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Friends,

I founded Logos Consulting Group twenty years ago – in September 2002. I was 45 years old. My kids were 11 and 7.

Looking back, the Fall of 2002 was quite a time to take such a leap. It was a time of turmoil. In New York City. In the nation. In the world.

2002 Turmoil

The 9/11 attacks, just one year earlier, had shattered the nation’s sense of security. The United States military had gone into Afghanistan soon after the attack, where it would remain for 20 years. Excavation of the World Trade Center site was completed in May, but the smell of death and a sense of sadness continued to linger in the city.

By September 2002, President George W. Bush and his senior advisors were banging the drum about the need to invade Iraq. They lied to the American people. They conflated the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, with Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein. They warned that the next smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud, claiming falsely that Iraq had a nuclear capability and the desire to use it against the U.S.

Massive protests against invading Iraq began in September and continued for months. On one day alone, February 15, 2003, fully half a million people marched in protest in New York City; 15 million people protested that day in 800 cities around the world. At the United Nations some of our closest allies argued strenuously that it would be a mistake to invade Iraq. When the French foreign minister suggested at the United Nations that the U.S. was behaving impulsively, and the Security Council declined to pass an authorization to go to war, the Administration attacked France. President Bush said that our purported allies were either “for us or against us.” It turned petty: the U.S. House of Representatives cafeteria stopped calling its fried potatoes “French fries” and instead referred to them as “Freedom fries.” And the United States – with allies whom it called “the coalition of the willing” – invaded Iraq in March 2003.

The nation was also still in the midst of a severe recession triggered by the 2000 collapse of the dot-com bubble. Irrational exuberance had pumped up the stock of new tech companies that had yet to make a profit. Then a crash lost nearly 50 percent of the stock market’s value.

A series of corporate scandals had also shaken Americans’ confidence in corporate leadership. Enron, Arthur Andersen, Adelphia, WorldCom, and many others were caught committing massive fraud and dishonesty. Arthur Anderson was prosecuted and went out of business. Executives of other companies went to prison. Congress passed the Corporate Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, commonly known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Logos 

It was into this environment that I founded Logos: with no clients, no employees, and estranged from my employer of 12 years and mentor of 17 years. But with a sense of purpose. With a mission to help people become leaders who can ignite and inspire change in the world for the better.

Within four days we got our first client: A major commodities exchange whose CEO needed coaching. Then an UN-affiliated peacebuilding organization. Then a data services company being investigated by the SEC – our first crisis client, and for the first year our largest one. Then a prominent life sciences company. Then a large insurance company. Then a giant investment bank. By January 2003, we were a real firm. Before we moved into our first office space in 2007, we joked that my kitchen table was Logos Consulting Group’s World Headquarters. Two gifted colleagues joined the firm and helped to establish Logos as a credible advisor to senior leaders when the stakes are high.

In the 20 years since, we’ve benefitted from the gifts of many other people who came to and through Logos. We’ve worked for more than 300 clients – including some of the biggest and best-known companies and organizations in the world. Some have remained our clients for all this time. And we’ve been on the ground in dozens of countries.

Two years after we were founded, we created the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership, our think tank, executive education, and publishing arm. We’ve written books that have been published in three languages. After 15 years, we established the Logos Institute Press to publish other authors’ leadership books. We’ve taught at prominent universities and professional schools on three continents. And in 2021 we launched the Logos Learning Center to provide online training to individuals looking to bolster their leadership skills.

Continued Turmoil

About ten years ago we noticed a troubling trend and warned clients about it: an outbreak of incivility in society at large that we worried would spill into our clients’ workplaces and interfere with their business operations.

We saw that trend get worse in 2015 as political leaders dehumanized and demonized groups and rivals with deadly consequence. The FBI warned of a surge of opportunistic violence and hate crimes against targeted groups. The violence then metastasized into organized acts of terrorism. In June 2020, I published a book warning about this trend and its likely escalation.

Six months later, we saw a violent attack on the Capitol in an attempt to overturn a free and fair election.

Also in mid-2020, as the world grappled with an emerging pandemic, the United States government violated its own public health guidelines and politicized the pandemic response. A combination of incompetence, dishonesty, and neglect led to the worst pandemic response in the industrialized world, and to the preventable deaths of more than three quarters of a million Americans. And to death threats and acts of violence against public health experts and political leaders who counseled good public health practices. My next book is about this massive failure of leadership, which I call the single worst-handled crisis in American history.

2022 Turmoil

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called misinformation the nation’s leading cause of death. It noted that the surge of misinformation about the pandemic, masks, and vaccines led to hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths, especially among the unvaccinated or under-vaccinated.

And the world was thrown into turmoil earlier this year when Vladimir Putin’s Russia invaded Ukraine, and the world responded with the strictest economic sanctions against Russia. This led to a spike in oil prices and food shortages in much of the world. And now Russia itself is in turmoil as citizens resist the draft requiring them to fight in what Russia still refuses to call a war.

