taught in both the MBA and graduate communication programs of more than a dozen leading universities, including Tsinghua University, Peking University, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Nankai University, Communication University of China, and Nanjing University He also delivered keynotes at major corporate events.

Since 2015, Garcia has been a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Corporate Communication at Communication University of China.

In addition to The Agony of Decision and The Power of Communication, Garcia is co-author (with John Doorley) of Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication, fourth edition pending July, 2020, third edition 2015; second edition 2011; first edition 2007 by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group; Korean language edition 2016 by Alma Books, Seoul, Republic of Korea.  His two-volume book Crisis Communications was published by AAAA Publications in 1999.

Garcia’s next book, due in June 2020, is Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It.

Leadership, Communication, and COVID-19

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Leadership, Communication, and COVID-19

By Helio Fred Garcia

As the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to  grow, Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership has been advising clients and carefully studying communication by leaders across a range of sectors and forms of organization.

We have reviewed thousands of communications by CEOs, university presidents, NGO executive directors and secretaries general, and public officials. And we have identified patterns that help leaders and their organizations make smart choices and avoid inadvertent self-inflicted harm.

Seven Crises in  One

One of the foundational principles of effective crisis management is to name the problem accurately and to understand the true scope and likely risk of the crisis.

I believe that the COVID-19 crisis is actually seven crises in one. Think of these as seven different dimensions of the crisis. There’s a danger that a leader might be so focused on any one of the dimensions that he or she will miss the need to address the others. The seven dimensions of COVID-19 are these:

  1. Public Health Crisis: At its core COVID-19 is a public health crisis. Half a million people worldwide have gotten sick; tens of thousands have died. More will get sick and die before things get better. But  now in the United States the public health crisis includes a healthcare delivery system that is being strained to the breaking point. As hospitals in epicenters begin to fill up, there’s also a shortage of medical equipment and personal protective gear. Health workers are at risk, as are other patients.
  2. Business Crisis: COVID-19 presents a business problem for all forms of organizations. There is a cost impact, for most organizations a negative one. There  is a revenue impact, mostly negative; for some potentially catastrophic. There is disruption of operations. There is an HR impact.
  3. Economic Crisis: At the same time there is a significant economic crisis underway. The risk of falling into a major recession, very low two months ago, now is quite high. The markets have exhibited unprecedented volatility. Economic uncertainty is wearing on people and institutions.
  4. Information Crisis: From the beginning of the pandemic there has been significant incorrect information, incomplete information, and in some cases intentionally misleading information in the information ecosystem. This information crisis leads to significant misunderstanding about who is at risk of contracting the illness, who can transmit it, and what precautions are appropriate.
  5. Competence of Government Crisis: Not just in the U.S., but initially in China, Iran, and other nations the initial responses were bungled and the virus  spread. In the U.S. we have yet to see a whole of government response. Rather, we’ve seen a fragments of government response. Only in the third week of March, and the third month of COVID-19 in the U.S., are there sufficient tests and testing sites. But there is insufficient personal protective equipment for health workers, and a shortage of hand sanitizers, rubber gloves, and masks in retail stores.
  6. Social Crisis: People’s lives have been upended; many people are losing or at risk of losing their jobs. Supermarket shelves are bare. Many companies have ordered employees to work from home; schools are closed or have gone to virtual learning. But there has also been a rise of incivility, insult, and violence against people who have been stigmatized. President Trump’s insistence on calling COVID-19 “China Virus” or “Chinese Virus” has led to a wave of hate crimes against people perceived to be Asian or Asian-American.
  7. Mental Health Crisis: Human beings are social animals, and social distancing is having an effect. Compound this with the fear of the illness, the rising rate of infections and fatalities, and the other dimensions of the crisis, people are fraught. They are fragile. And they need extra care. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked for mental health professionals to volunteer to work with people not presently under their care to begin to meet this mental health need. I expect other governors will do the same.

 

Everything is Different

The unprecedented scope of the crisis makes it difficult to predict what will happen next. This crisis is unlike others. Among the differences:

  • This is unlike prior pandemics. This is the first global pandemic in a social media world. Recent pandemics were geographically contained. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was mostly confined to the Republic of Korea. Ebola was contained in the United States, and our military and public health experts were able to contain it in West Africa. And this is the first truly global pandemic in the lifetimes of most people in leadership positions.
  • This is unlike natural disasters. Most organizations are ready or can adapt to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods. But those are generally geographically confined and are sudden but short in duration. COVID-19 is widespread and will continue for a very long time.
  • This is not like ordinary corporate crises. Most corporate crises are limited to a particular company, sector, or geography. But this one affects every organization. And unlike most corporate crises, this one has the additional dimensions of public health, economic risk, information challenges, competence of government, and social dislocation.
  • The situation is constantly changing. The scope of contagion, the government and society’s response to it, and our understanding of risk to ourselves are in constant flux. In a matter of days we saw an escalation from no large crowds to no crowds at all to stay-at-home orders to full lock-down orders.
  • This is fundamentally reshaping our understanding of work. As millions of American workers learn how to work from home, and as companies experiment with different modes of delivering products and services, the likelihood of a return to pre-COVID-19 conditions is not clear.

