Posts

New York, NY (April 14th, 2020) – The Chinese language edition of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis by Helio Fred Garcia has been published by the Posts & Telecom Press, a leading publisher of business and non-fiction titles in China. The publisher has positioned the book as an essential tool for Chinese leaders in all sectors to help restore trust and confidence of stakeholders lost in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am thrilled that this edition of The Agony of Decision is available at a moment of unprecedented crisis,” said Garcia. “As the recovery from COVID-19 continues, there is an opportunity to regain trust that has been lost and note the lessons that this pandemic has taught not only China, but the world.”

The Agony of Decision is the first title published by Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press in July 2017. The Chinese language title is 从危到机: 危机中的决策之痛与领导之术.

The Chinese edition was translated from English by Xinyin Lu, deputy director, 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.

You can learn more about the English edition here. The Chinese edition is available as a physical book, an e-book, and an audio book at all major Chinese online markets, including DangdangJDTaobao (Alibaba), and Amazon China.

For media inquiries, please reach out to Maida K. Zheng, mzheng@logosconsulting.net or at 646-338-0422.

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.

 *  *  *

New York, NY (Sep. 30, 2018) – The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis by Helio Fred Garcia is now available as an audio book, narrated by Andy Waits. Earlier this year, The Agony of Decision was named # 2 on the list of the “51 Best Crisis Management Books of All Time” by Book Authority, the leading resource for nonfiction book recommendations.

“I’m pleased that The Agony of Decision is now available as an audiobook,” said Garcia. “I hope that, through this new format, more readers will be inspired to develop the mental readiness required to think clearly, make smart choices, and execute those choices effectively during a crisis.”

The Agony of Decision was published in 2017, the first book published under the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press imprint. It is also the first book in the Logos Institute Best Practices Series.

The audiobook edition of The Agony of Decision is available on all the leading audiobook platforms. You can find it on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

New York, NY (June 27, 2018) – The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis by Helio Fred Garcia was recognized one of the best crisis management books of all time. Agony of Decision is #2 on the list of the “51 Best Crisis Management Books of All Time” by Book Authority, the leading resource for nonfiction book recommendations.

“I’m honored to find out that the Agony of Decision was given this recognition,” said Garcia, “I hope this book will continue to help leaders think clearly and make smart choices in a crisis.”

Book Authority has been featured on CNN, Forbes, and Inc. and serves millions of book recommendations monthly. Ratings for the best crisis management book of all time are calculated using a sophisticated algorithm, taking into account signals such as:

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

Book Authority awarded also 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 on Amazon.

New York, NY (Nov. 17, 2017) – On Thursday, November 16, 2017, the Logos Institute for Crisis Management & Executive Leadership honored America’s Crisis Guru ®, James E. Lukaszewski with the inaugural Outstanding Leader Award. That evening, nearly 50 communication industry professionals came together to celebrate Lukaszewski’s storied career and contributions to the field.

The Outstanding Leader Award recognizes established industry professionals for their consequential professional achievements that set the aspirational standard for others, and the recipient’s excellence in the use of strategic communication to achieve professional or business objectives with substantial and positive results. Recipients also possess the impressive ability to inspire and empower others through their status as role models, trusted advisors, and visionaries.

 

“When considering who to honor with our inaugural Outstanding Leader Award, Jim was our immediate first thought,” said Helio Fred Garcia, president of Logos Consulting Group. “Jim has not only set a high standard through his decades of leadership as America’s Crisis Guru, but his scholarship and mentorship of others, including myself, has made a lasting impact on field.”

For more than four decades, Lukaszewski has helped senior leaders facing crisis get through challenges with focus, ethics, and decisive action. President and Chairman of the Board of The Lukaszewski Group Inc., Lukaszewski is a highly regarded leader in crisis management and strategic communication. In addition to advising to those “at the top,” Lukaszewski has also dedicated much of his career to sharing his wisdom and time with students and young professionals only starting their careers. With 13 books and hundreds of articles and monographs authored, his mentorship and leadership influence have easily touched thousands.

“I want to have an important, constructive impact on the lives of people and organizations I help. My ultimate goal in working with other PR professionals or staff members is to help them learn to have happier, successful, and more important and influential lives,” said Lukaszewski. “I’m honored these efforts are recognized by Logos.”

New York, NY (July 20, 2017) – Today, the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press is pleased to announce the release of our first publication, The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis by Helio Fred Garcia. This is the first volume  of Logos Institute Best Practice Series.

The Agony of Decision is about how leaders and the organizations they lead can maintain reputation, trust, confidence, financial and operational strength, and competitive advantage in a crisis.

“A wise man once said, the only meaningful way to escape the agony of decision is by thinking,” said Garcia, “that’s why I felt the necessity of writing this book — to help leaders think clearly, plan carefully, and execute effectively when facing high-stakes decisions.”

Through Garcia’s 30-plus years of professional involvement in thousands of crises affecting companies, governments, NGOs, and other organizations, he has discovered that the real value in resolving crises is not in excellent internal and external communication, nor in highest-quality tactical execution, however important they may be. Rather, the real value comes from helping clients figure out and answer the bigger questions and then make the tough choices in a timely way. The execution would follow. So would the communication.

