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LOGOS IN THE NEWS: Helio Fred Garcia Interviewed by MarketScale

On February 9, 2021, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia was interviewed by MarketScale about the decision for Boeing’s 737 MAX to return to service for commercial flights. Garcia was interviewed alongside Ludovic Chung-Sao, Founder of ZenSoundproof and former certification engineer for 737 Max engines, about the various aspects of the aircraft’s return to the sky years after the two tragic plane crashed that sent Boeing into a multiple-year long crisis.

During the interview, Garcia described how Boeing ended up in a crisis over the 737 MAX. “The foundational principle of maintaining trust in a crisis is to show you care quickly, and Boeing was singularly unable to show that it cared,” he explained. But he also noted another way in which Boeing fumbled in their crisis response was in the company’s insistence that the planes were safe, followed by ‘But don’t worry, we have a software fix coming.’ This mixed message was confusing, and led people to not trust Boeing’s reassurances. Part of Boeing’s challenges, as Garcia explained, was that Boeing was that the company didn’t appreciate the user experience of the pilots of the plan. The lesson: “In a crisis, you must not think like an engineer, but think like the user of your product or technology.”

Click here to watch the full interview.

LOGOS IN THE NEWS: Holly Helstrom Quoted in Forbes

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.

LOGOS IN THE NEWS: Helio Fred Garcia Quoted in Luxury Daily

On January 15, 2021, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia was quoted in an article in Luxury Daily on the crisis the Trump Organization now faces given the criticism and controversy around the president, particularly after the storming of the U.S. Capitol. The article describes how the Trump Organization’s brands have suffered as a result of the president’s political profile, with partners increasingly moving away from the brand and long-standing contracts being terminated.

“Successful recovery from a crisis depends on how quickly and effectively the expectations of the people who
matter to the organization are met,” said Garcia. “Because all of President Trump’s businesses, including his luxury business, include his name, it is difficult for business partners, customers and other audiences to distinguish the brand from the man. All of Trump’s eponymous businesses are synonymous with Trump the person. It’s virtually impossible at
this point to separate the two, which was by Trump’s design.”

“Those who still support Donald Trump would likely still support the brand should another family member step in,”
Garcia noted. “However, for people who do not support Donald Trump, they are almost certain to avoid any business with the Trump name or that is run by a family member, since the associations are so close.”

This crisis is particularly acute given the criticism of the president following the storming of the US Capitol and his second impeachment in his one-term in office. “Criminal charges brought against a business or its leader almost always present the potential for things to get worse, especially if the charges are of the magnitude and quantity that are likely to be brought against Trump,” Garcia noted. “However, criminal charges are not an immediate death sentence for a business.”

Garcia advice for those in relationship with the struggling brand: “For businesses and leaders that do not support Trump but are still in business with him, time is of the essence to dissolve that relationship. Businesses that are slow to cut ties may suffer backlash as the lack of urgency to sever the relationship could be perceived among those who matter as too little, too late.”

Read the full article here.

The Logos Learning Center is Open for Business: Your Questions Answered!

This week, the Logos Consulting Group launched our new online learning platform, the Logos Learning Center. The Logos Learning Center is designed to help everyone bolster their leadership skills so that they can ignite and inspire those who matter to them to create positive change in the world.

Below, we answer some basic questions about the Logos Learning Center to help you understand more about this online learning platform, why we created it, and how it can help you on your leadership journey.

 

WHAT IS THE LOGOS LEARNING CENTER?

An initiative of Logos Consulting Group, the Logos Learning Center provides online interactive workshops on a variety of leadership skill sets to help people advance at any stage of their leadership journey. The Center is just one way that Logos is working to fulfill its core mission: to equip people to become leaders who ignite and inspire change in the world for the good. The Center offers high-quality and highly interactive workshops on a variety of leadership skill sets to help our learners reach their leadership potential.

 

WHY DID YOU CREATE THE LOGOS LEARNING CENTER?

The COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down. In many ways, this global crisis highlighted the challenges leaders face and the skills required to lead effectively. We recognized an opportunity to help leaders and aspiring leaders from every walk of life to meet the challenges of the day in a 100% virtual form. And we developed and delivered workshops to organizations, groups, clients, and our network to help them better understand the dynamics of the crisis and manage and communicate effectively.