Crisis Response Best Practices

Most ineffective crisis responses begin with leaders asking some version of What should we do? Or What should we say? The challenge with this kind of question is that it focuses on the we – on the entity or leader in crisis. This results in the consideration of options that may make the leader in midst of crisis feel less vulnerable. But it is unlikely to lead to what is necessary to maintain trust, confidence, and support of those people whose trust, confidence, and support are critical to the organization.

What is needed is a different kind of thinking that begins not with the I/me/we/us but rather with the they/them – with the stakeholders who matter to the organization. The leadership discipline of mental readiness – the readiness to shift frames of reference from the first person — I/me/we/us — to the third person — they/them — makes all the difference.

And that’s because of the way trust works.

A common goal for most organizations and leaders in crises is to maintain the trust and confidence of those who matter – shareholders, employees, customers, regulators, residents, citizens, voters, etc. Trust is what makes other elements of competitive advantage possible, from stock price to employee morale and productivity to support of  regulators.

Trust, in turn, is the consequence of three related but slightly different things:

  1. Promises fulfilled. These can be explicit promises, or implicit promises such as in a brand identity. If we are seen to break a promise, trust falls.
  2. Expectations met. These can be expectations we set ourselves, such as by making promises. Or they can be expectations set by law or by government order. Or they can be expectations set by society. If we fail to meet expectations, trust falls.
  3. Values lived.  When those who matter to us experience us as living our stated values, the result is trust. If those who matter to us experience us as not living our stated values, trust falls.

And one of the patterns we notice is that it is much harder to restore trust once it has been lost than to maintain trust before it has been lost.

Asking What should we do? runs the serious risk of failing even to consider stakeholders’ expectations. Worse, it further risks the leader becoming stuck in his or her own perspective, in I/me/we/us. Hence, such crisis whoppers as BP CEO Tony Hayward’s “I’d like my life back,” or even President Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook.”

Most crisis response failures can be traced back to the ultimate decision-makers focusing on their own frame of reference rather than on their stakeholders.

The right question to ask when determining the appropriate course of action in a crisis is not What should we do.

Rather, it is this: What would reasonable people appropriately expect a responsible organization or leader to do when facing this kind of situation?

For any stakeholder group we can answer the question, What would reasonable members of this stakeholder group appropriately expect a responsible organization or leader to do? to a very granular level. To the level of all employees, or only those employees in this one facility, or only those employees who were present when something happened. We can inventory those granular expectations  for each stakeholder group, and we can then work to fulfill those particular expectations.

But regardless the particular expectations of any given stakeholder group, there is a common expectation that applies to all stakeholder groups all the time:  In a crisis, all stakeholders expect a responsible organization or leader to care.  To care that something has happened; to care that people need help; to care that something needs to be done.

What it means to care may be different from crisis to crisis, or from industry to industry. What it means to care in the early phases of the crisis may be different from what it means to care in the later phases of the crisis. But that we need to care doesn’t change.

The single largest predictor that trust will fall is the perception of indifference. And silence, when there is an expectation of caring, is interpreted by stakeholders as indifference. And it gives our adversaries, critics, media and social media, and trolls the ability to define us as uncaring, or incompetent, or as lacking integrity.

Applying Best Practices to COVID-19 Communication

As the Logos Institute team has studied institutional response to COVIID-19, we have derived these  lessons applying the principle of caring to the pandemic.