We see turmoil also in Iran, as citizens, especially women, take to the streets to protest the killing in police custody of a female Iranian citizen arrested for improperly wearing a hijab.

And in the United States the political divide has intensified further. The divide has been fueled by the Big Lie about the 2020 election, the embrace of conspiracy theories, and calls for violence if the former president – now facing an array of legal troubles – should be indicted.

Onward

And so, Logos begins our twenty-first year as we did our first, navigating through the turmoil. And helping our clients do the same. We are gratified that when the stakes are high clients turn to us.

Now more than ever society needs leaders equipped to inspire, to ignite people to overcome the turmoil, to push back against misinformation, and to build stronger organizations.

Now more than ever leaders know the consequences of poorly handled crises, and that there is a rigor to responding effectively and quickly in a crisis.

Now more than ever there is need to exercise leadership well. The stakes are that high.

Thank you for your confidence in Logos Consulting Group through the last 20 years. And thank you for your continued encouragement and support.

 

This is reflective piece is part of our 20th anniversary celebration. Throughout this anniversary year, we will be sharing a series of reflections on the shifts and trends we have been following in business and in the world over the past twenty years, as well as advice to leaders and organization navigating through the challenges we see today.

The Feeling

For most of us, the days start the same way. You turn over, turn off your alarm, and then check your phone or email notifications.

Most of the time, the notifications you find are the typical daily intrusions or distractions.

But imagine this. One day you read the email, urgent text chain, social media feed, or news story and you discover that your organization has found itself in a crisis that has the potential to jeopardize the future of the organization. A future you and your colleagues have worked so hard to create.

Maybe it is a crisis you had foreseen.

Maybe it takes you completely by surprise.

But in that first moment, you feel the walls coming down around you. For many, a heavy feeling hits them in the gut and weight compresses their chest. A question inevitably sets in:

What are we going to do?

The feelings of fear and desperation are real. In that initial moment, panic quickly sets in and it may feel like the end of the world.

That feeling is okay. In fact, it is natural. In another blog, I will explain the neuroscience behind what’s happening to your brain and your body, and why you feel what you feel during a crisis, including the immediate inability to make rational decisions. (Check back on our site for the release of this blog.)

In the meantime, I’d like to talk through some things you can focus on right now, so you know how to move past that initial flash of panic and gain ability to make decisions. The goal is that in that moment of crisis you are able to move forward and respond to what is happening calmly, clearly, and effectively.

The key to doing so is readiness.

Readiness

Readiness determines how an organization responds to a crisis. The common misconception is that the severity of the inciting incident determines the response. However, when properly prepared and applying the right mindset, your level of readiness will be the deciding factor of whether or not the organization will get through a crisis unscathed and stronger than before.

Most organizations have some structures of operational readiness to respond to a crisis. But the truth is that well-built structures alone are not enough in moments of crisis. That is why so many companies that have well-built structures of operational readiness still fail to respond to a crisis effectively and suffer meaningful harm as a result.

The key is combining operational readiness with mental readiness.

Mental Readiness

Effective crisis response is a combination of both operational readiness and mental readiness. This combination equates to the ability to make smart choices quickly and execute them well in a crisis. Mental readiness helps people faced with crises respond calmly, think clearly, and make smart choices when it matters most.

Mental readiness consists of three parts:

Emotional Discipline. The ability to regulate your emotions to execute decisions well in moments of crisis. In a crisis, making smart choices in timely ways is not always easy. Sometimes there is no good choice, free of pain or discomfort. Sometimes there is only the least bad choice, which may involve discomfort to you but will ultimately serve your stakeholders (those who matter to your organization) the most. Discipline and practice is required to remain calm and make the difficult, but necessary choices.

Deep Knowledge. The understanding of the patterns that drive effective and ineffective crisis response, including why some actions always work while some other actions never work. By studying as many different crises as possible, you are able to learn from others’ mistakes without having to live those mistakes yourself.

Intellectual Rigor. The ability to think clearly and ask the right questions in the right order in order to identify the problem accurately and understand the best course of action forward. The ability to remain focused and ask the right questions, rather than letting distraction take hold, enables you to make smart choices quickly.

By building your mental readiness for moments of crisis, you will be able to foresee crises that are foreseeable. You will be able to assess unforeseen crises and respond effectively as they arise. And you will be able to move past that initial moment of panic when the crisis breaks to lead your team through what needs to happen next.

This is part of a series of blogs on crisis response principles. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series.

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Did you find this article helpful? Sign up for one of our Logos Learning Center webinars, where you can learn more about how you can reach your leadership potential. Learn more at www.logos-consutling.biz.

Reach out today for personalized coaching by visiting www.logosconsulting.net or email the author directly at mzheng@logosconsulting.net.