This book is for leaders of organizations who need to be good stewards of reputation, trust, and competitive advantage; and for those who advise those leaders, whether in public relations, law, or other business disciplines. We hope you find it helpful.

The book is now available on Amazon for individual or bulk orders.

New York, NY (Dec. 23, 2016) – Logos Consulting Group president Helio Fred Garcia co-authored an analysis of one of South Korea’s biggest crises of 2016 in Korea’s leading business journal, Dong-A Business Review. The analysis was co-authored with Dr. Hoh Kim, founder, head coach, and facilitator at THE LAB h in Seoul, Korea.

The article examines the crises surrounding The Lotte Group, one of Korea’s leading industrial conglomerates. In October Lotte Group’s Chairman, Shin Dong-bin, was indicted on tax evasion, embezzlement, and other charges. His sister, Shin Young Ja, was arrested several months before for embezzlement and bribery. The article outlined a reputation management framework that other Korean conglomerates can employ when facing similar circumstances.

“It was a great learning opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Kim,” said Garcia. “I’m pleased to find out that regardless of cultural differences, the patterns of what works and what doesn’t in crisis response are universal.”

Dr. Kim, former head of Edelman’s Korea office, is a certified trainer in the Cialdini Method developed by Dr. Robert Cialdini, and a certified coach in the Marshall Goldsmith Certified Stakeholder Centered Coaching method.  Dr. Kim is the primary author of the Dong-A Business Review analysis.

You can download the complete original Korean language version of the analysis here.

The book Garcia co-authored with John Doorley, Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication, was translated into Korean and published as Reputation Management Strategy in Korea by Alma Press in 2016.

New York, NY (Dec. 14, 2016) – Logos Institute President Helio Fred Garcia was a keynote speaker at the U.S. Air Force Worldwide Public Affairs Conference in Washington, DC on December 6, 2016.

The conference, last held five years ago, is an opportunity for about 300 of the 5,500 U.S. Air Force public affairs officers to hear from commanders about priorities, learn and share best practices, and attend workshops on specific skills.

The four-day conference included presentations from a range of military and civilian speakers, including the commanding general of Air Force Public Affairs, Brigadier General Ed Thomas and the Secretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Deborah Lee James. 

“I’m honored to be one of the speakers,” Garcia said, “I hope the decision criteria Logos developed will guide leaders in the U.S. Air Force through crises and emerge with stakeholders’ trust.”

Garcia has been advising elements of the U.S. military for more than 25 years.  His primary military client is the U.S. Marine Corps, but over the years he has also worked with all branches of the U.S. armed forces through various joint commands.  He is also a contract teacher at the U.S. Defense Information School, in Fort Meade, Maryland, where, among other branches, he teaches Air Force Public Affairs officers.

 View from the 23rd Floor by Laurel HartAt least so far, March is acting more lamb than lion here in New York City, but we’ll see what the rest of the month brings.

  • WikiLeaks: The first of a new set of emails obtained by WikiLeaks was released last week, with additional analysis from news organizations expected in the coming weeks.
  • Boycotts, Reputation and Bottom Line: With boycotts a recurring topic, this research from last fall caught our eye this past week: professor Brayden King at the Kellogg School at Northwestern University showed that “the stock price of a targeted company dropped nearly 1 percent for each day of national print media coverage.”  In addition, he found that “even if consumer behavior was unchanged by a boycott, a company’s stock price and reputation were not.” In addition, “25 percent [of boycotts generated] a concession from the target company.”
  • Limbaugh and Apology: There were ample examples of apologies and corporate statements surrounding the Limbaugh controversy this past week, including from Limbaugh himself, and former advertisers Carbonite, ProFlowers, Citrix, and others.
  • Facebook Assessment Tool: We’re fans of the US Air Force Web Posting Response Assessment, a helpful tool in evaluating online content, and were pleased to see this new Facebook assessment worksheet and checklist from the US Navy on evaluating strategy, administration, content, measurement and more, on David Rosen’s blog.
  • Newspapers and New Business Models: Newly released research from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found “for every $1 gained in digital, $7 are lost in print revenue,” highlighting the challenges many newspapers face in implementing new business models today.

“Plan for what is difficult when it is most easy,

do what is great while it is small.

The most difficult things in the world must be done

while they are still easy,

the greatest things in the world must be done

while they are still small.”

The Tao-te Ching, or The Way and Its Power

Lao Tzu (604-581 BCE)

….

Let’s simply stipulate that BP’s response to its disaster in the Gulf is shaping up to be the new standard for mishandled crises.

We’ll continue to harvest how-not-to lessons from BP as long as Tony Hayward continues to talk,  the oil continues to flow, and beaches, fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, and livelihoods remain at risk.

But what are the deeper lessons?

I believe the key is this: The seeds of what happened after the April 20 explosion were planted well before April 20.

To harvest the most meaningful lessons from BP requires us to look at the sequence of events leading to the fire, explosion, collapse of the rig, death of 11 workers, and the surge of oil into the Gulf.

Prevention More Important Than Response

However important getting crisis response right may be, crisis prevention is even more important.

BP got both spectacularly wrong.

Read more