  1. Begin all communication, whether written or verbal, with a statement of values, or belief, or intent, or motivation. Don’t dive directly into the facts. Audiences are far more likely to read or listen, understand, and remember when the leader creates an emotional connection first, and that begins with the statement of values.
  2. Show you care. Calibrate communication with empathy.
  3. Be direct: No euphemism. Euphemism is confusing to audiences, especially when under stress. If an employee has died because of COVID-19, say so.
  4. Tell the truth: Avoid misleading half-truths. Remember that you’re in this for the long term. And eventually you’ll need employees to continue to want to work for you, and customers to want to do business with you. If you know that layoffs are likely, and you’re asked whether there will be layoffs, it may be tempting to say something literally true — “At this point there is no plan to lay people off.” This may be true, but the question was not about whether there is a plan but rather about whether there would be layoffs. A better response would be “We haven’t made a final decision, and we will do whatever we can to protect employees, but layoffs are a possibility.”
  5. Address all relevant dimensions of the crisis: public health, business crisis, economic crisis, information crisis, competence of government crisis, social crisis, and mental health crisis. It may be tempting to stay in a single frame, say, business crisis. But your stakeholders are experiencing all seven dimensions of the crisis.
  6. Remember that expectations are dynamic. Yesterday’s expectations may not be helpful today. Calibrate against current expectations.
  7. Communicate at multiple levels. Employees and other stakeholders need to hear from more than the CEO. At this point it is better to over-communicate than to under-communicate.
  8. Align on values; allow granular detail appropriate to each level. Whether the CEO or an EVP or VP or department head or project team leader, there should be alignment on the level of values, belief, intent, or motive. But at each level the granularity should be appropriate to the level of the leader doing the communication.
  9. Convey a positive attitude that balances urgency against the provoking of panic. Effective leaders keep the focus on the future even while demonstrating urgency. But emotions themselves are contagious. Leaders need to stop short of provoking panic.
  10. Express emotion, vulnerability, and humility. Arrogance makes empathy impossible, and it is empathy that gets leaders and organizations through a crisis. Leaders are often reluctant to express emotion or vulnerability. But the most effective ones do.
  11. Get good at being on TV. Whether recording a video for public consumption or conducting a meeting via Zoom or Skype  or GoToMeeting, leaders need to get good at communicating through a video camera.
  12. Remember, people are feeling very fragile. People are scared; they’re worried about their jobs and their friends and their families. People’s work lives and personal lives have been upended. And some people are being stigmatized. Now is a time that calls for kindness. Effective leaders care.

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Logos to host PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication

Logos Consulting Group is pleased to announce that for the second consecutive year it will host a two-day immersive Master Class on best practices in Crisis Communication.

The Master Class is sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America and will be held in Seattle, Washington on July 18 and 19 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center.

The Master Class faculty are:

  • Helio Fred Garcia, president of Logos Consulting Group and executive director of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership.
  • Adam Tiouririne, senior advisor at Logos Consulting Group and senior fellow of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership.
  • Holly Helstrom, associate at Logos Consulting Group and a fellow of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership.

This team taught the inaugural PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication in June, 2018 in Chicago.

Helio Fred Garcia in the PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication, June, 2018, in Chicago

Ten days prior to the Master Class more than 45 people are registered to attend. They work in a range of sectors including higher education, consulting, airlines, healthcare, insurance, municipal and state government, civil rights advocacy, law enforcement, emergency response, and public relations firms.

Adam Tiouririne in the PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication, June, 2018, in Chicago.

The PRSA Crisis Communication Master Class is a professional development offering that is designed as an in-depth, in-person, two-day immersion in advanced best practices in crisis communication. The in-class instruction, role-play and exercises are structured to help participants master crisis communication best practices through real-world work. This combination can help participants both become strong crisis communicators and also advise their clients and bosses during times of crisis.

The overall agenda includes:

  1. Foundational Principles of Crisis Response
  2. Obtaining Forgiveness
  3. Storytelling in a Crisis
  4. Getting Executive Buy-In
  5. Social Media and the Diffusion of Power
  6. Operational Readiness and Planning
  7. Avoiding Crisis Missteps
  8. Course Wrap-Up, A Path Forward, and Next Steps

 

Holly Helstrom in the PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication, June, 2018, in Chicago.

After concluding the PRSA Crisis Communication Master Class, participants can optionally take an online examination to assess their mastery of content.

Participants who participate in the two-day Master Class and successfully complete the post examination will receive a Certificate of Completion. Participants with the APR credential earn 4.0 APR Maintenance Credits for a two-day course.

Participants also receive a Master Class workbook and a copy of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis, which was named one of the best crisis management books ever (#2 or 51) by BookAuthority, the world’s leading site for non-fiction recommendations.

Participants will receive a Master Class workbook plus a copy of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis

The cost of the Master Class is $945, or $845 for PRSA members. As of ten days prior to the session there are still a few seats available. You can register by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agony of Decision Now Available as Audio Book

Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press is pleased to announce that The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis is now available as an audio book.

The Agony of Decision was published in July, 2017.  In June, 2018 it was named one of the “51 Best Crisis Management Books of All Time” by Book Authority, the leading resource for nonfiction book recommendations. The book was named #2 of 51 on the list.

Image Source: Book Authority

 

Audio Edition on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes

The Audio Book edition of The Agony of Decision was published in October, 2018 and is available on all the leading audio book platforms.

You can order it on Audible here.

 

You can order it on Amazon here.

And you can order it on iTunes via your iTunes app.

The audio book edition was narrated by Andy Waits.