 

WHO IS THE LOGOS LEARNING CENTER FOR?

We know that leadership is a mindset, not a job title. Anyone who is willing to put in the work can become a leader who ignites and inspires others to action. Whether you are a seasoned executive, an emerging leader looking to supercharge the rest of your career, or just starting out and finding your professional path, the Logos Learning Center can help you develop the mindset and skills you need to create the change you seek. The Logos Learning Center is also 100% virtual, ensuring that learning can happen right at home, from your office, or anywhere across the globe.

 

HOW IS THE LEARNING CENTER DIFFERENT FROM THE WORK YOU DO WITH CLIENTS?

At Logos, we help our clients inspire those who matter to them to make a difference in their own industries and communities, and the world at large. Our work with clients is highly customized and tailored to meet our clients’ specific needs, with relationships spanning long periods of time. However, the Learning Center provides new opportunities to share our knowledge, lived experience, industry insights, and best practices to people at any stage of their leadership journey and at an accessible price.

 

WHAT COURSES DOES THE LOGOS LEARNING CENTER OFFER?

The Logos Learning Center combines decades of experience and expertise from our instructors and in-depth research on many areas of leadership to deliver a high-quality and high value learning experience at an affordable price. Our online workshops focus on essential leadership skills help our learners navigate and respond to the leadership challenges of the day. We provide workshops, videos, and learning materials on skill sets essential to effective leadership, including a variety of offerings on leadership communication and crisis management. We also offer timely courses relevant to what’s happening in the world right now to help you navigate emerging situations and challenges facing you and your organization today. For our list of upcoming workshops, please click here.

 

WHAT CAN I EXPECT OF THE VIRTUAL IN-CLASS EXPERIENCE?

Interaction is an essential part of the learning process and our workshops are built to include high-level engagement for our learners. Our team of instructors come from a diversity of professional backgrounds, which enriches our offerings, allows our learners to connect more fully with us, and inspires new ways of thinking about how to tackle everyday leadership challenges.

All of our Logos team members are experienced teachers in a variety of leadership disciplines. Several of our team members are adjunct faculty members and visiting professors in undergraduate and graduate programs across the country and around the world. We also invite industry experts and leaders from other disciplines to teach or guest lecture in specialized workshops on a variety of other leaderships skills. Our learners are also encouraged to continue engaging with us after a workshop ends, and as they take the skills learned in our workshops and apply them in their professional life.

 

WHEN ARE CLASSES AND HOW DO I SIGN UP?

Our online workshops are designed with the working professional and learner in mind. The majority of our workshops are offered on a variety of days and times, allowing convenient access for our students to find the right time to take a class in the midst of their busy schedules. Learn more our upcoming workshops and sign up here.

 

Wherever you are on your leadership journey, we are here to help you bolster your leadership skills to create the change you seek. We hope you will join us!

PS: If you have questions about the Logos Learning Center, please email us at learning@logosconsulting.net.

LOGOS IN THE NEWS: Helio Fred Garcia Quoted in CEO Blog Nation

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.

PRESS RELEASE: Logos Consulting Group Launches the Logos Learning Center

NEW YORK (January 11, 2021) – Today, Logos Consulting Group announced the launch of a new online learning platform, the Logos Learning Center. The Learning Center is designed to help everyone bolster their leadership skills so that they can ignite and inspire those who matter to them to create positive change in the world.

Logos Consulting Group’s mission is to equip people to become leaders who ignite and inspire change in the world for the good.

“The COVID-19 pandemic turned many of our worlds upside down. In many ways, this global crisis highlighted the challenges leaders face and the skills required to lead effectively,” said Helio Fred Garcia, president of Logos Consulting Group. “We recognized an opportunity to help leaders and aspiring leaders from every walk of life to meet the challenges of the day and reach their leadership potential.”

The Logos Learning Center offers high-quality and highly interactive workshops on both essential leadership skills, such as leadership communication and crisis response, as well as on how to navigate and respond to emerging and timely leadership challenges happening in the moment.

“We know that leadership is a mindset, not a job title. Anyone who is willing to put in the work can become a leader who ignites and inspires others to action,” explained Garcia. “While our work with our clients is highly customized and tailored, with relationships spanning long periods of time, the Learning Center provides new opportunities to share our knowledge, lived experience, industry insights, and best practices to people at any stage of their leadership journey and at an accessible price.”