About Maida Kalić Zheng

Maida is an Advisor at Logos Consulting Group and a Senior Fellow at the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership, where she helps corporate leaders maximize presence and enhance communication skills to become more effective in managing both their reputations and relationships. She also serves as the Chief of Client Services.

 

 

About Logos Consulting Group

Leaders change the world. But they don’t do it alone. They ignite others toward a common cause. At Logos Consulting Group, we believe in this world and we see this world in the work that we do. Our mission is to build a better world by equipping people to become leaders who ignite change in the world for the good. We do this by helping our clients inspire those who matter to them to make a difference in their own industries and communities, and the world at large. We advise and coach our clients in three key areas: crisis managementcrisis communication; and executive coaching.

On January 19, 2021, Logos Associate Holly Helstrom was quoted in a Forbes article about the struggle many organizations are facing around COVID-19 vaccination policies. The article details how companies are split in terms of whether or not to require employees to get the vaccine respectively.

Helstrom, an Adjunct Instructor at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering who teaches a course on First Amendment rights for employees, explained that an employer has the legal right to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine policy if they’re a private sector at-will employer.

“Refusal to get a Covid-19 vaccine if your employer is requiring one could get you fired and your employer would be within their legal rights to do so,” said Helstrom.

Helstrom advised organizations to use its values to guide vaccination decisions. “Having clarity on one’s values, whether from the employer or employee perspective, can make the decision easier,” she said. “If individual liberty is more important to you than job security, your decision when navigating this question as an employee will be much easier.”

Read the full article here.

On January 18, 2021, Logos Associate Holly Helstrom was quoted in an article on Digiday about how businesses can navigate the need for COVID-19 vaccination policies. Helstrom, an Adjunct Instructor at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering who teaches a course on First Amendment rights for employees, explained that an employer has the legal right to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine policy if they’re a private sector at-will employer.

Helstrom explained, “Employers can and have fired employees based on lifestyle choices related to their health, including if they smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol.” She continued, “Refusal to get a Covid vaccine if your employer is requiring one could get you fired, and your employer would be within their legal rights to do so.”

Read the full article here.

On January 13, 2021, Logos President Helio Fred Garcia was quoted in an article in CEO Blog Nation about key takeaways from 2020. In the article, 20 entrepreneurs and business owners from across industries shared the tough lessons they learned during 2020. For Garcia, his 2020 takeaway was to take risks seriously.

“2020 has been a year of crisis – both because of the pandemic and the crises that have stemmed out of our response to the pandemic,” Garcia explained. “We have seen that governments, industries, and businesses that took the risks of the pandemic seriously were able to adapt quickly to mitigate those risks; those who didn’t take the risks seriously often failed to respond to the crisis in a timely and effective ways with harmful results. As we go into 2021, we need to take risks seriously and do all that we can to mitigate those risks quickly.”

Read the full article here.

On January 12, 2021, Logos Advisor and Chief of Client Services Maida K. Zheng was quoted in an article on the importance of benchmarking in business operations in Business News Daily. The article describes the importance of different types of benchmarking for organizations across industries. Zheng noted the importance of competitive benchmarking, or setting goals based on what competitors are doing, for both internal and external decision-making.

“If you want to stay ahead of the competition and create the most desirable work environment for your employees, understanding what your competitors are doing is not only common sense, but imperative,” said Zheng. “Employees will know they should stay with a company if they have an opportunity for growth — monetary and skill — and they know their employer is keeping up or staying ahead of competition.”

Read the full article here.

On December 7, 2020, Logos Associate Holy Helstrom was quoted in a Legal Zoom article by Stephanie Kurose about the start-up boom emerging in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the article, Helstrom explained how a moment of global crisis has become an opportunity for start-ups to emerge and thrive.

“There is the old saying, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and never was it more true than in our coronavirus times,” she noted. “COVID-19’s sudden and dramatic arrival made it very apparent very quickly what people and organizations need to do to succeed and stay healthy in the new world we are living in”

Helstrom continued: “New circumstances create new needs. Startups are responding quickly to this call to fill in the gaps in our economy.”

Read the full article here.

On November 12, 2020, Logos President Helio Fred Garcia offered his insights on why contracts are important tools for coaches on Awarenow. Awarenow is a business management platform for coaching organizations. The article, “3 Ways Coaches Can Use Contracts and Why Every Coach Needs Them,” harvested advice from more than a dozen industry leaders on the purpose of and best practices for contracts for coaches.

Garcia highlighted the ways that contracts can help set and enforce expectations between a coach and their client, protecting both parties in turn: “Contracts are tools to set expectations between the coach and the client. For clients, it determines what services they can expect to receive, for how much, and over what period of time. For coaches, contracts protect them from over-servicing clients and being underpaid.” He continued, “If there is ever disagreement or confusion, both parties have something objective to refer back to.”

Read the full article here.