Logos Institute For Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press

The Agony of Decision is the first book published under the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press imprint as well as the first book in the Logos Institute Best Practices Series.

The series provides conceptual frameworks that help make sense of complicated issues by incorporating case studies, actionable tools, tips, and techniques that help leaders make smart choices and build competitive advantage when it matters most.

The Agony of Decision is about the specific ability leaders need in order to maintain reputation, trust, confidence, financial and operational strength, and competitive advantage in a crisis. This ability is mental readiness which comprises 1) emotional discipline, or the self-control needed to execute necessary but difficult choices, 2) deep knowledge, or an understanding of the patterns that show what works and what doesn’t work in a crisis, and 3) intellectual rigor, or the ability to make smart choices by asking the right questions at the right time.

The Agony of Decision was written by Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership executive director Helio Fred Garcia. He is also the author of three prior books:

 

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Logos Institute Presented Crisis Communication Boot Camp to National Investor Relations Institute

On July 12, Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership executive director Helio Fred Garcia and Institute fellows Adam Tiouririne and Holly Helstrom led a one-day crisis communication boot camp in partnership with the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI).

The boot camp drew investor and public relations professionals from all over the U.S. and from a wide range of industries, including entertainment and aerospace defense. With 12 participants with such varied backgrounds, this lent itself to a day full of enriched discussion and debate.

The session began with participants being asked to reflect on their learning objectives for the day, as well as their greatest concerns respective to their organizations’ crisis preparedness. From there, Helio Fred Garcia covered the essential principles of effective crisis response, as well as case studies that bring these principles to life, including the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and United Airlines/Dr. Dao crisis. Adam went on to explain the significant connections between language and emotional response and led the group through an in-class exercise where they got to develop crisis response plans for their respective organizations. Holly finished up the day covering the importance of striking the appropriate tone in crisis communication, especially when dealing with social media-related crises.

The participants walked away with fresh perspectives on what a crisis actually is, a deeper understanding of the rigor essential to effective crisis response, and greater confidence in their abilities to plan for and respond effectively to crises. Logos Institute also shared at the end of the session many best practices tools and templates for participants to download for free on logosconsulting.net. The tools are systematizations of best practices that created by Logos Institute from years of academic study and real-world practices.

NIRI is the largest investor relations association in the world with more than 3,300 members worldwide; it is a professional association for corporate officers and investor relations consultants who are responsible for communication among corporate management, shareholders, securities analysts and other constituents within the financial community.

Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership stands at the intersection of scholarship and practice, providing both rigorous analysis and practical application of key crisis principles.

Agony of Decision Named One of the Best Crisis Management Books of All Time

The Agony of Decision, written by Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership executive director Helio Fred Garcia, recently received recognition for being one of the “51 Best Crisis Management Books of All Time” by Book Authority, the leading resource for nonfiction book recommendations. The Agony of Decision earned the number two spot on the list of 51 books.

Image Source: Book Authority

Book Authority ratings are calculated using a sophisticated algorithm, taking into account signals such as:

  • Public mentions of the book
  • Recommendations, ratings and reviews
  • Analyzing user behavior and sentiment
  • Sales history and velocity
  • Book age, information and editions

Book Authority has been featured on CNN, Forbes, and Inc. and serves millions of book recommendations monthly.

 

Additionally, Book Authority awarded The Agony of Decision   a badge of recognition for being one of the Best New Crisis Management Books of 2018.

The Agony of Decision is available as in both paperback and Kindle e-book editions, here.

Image source: Twitter

 

Logos Institute For Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press

The Agony of Decision is the first book published under the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press imprint as well as the first book in the Logos Institute Best Practices Series.

The series provides conceptual frameworks that help make sense of complicated issues by incorporating case studies, actionable tools, tips, and techniques that help leaders make smart choices and build competitive advantage when it matters most.

The Agony of Decision is about the specific ability leaders need in order to maintain reputation, trust, confidence, financial and operational strength, and competitive advantage in a crisis. This ability is mental readiness which comprises 1) emotional discipline, or the self-control needed to execute necessary but difficult choices, 2) deep knowledge, or an understanding of the patterns that show what works and what doesn’t work in a crisis, and 3) intellectual rigor, or the ability to make smart choices by asking the right questions at the right time.

Since the book’s publication in July 2017, Garcia has spoken with more than 15 organizations and their leaders about The Agony of Decision and the valuable lessons within its pages. Some of these organizations include New York University’s Stern School of Business, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, U.S. Defense Information School, U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command, and National Investor Relations Institute, Public Relations Society of America. Garcia has also discussed concepts from The Agony of Decision in interviews with NASDAQ, CNBC’s Power Lunch, Canada Television News, Canada’s CBC News, and on the five-star rated podcast Women Worldwide aired on C-Suite Radio.