The Learning Center’s online workshops are designed with the working professional and learner in mind, ensuring that learning can happen at home, from an office, and anywhere across the globe. Additionally, learners are encouraged to continue engaging with their instructors after a workshop ends and as they take the skills learned in the workshops and apply them in their professional life.

“Wherever you are on your leadership journey, we are here to help you bolster your leadership skills to create the change you seek,” said Garcia. “We hope you will join us.”

To learn more, visit https://www.logos-consulting.biz/

To review and sign up for our upcoming classes, visit https://www.logos-consulting.biz/new-webinars/webinar/

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Logos Consulting Group’s mission is to equip people to become leaders who ignite and inspire change in the world for the good. We help 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 management, crisis communication, and executive coaching. Click here to learn more about Logos Consulting Group.

GUEST COLUMN: American Exceptionalism: 2020 Didn’t Have to Be This Way

This is an excerpt from a guest column by Helio Fred Garcia, originally published on Commpro.biz on January 4, 2021.

The first American case of COVID-19 was diagnosed on January 20, 2020.

Exactly one year later Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

What happened in the United States in between is different from what happened in other developed countries.

Twenty million Americans contracted COVID-19 between the first case and the end of the year.

2020 was the single deadliest year in American history. The first U.S. COVID-19 fatality was on February 6. By year end another 351 thousand Americans had died from the virus. For context, that is more than all the U.S. combat fatalities in World War II and Vietnam combined, but in a single eleven-month period rather than in the 24 years of those wars. For several weeks in December we were seeing the equivalent of a 9/11 casualty rate every day, with total 2020 COVID-19 fatalities equal to 118 separate 9/11 attacks.

Much of this was avoidable. And yet, here we are. So the question is – why did this happen?

Everything Changed

It was a year that changed everything: what it means to be “at work” or “at school”; how we visit the doctor; how we greet each other; how we shop for groceries and other goods; how we say goodbye to loved ones as they take their final breath.

It was a year of great trauma: medical, emotional, spiritual, economic, social.

And it was a year that saw great sacrifice and some of the best of humanity: in the front-line medical workers, in the agility of many companies to re-imagine their business models and their product offerings, in the emergence of a new class of heroes – postal workers, delivery drivers, and grocery clerks, who risked infection to keep us supplied.

And it was a year that intensified much that had already been fraying in the fabric of American civic life: hyper-polarization in politics, mistrust of each other and of civic institutions, and the shattering of social and political norms.

In the time of the pandemic we saw the explicit elevation and endorsement of white supremacist and conspiracist groups, such as the Proud Boys and QAnon. But also the largest civil rights protest in American history, with more than 25 million Americans marching in support of Black Lives Matter – and this in the days and weeks following the first wave of reopening after two months of stay-at-home orders.

After decades of one party discrediting science – from refusing to accept the reality of evolution, to redefining when human life begins, to denying the reality of climate change – we saw millions of Americans deny what scientists, public health experts, and their own doctors told them: that the virus is real, that it is deadly, that you can transmit it even when asymptomatic; and that masking, distancing, and handwashing are keys to prevention. The American population seemed to divide into those who believe what science teaches and those who choose not to. But as a popular T-shirt and internet meme noted, Science Doesn’t Care What You Believe.

The pandemic coincided with one of the most bizarre and contentious presidential election campaigns in American history, in which despite no evidence of fraud the sitting president refused to acknowledge defeat and lost more than 50 lawsuits challenging the results. And who for the eight weeks between the election and the new year seemed to give up on being president. He stayed out of sight and silent on anything having to do with the pandemic, even as fatalities approached the 350 thousand mark and infections soared to 20 million, and as he rage-tweeted about the so-called “massive fraud” that had prevented his re-election.

But the hardships were real and were devastating. In the weeks before and after Christmas, hospitalization rates reached record highs, with whole regions, including southern California, reporting zero intensive care beds available. At least one Los Angeles hospital started treating patients in the gift shop; another in a cafeteria; yet another in its chapel. But the real shortage was of medical personnel to treat the record number of patients. Doctors began talking about the need to choose which patients to treat, and which to leave to die.