Logos Institute Thought Leadership

Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership stands at the intersection of scholarship and practice, providing rigorous analysis and practical application of key leadership principles.

Institute fellows publish their insights on the Logos Institute blog in addition to pursuing thought leadership avenues beyond the Institute and its publishing imprint. All Logos Institute fellows teach at leading graduate, law, and professional schools, either as members of the faculty or as regularly-scheduled guest speakers.

Adam Tiouririne served as the language analyst for Bloomberg Politics’ coverage of the 2016 U.S. presidential election; from the first primary debates to the convention speeches and inauguration day, he analyzed candidates’ every word for millions of readers worldwide. Kristin Johnson, who spent nearly a decade in escalating roles of global PR agencies before joining Logos Consulting Group, is the co-author of a forthcoming book to be published by Routledge that demystifies the PR agency experience to help those new to the PR industry grow in their careers and as leaders.

Garcia also has a forthcoming book he is co-authoring with John Doorley, the fourth edition of Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication. The fourth edition will feature contributions from Johnson and Logos Institute fellow Holly Helstrom.

Garcia is also the author of The Power of Communication, published in 2012 by Pearson. The book builds on the U.S. Marine Corps’ legendary publication Warfighting, and shows how to apply the Corps’ proven leadership and strategy doctrine to all forms of public communication — and achieve truly extraordinary results.

Logos President Interviews on Women Worldwide Podcast

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Logos Consulting Group president Helio Fred Garcia was a guest on the June 1, 2018 Women Worldwide Podcast hosted by Deirdre Breakenridge. The podcast is also broadcast on the C-Suite Radio Network.

Deirdre Breakenridge, host of Women Worldwide

Breakenridge is the CEO of Pure Performance Communications and the Author of Answers for Modern Communicators: A Guide to Effective Business Communication.

After more than 25 years of mentoring women and professionals in business and communications, Deirdre Breakenridge, an author, speaker, and consultant, launched her podcast, Women Worldwide, on C-Suite Radio to give women, and some men, a voice and platform to discuss their challenging yet rewarding career journeys. Interviewed by Breakenridge, women and men around the globe share their incredible stories; those who have experienced the heights of success and at times, the agony of defeat. With a vision to impart wisdom and to help people to soar to new heights, Women Worldwide uncovers different perspectives and ways for C-Suite listeners to find their inner strength.

 

The interview began with Breakenridge asking Garcia to share his journey as an immigrant to the United States.  Garcia responded,

I guess my journey is what you might call a typical American immigrant journey. I got to this country from Brazil when I was six. I actually arrived one week before first grade. And I didn’t speak a word of English… My first day of school I couldn’t understand what was going on and the teachers just concluded that I was dumb. Because of my appearance — I have fair skin and blue eyes and then had blonde hair — they didn’t see me as the typical Latin American immigrant. They just assumed that I was a dumb kid.”

Garcia described how he was essentially ignored by his teachers for the first five years of school.

“But in sixth grade a very special teacher took me aside on the first day and asked me a bunch of questions. And I have a vivid memory of her just smiling and beaming and her her chin lifting up to the sky and she let out a deep breath and said, ‘My son, you’re not stupid. You don’t speak English. And she realized that for five years I hadn’t failed in school; the school had failed me. And she made me her project.”

Garcia then described how that teacher had kept him after school for 90 minutes every day for a full year.

“We caught up with all the English I hadn’t learned and she had me begin to memorize public documents– the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address.  She had me speak in the front of the room. She had me do elocution. She had me recite so that every syllable could be heard in the back of the room. She had me put marbles in my mouth and do it again so she could hear every syllable. And by the end of that year I was not only caught up, I was way ahead of my classmates.”

After Garcia recounted his personal journey, Breakenridge shifted the discussion to issues arising from Garcia’s latest book, The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis.

You can hear the entire interview here:

 

 

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Logos President Discusses Elon Musk, Leadership, and Temperament on CNBC Power Lunch

Logos Consulting Group president Helio Fred Garcia was interviewed on CNBC’s Power Lunch on Thursday, May 3, 2018, on the implications of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s intemperate comments on an earnings call with investors the previous day.

In that call, among other things, Mr. Musk responded to an analyst’s question about future capital requirements with the comment,

“Excuse me. Next. Boring bonehead questions are not cool,”

That and similar statements caused Business Insider senior transportation correspondent Matthew DeBord to write,

“I’ve listened to a lot of earnings calls with automakers and more than my fair share of Tesla calls presided over by CEO Elon Musk with a mixture of cheerleading and contempt. On Wednesday night, after Tesla reported its first-quarter results, I was treated to easily the most bizarre Muskian performance yet.”

In the aftermath, CNBC Power Lunch invited Garcia to come on the air and offer an analysis of the leadership issues at play.

He was asked by co-anchor Tyler Mathison whether Mr. Musk should hire a top operational executive.  Garcia replied,

“What we saw yesterday was a symptom of a bigger problem. And that is, a tendency of brilliant people to assume that brilliance is enough, where temperament is a necessary ingredient to being an effective leader.

We see that with many companies that are founded by brilliant people who have an inspiring vision and who create disruptive companies, But there comes a point in the life of the company where that isn’t enough. We are seeing that with Mr. Musk.”

Asked whether we’re at that point with Tesla, Garcia responded,

“We are certainly seeing repetitions of the same symptoms, And the symptoms suggest a temperament that doesn’t take seriously the burdens that a leader needs to undertake to run a complicated company after a certain point.

We saw that, for example, with Mr. Jobs in his first incarnation at Apple. We saw that just last month with Mark Zuckerberg when there was a need for leadership in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal but we got a technocrat. We need a good combination of inspiration and temperament and what we’re seeing now is an over-weighting of the inspiration and brilliance and an under-weighting of the temperament.”

Co-anchor Sara Eisen noted that some investors love Tesla because of Mr. Musk and his vision, and others hate Tesla for lack of attention to important operational issues. She asked, which is more important.  Garcia responded,

“It has to be a blend.  We’re actually seeing the same phenomenon in the political environment as well. Not to talk about politics, but we see the same symptoms. Where we need the right blend of temperament and vision. And one of the challenges with some of the smartest people in the room is they tend to not respect the people whom they consider to less smart than they. As a result we get derisive language toward a stakeholder group that is critically important for the success of the company, be it investors, or employees, or regulators, or others.

And we saw a similar response to a question to the President last week, when he said ‘That’s a stupid question.’ The derision shown to people who have legitimate concerns is what’s going to lead to loss of trust

You can see the whole interview here:

Musk’s temperament not right to be CEO: Expert from CNBC.

In addition to his client work through Logos Consulting Group Garcia is an adjunct professor of management at NYU’s Stern School of Business Executive MBA program, where he teaches crisis management. He also teaches crisis communication in NYU’s School of Professional Studies MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.  He is also an adjunct associate professor in Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering, where he teaches crisis management, ethics, and leadership in the Professional Development and Leadership Program.

Garcia is the author most recently of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis, available in both paperback and as an e-book from Kindle here.

Logos President Quoted by Major Media on Facebook’s Crisis Response Failure

Logos President Helio Fred Garcia was quoted extensively by major media in the March/April 2018 timeframe about Facebook’s ineffective crisis response regarding Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook users’ data.

The crisis broke Friday evening, March 16, and Facebook’s initial response was muted and legalistic.  Between Friday night and Tuesday morning Facebook stock was down 9 percent, losing more than $50 billion in market value.

Garcia was quoted first by Bloomberg View’s Kara Alaimo. In her piece, titled Facebook’s PR Crisis Is a Mess of Its Own Making – Transparency is the best policy for one simple reason: The truth always comes out,” Alaimo says,

One reason Facebook may have decided to withhold the information for so long is that it was trying to figure out how to prevent such episodes from happening again. However, companies don’t need to resolve a problem fully before they disclose it.

 

Helio Fred Garcia, president of the Logos Consulting Group and author of “The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis,” says that a company determining how to address a crisis should ask itself this question: “What would reasonable people appropriately expect a responsible organization or leader to do when facing this kind of situation?”

She added,

Reasonable people wouldn’t expect a company that just learned that its data has been improperly shared to have developed a full plan within minutes to prevent such a situation from recurring. They would, however, expect the company to be transparent, express remorse, pledge to take action to prevent the problem from happening again, and follow up with an announcement about what it was doing to solve the underlying issue. If Facebook had done this, it wouldn’t be dealing with the mess it’s in today.

Garcia was also interviewed by the Associated Press. In its story titled “Crisis Management: What Not to Do,” appeared initially in The Washington Post.

The AP story says,

The point is to at least make an effort to seem remorseful to win back public trust, experts say. But despite user outcry on its own Facebook page and a call from Congress for Zuckerberg to testify about Facebook’s role in election-meddling, Facebook seems to be charting its own course.

 

It’s a pattern Facebook has long followed, said Helio Fred Garcia, a professor of crisis management at NYU and Columbia University in New York. Facebook hedged during its early days in 2007 over a controversial advertising program called Beacon that did not alert users it was sharing their activity, and it did so again in its response to Russian bots hijacking Facebook ad software during the Trump campaign in 2016.