The nation saw the infection rate grow by a million cases every few days. And despite pleas from public health officials and hospital front-line workers, Americans continued to travel for the holidays, risking what health workers called a surge on top of a surge. And some governors refused to require citizens to wear masks in public. Florida’s governor even forbade Florida cities and counties from requiring masks and social distancing in their jurisdictions. And the White House, the State Department, and other federal agencies held dozens of holiday parties indoors and without a masking requirement: yet more super-spreader events.

Incompetence

It did not need to be this way.

Much of the suffering, the hardship, the sacrifice could have been avoided. It resulted from a lethal combination of incompetence, dishonesty, and neglect.

The United States, alone in the world, intentionally refused to follow or mandate basic public health steps: a national masking, distancing, testing, and contact tracing policy. There was no whole of government response; at best there were fragments of government responses. And some parts of the government seemed to be at war against other parts. Indeed, some parts of government seemed to be at war against themselves, such as the White House Pandemic Task Force, where in a single press conference the politicians would contradict the public health experts, and vice versa.

The president and other senior government officials modeled the opposite of the public health guidelines, remaining unmasked in public and holding super-spreader events where the crowd was unmasked and packed close together – in violation also of local masking and distancing ordinances.

Continue reading here.

GUEST COLUMN: Advice to Joe Biden from a Crisis Manager

This guest column by Helio Fred Garcia was released on CommPro.biz on November 2, 2020.

Here’s where the United States stands on the eve of the election: We have more than 9 million confirmed COVID-19 infections. We’re at nearly 100 thousand new cases daily; more than a thousand daily fatalities. We’re well on our way to be at a quarter million fatalities in a matter of weeks; half a million by the inauguration.

I have previously called the nation’s COVID-19 response the single-worst handled crisis, and the single largest leadership failure, in the nation’s history. Over the weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Washington Post that the nation needs to make an “abrupt change” and that we’re “in for a whole lot of hurt.”

If Donald Trump is re-elected, we can expect the situation to continue to get exponentially worse. He continues to deny the severity of the virus.

The White House science office announced this week that among Trump’s accomplishments are “ending the pandemic.” Stanford University researchers reported this week that Trump’s “superspreader” rallies in the summer through September 22 resulted in at least 30,000 infections and 700 fatalities. And that is before his own diagnosis, and his ramping up the frequency of the rallies through election day.

If Joe Biden is elected, there will still be 70 days before he takes office, and things can get much worse in that time.

We don’t have the luxury of waiting. A President-Elect Biden will need to use all the moral and political authority he can wield to get politicians and citizens to fundamentally change the way the nation is responding to the pandemic. And to recognize that all the other crises, from economic to mental health, derive from the failure to respond effectively to COVID-19.

Foundational Principle of Crisis Response: Take Risk Seriously

A foundational principle of crisis response is to understand the scope and specifically the risks that a crisis represents, and then to do all that is necessary to mitigate those risks. The longer it takes to do that, the worse the crisis will get.

Trump never took the risks seriously, at least in public. As early as February and for months after, he told Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward what he knew about the virus:

  • It is spread in the air.
  • You catch it by breathing it.
  • Young people can get it.
  • It is far deadlier than the flu.
  • It’s easily transmissible.
  • If you’re the wrong person and it gets you, your life is pretty much over. It rips you apart.
  • It moves rapidly and viciously.
  • It is a plague.

But he was telling the nation the opposite.

The Washington Post has documented the scope and frequency of Trump’s lies while president: In his first 827 days in office, he told 10,000 lies or false statements, he told 10,000 more in the next 444 days. By July 2020, he was averaging 23 lies or false statements per day. By mid-October, it was more than 50 every day.

Last month Cornell University’s Alliance for Science published the first comprehensive study of COVID-19 misinformation in the media, and concluded that President Trump is likely the largest driver of the such misinformation.

And that misinformation had consequences. An analysis in mid-October by Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness concluded that between 130,000 to 210,000 American fatalities would have been avoided if the nation had consistently applied policies equivalent to what other developed democracies had done. (Note that South Korea and the United States had their first cases on the same day. Our death rate is 78 times theirs.)

Columbia University, National Center for Disaster Preparedness

Advice from a Crisis Manager

I don’t have Joe Biden’s ear. But if I did here’s what I’d tell him and his team:

1. Create a true whole of government response.

We have never had a whole of government response, unlike most of our peer countries. Even at the federal level, we’ve had a fragments of government response. Different parts of the federal government had conflicting policies; political appointees micromanaged what had previously been independent agencies; there was inconsistency over time. And the states have been left to figure it out on their own.