 

“Facebook has been too late. Facebook has done too little and has been too legalistic’ each time, Garcia said. ‘I have yet to find a crisis Facebook handled that I could stand in front of crisis management classes and say, ‘Here’s an example of how to handle a crisis.’ They’ve never been able to handle a crisis.”

 

Once Zuckerberg addresses the public, the PR flap may eventually be forgotten. But it will take a lot longer than if the company had addressed public concerns immediately, Garcia said.

 

“It’s much harder to restore trust once it has been lost than to preserve trust before it has been lost,” he said.

About an hour after the original AP story appeared, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, released his first written public comment. The AP interviewed Garcia for his reaction, and then updated its story to include Mr. Zuckerberg’s statement and Garcia’s comments on it.

“My biggest skepticism is that we’ve seen this play before,” said Helio Fred Garcia, a professor of crisis management at NYU and Columbia University in New York. “They’re caught coming short of customers’ privacy expectations. They tweak procedures. But they  don’t seem to learn from mistakes, don’t really seem to care.”

That night Mr. Zuckerberg made his firs personal public statement, on an exclusive interview on CNN. You can see the entire interview here. The Associated Press asked Garcia to comment on the interview. It reported:

“On Wednesday, the generally reclusive Zuckerberg sat for an interview on CNN and conducted several more with other outlets, addressing reports that Cambridge Analytica purloined the data of more than 50 million Facebook users in order to sway elections. The Trump campaign paid the firm $6 million during the 2016 election, although it has since distanced itself from Cambridge.

 

Zuckerberg apologized for a ‘major breach of trust,’ admitted mistakes and outlined steps to protect users following Cambridge’s data grab. His mea culpa on cable television came a few hours after he acknowledged his company’s mistakes in a Facebook post, but without saying he was sorry.

‘I am really sorry that happened,’ Zuckerberg said on CNN. Facebook has a ‘responsibility’ to protect its users’ data, he added, noting that if it fails, ‘we don’t deserve to have the opportunity to serve people.’

While several experts said Zuckerberg took an important step with the CNN interview, few were convinced that he put the Cambridge issue behind hm. Zuckerberg’s apology, for instance, seemed rushed and pro forma to Helio Fred Garcia, a crisis-management professor at NYU and Columbia University.

‘He didn’t acknowledge the harm or potential harm to the affected users,” Garcia said. “I doubt most people realized he was apologizing.’

The next morning Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News interviewed Garcia and asked him to grade Mr. Zuckerberg’s apology.

Garcia said,

‘The most charitable grade I can give Mr. Zuckerberg for last night’s interview would be a B-minus. But it’s in a context where an A was necessary to get out of the mess that he is in. That interview called for leadership and confidence and commitment. And we got something just short of that.’

Regarding the apology itself, I’m really sorry that this happened, “Garcia said,

‘When I heard that I said, Gosh, I hope that’s the only time we hear Sorry in this interview. Because he didn’t say what he was sorry for, he didn’t say whom he was sorry to, he did not say it in a manner that suggested regret or remorse. He suggested it in a way that he seemed to be getting through it and checking off a box.  Even the word ‘sorry,’ he swallowed the word when he pronounced it. Someone would have been forgiven for not noticing the apology. And he didn’t repeat it later in the interview.’

Asked about testifying before Congress, Mr. Zuckerberg said that he’d testify to Congress if it was the right thing to do, but that his inclination was to send the person at Facebook who had the most detailed knowledge on the topic that Congress wants to speak about. And that if that were him, he’d be happy to testify. Asked what he heard in that statement, Garcia said,

‘I heard an opportunity where a leader is needed and instead we heard from a technocrat. The burden of leadership is to represent the company to those who matter the most… The leader’s duty is to represent the company.  He is speaking as if it’s about an exchange of knowledge, but Congressional testimony is about leadership accountability, and that’s what was missing here.’

Asked about Facebook’s response to the crisis, Garcia said,

‘One of my criticisms of Facebook in general is that we’ve seen this play before. We saw it eleven years ago with their first first big crisis involving a product called Beacon, where the pattern was silence, then, oh, it’s not that bad, and then an apology and then a tweaking of procedure.  We saw it again after the Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook for privacy violations. The same pattern: Silence and then acknowledgement and then a kind of apology and then a tweak in procedures. We saw it after the Russian advertising in the American political process scandal last year.

 

This pattern happens again and again.  I give them credit for saying ‘We got it wrong.’ I give them credit for saying ‘We’ve got to get it right.’ That’s why it gets to a B-minus.  But the idea that 50 million customers had their information compromised and that Facebook knew about it three years ago, and only now commits to notify those who were affected that they may have been affected, that is a failure. It is a failure of leadership and a failure of responsibility.’

You can watch the entire interview here.