Where Biden and his team don’t have authority (before inauguration, with states, cities, and counties), use persuasion and call for clear, consistent, and consistently-implemented policies and practices to stop the spread, treat the people, and treat the consequences of the poor response.

2.  Immediately call for full implementation of the Defense Production Act.

Call for surging the manufacturing of ventilators, medical supply, testing equipment, personal protective equipment, and sanitization technologies.

Although President Trump has invoked the act in limited ways – to require meat processing employees to work in violation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and for limited amounts of masks and testing equipment, he has not surged supply.

In July, the soon-to-retire head of the Defense Production Act program at the Federal Emergency Management Agency lamented that there was no national strategy: “Why isn’t this administration using the act to prevent shortages?”

A former legal advisor to the National Security Council concluded that, “What the federal government — the president or secretaries possessing delegated authority — have not done yet is use the D.P.A. to create a permanent, sustainable, redundant, domestic supply chain for all things pandemic.”

3.  Call on all governors, mayors, and other executive branch leaders to implement a national masking, social distancing, and contact tracing policy.

Masks save lives and slow the spread of the virus. Of the 105 counties in Kansas, only 21 have mask mandates. A study last month by the University of Kansas found that counties with mask mandates saw a plateau of new cases at 20 per 100,000 people. But counties without mask mandates saw a serious spike in new cases to 40 cases per 100,000 people.

Similarly, a Vanderbilt University study last week concluded that hospitals with fewer than 25 percent of patients from counties with mask mandates had a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations; hospitals with more than 75 percent of patients from counties with mask mandates saw essentially no change in COVID-19 hospitalizations from July to late October. 

Vanderbilt University

Finally, a University of Washington Study published in Nature Medicine says that up to half a million Americans could die of the virus in the next four months, but that up to 130,000 of them could be saved if 95 percent of Americans wear masks consistently in public.

4. Call on Congress to provide financial relief to states, businesses, families, and healthcare institutions.

The economic crisis is a direct result of mishandling the public health crisis. Now it isn’t just families and small businesses at risk, but also states, which are required to balance their budgets. States may need to cut essential services at precisely the moment when they will be most needed to keep people safe. And health care institutions are stretched thin and need assistance.

The next round of stimulus relief has been stalled because of election-year dynamics. But a clear Biden win and changes in the House and Senate could provide an opportunity to accelerate support.

5. Offer free testing

Knowledge is power. The availability of testing is still spotty and its reliability not clear. Biden should call for an army of testers, contact tracers, and managers to coordinate universal access to testing, an infrastructure to process tests quickly and reliably, and a further infrastructure to provide timely notice, notification, and referral to medical care when needed.

6. Respect science.

Restore true independence to CDC, FDA, HHS, and other public health operations of the US government. Take the advice of the science/public health experts to guide policy choices.

Public health should not be political. But the COVID-19 response has been highly-politicized. In a post-election environment, there is an opportunity to reset expectations and to get and follow the best advice of the scientists and public health experts.

It is the nature of science that it is self-correcting. When scientists are grappling with new challenges, they adapt understanding to what the evidence and data show. That should not lessen support for science, but actually increase it. Science isn’t dogma.

One of the first challenges post-election is whether, when, and how to go to a national shelter-in-place order similar to what some states did in the Spring. Britain just established a month-long lockdown. The decision on whether, when, how, and for how long to do something here should be based on the science   and on the actual risks we face, not on political calculation.

7. Assure Americans’ access to healthcare.

One week after the election the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case in which the U.S. government and state attorneys general will ask the court to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Despite Trump’s promises for months that a plan for better healthcare will be revealed “in two weeks,” there is no evidence of such a plan. Biden and his team must act quickly to create an alternative if the Court should nullify the healthcare that so many Americans rely upon.

In the meantime, the federal government should subsidize COVID-19 prevention, treatment, and recovery for the uninsured or underinsured.

These are not political recommendations: they’re crisis management recommendations based on the severity of the risks. The tragedy is that taking the risks seriously when Trump first knew about them could have prevented all of this suffering.

Leadership courage matters.

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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