The following week, on March 27, Garcia was interviewed live by Canada’s CTV News on what Zuckerberg apparent hesitation to commit to testify before a Senate committee on April 10, two weeks later, but rather offering to send Facebook technical experts instead.  Garcia said,

‘This is a moment that calls for leadership.  But Mr. Zuckerberg is behaving like a technocrat. It is the duty of the CEO to represent the company to all who matter. And a parliamentary hearing, a congressional hearing, calls for a leader to be there, for the boss to be there. Congressional hearings are not about a transfer of knowledge. Congressional hearings are about accountability and and responsibility. Now if Mr. Zuckerberg were to show up with his technical experts, that would be fine. But he seems to be evading an important responsibility of being the CEO.’

Asked what the hesitation could be about and whether Mr. Zuckerberg would be getting counsel from lawyers, Garcia said,

‘I would assume that that’s the case. One of the things we know is that congressional hearings aren’t merely about public policy. They are also about politicians using the bully pulpit of a congressional hearing to show themselves to be tough, and to be tough on companies that are seen to be behaving inappropriately. And can see the human impulse to want to avoid that kind of embarrassment, but that’s the one of the burdens of leadership, to face into the difficult situations.  The idea that he would not appear in front of a congressional committee when his stock has lost already more than $100 billion in value, when customers are worrying about whether Facebook has misappropriated their data, these are all very concerning things and he is not behaving the way a CEO is supposed to behave.’

He was asked whether this is the beginning of the end, and whether the world could continue without Facebook, Garcia replied,

‘The company has made the wrong choice at every turning point since the crisis began. And the crisis began three years ago when they discovered that 50 million customers had their information misappropriated and chose not to notify those customers. They didn’t commit to notifying those customers until a week ago. The company is facing a critical turning point. There was a time when I couldn’t live without Blockbuster Video. That time has passed. There was a time when I couldn’t live without Borders bookstore. That time has passed. And it is completely within the control of the leaders at Facebook whether Facebook remains relevant and trusted. But for that they are going to have to step up in this turning point because if they fail to step up someone will build a better mousetrap and people will move to a different platform.

You can see the entire interview here.

On Sunday, April 1, the Associated Press quoted Garcia on the preparation Mr. Zuckerberg would likely need to do before his scheduled April 11 testimony. As it appeared in Mr. Zuckerberg’s hometown newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle, the story quoted and paraphrased Garcia as follows:

“Helio Fred Garcia, who as president of Logos Consulting Group has prepped unnamed banking, pharmaceutical and other executives, said a CEO client of his went through a mock hearing in which someone said very harsh things to rattle him. He was shown video of his expression to make sure he wouldn’t replicate it in front of the Senate. The verdict? ‘He kept his job, so it went fine,’ Garcia said.”

It added,

“CEOs may be used to getting their own way, but they aren’t in control during hearings. Garcia said that can cause them ‘a great deal of distress.’

Zuckerberg has to understand he’s a target and swallow his pride. His job isn’t to try to persuade the senators of anything, but to let senators express their anger.

‘This isn’t an educational forum,’ Garcia said. ‘It’s a highly ritualized piece of theater.’

It continued,

“At the same time, Zuckerberg can’t get too bogged down in technical explanations, Garcia said. A hearing puts the spotlight on leadership and accountability, not technical details. Garcia said Zuckerberg has to ‘speak in leadership terms: ‘This was a massive failure and I apologize.””

April 11, the day of the Senate hearing, Garcia was again quoted by Associated Press.  As appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post, Garcia was quoted assessing Mr. Zuckerberg’s testimony as follows:

[The senators] allowed Zuckerberg to repeat his talking points — that Facebook doesn’t own or sell users data, that he and other senior executives weren’t proactive enough with Cambridge Analytica but they’ve changed that, and that using artificial intelligence in elections to stop fake accounts is a top priority.

The result?

“He’s giving the same responses to the same questions from different senators,” said Helio Fred Garcia, a professor of crisis management at NYU and Columbia University in New York.

Zuckerberg seemed often to retreat to three “safe havens,” Garcia said:

One, diffusing responsibility to his “team.”

Two, when pressed on policy issues, agreeing to a principle without committing to details.

And three, never failing in answering questions to start by addressing the questioner as “senator” or “congressman.”

“He’s diligent in showing deference and respect,” Garcia said.

In addition to his client work through Logos Consulting Group Garcia is an adjunct professor of management at NYU’s Stern School of Business Executive MBA program, where he teaches crisis management. He also teaches crisis communication in NYU’s School of Professional Studies MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.  He is also an adjunct associate professor in Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering, where he teaches crisis management, ethics, and leadership in the Professional Development and Leadership Program.

Garcia is the author most recently of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis, available in both paperback and as an e-book from Kindle here.