Posts

On November 4, the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press published the third title in its Best Practices Series, The Power of Genuine Leadership: How Authentic Leaders Earn Trust by Patrick Donahue, PhD. The Power of Genuine Leadership draws upon Donahue’s doctoral research on the relationship between trust and authenticity, as well as his decades of experience working as a senior executive in leadership development at two global corporations.

The Power of Genuine Leadership is an accessible, clear guide on how to effectively – and measurably – build trust and enhance one’s leadership ability. “It can take a lifetime to earn a reputation of being a great leader, which is earned through consistent behavior over time,” says Donahue. “This book makes a complicated concept easier to digest through models, stories, assessments, and applicable tools.”

Donahue’s research reveals the true power of behavioral consistency as an essential yet under-appreciated driver of trust. His Authenticity Trust Model (ATM) helps readers visualize the relationships among the behavioral components that, when applied consistently, create deeper trust: communication, coaching, and respect.

Of the many valuable learnings in Donahue’s book, perhaps his most insightful, is that authenticity without guidelines is irresponsible; that authenticity without empathy is careless; and that humility is much more than a willingness to be vulnerable. Readers can assess their leadership strengths and development areas using the Authenticity Trust Assessment (ATA), which can be taken time and again to track progress and compare results for deeper analysis.

“With so many books, articles and webpages clamoring for our attention, it’s hard to decide what’s ‘worth the time.’ As a leadership professional, I can tell you, this book is a winner,” says Darryl Spivey of the Center of Creative Leadership. “Dr. Donahue captures the stories of leaders and their impact on people. The engaging anecdotes are entertaining and readable, but interwoven with valuable lessons of introspection, laser focus and excellence. It’s a quick, valuable and important book for leaders.”

The Power of Genuine Leadership is the third volume in the Logos Institute Best Practices Series. The 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. The Logos Institute Best Practices Series showcases conceptual frameworks that help clarify complex issues, combined with insightful case studies, examples, and actionable tools, tips, and techniques that help leaders make smart choices and build competitive advantage.

“In each of the companies where I have had the privilege to have Patrick as a client, I have watched Patrick as he created leadership learning opportunities for high-potential future leaders from around the world,” says Publisher Helio Fred Garcia. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share Patrick’s insights into the relationship between authenticity and trust with the broader world.”

The Power of Genuine Leadership is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com. Logos Institute Press is hosting a virtual book launch event on Thursday, December 10 at 5:00 pm EST, where attendees will have the opportunity to hear from the publisher, the author, and endorsers of the book. If you have not received an invitation or would like to request one, please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/logos-institute-press-book-launch-for-the-power-of-genuine-leadership-tickets-129244719435?ref=estwhttps://www.eventbrite.com/preview?eid=129244719435

On November 9, 2020, Helio Fred Garcia spoke with Will Bachman on his podcast Unleashed about how leaders and organizations can understand prepare for, and respond effectively to a crisis. Unleashed explores how to thrive as an independent professional.

During their conversation, Garcia discussed the meaning of the word crisis, several key principles of effective crisis response, and ways that Logos Consulting Group works with clients to prepare for and respond to crises.

Listen to the full interview here:

A version of this post appeared in CommPro.biz.

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

Lost in the News Cycle

In any other administration this would have led the news for at least a week.

But the report came five days after President Donald J. Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. It came four days after publication of a massive New York Times investigation that revealed that President Trump paid no federal income taxes for years. It came just two days after the debate debacle in which the President refused to condemn white supremacy and seemed to endorse the Proud Boys. And it came just hours before the news that the President and First Lady had tested positive for COVID-19.

I wish the President and the First Lady a speedy and complete recovery.

But it is important that this news not be lost, and that the President be held accountable for the consequences of his words, actions, and inaction.

Language, Inaction, and Consequences

I am a professor of ethics, leadership, and communication at Columbia University and New York University. This summer my book about Trump’s language and how it inspires violence was published. I finished writing Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It in February. But since then the effect of Trump’s language has been even more dangerous.

In the book, I document how charismatic leaders use language in ways that set a powerful context that determines what makes sense to their followers. Such leaders can make their followers believe absurdities, which then can make atrocities possible. If COVID-19 is a hoax, if it will magically disappear, if it affects only the elderly with heart problems, then it makes sense for people to gather in large crowds without social distancing or masks.

There’s just one problem. None of that is true. But Trump said all those things. And his followers believed him. And the President and his political allies refused to implement policies to protect their citizens.

What The President Knew, and When The President Knew It

As I write this, 210,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 and the President is being treated for it at Walter Reed Military Medical Center.

But it didn’t have to happen. 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 in March, and had maintained a constant masking and social distancing policy, 150,000 of fatalities could have been avoided.

Trump knew about the severity of the virus in February and March.

In taped discussions Trump told Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward what he knew about how dangerous COVID-19 is:

  • 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.

“Infodemic” of COVID-19

The Report Cover

President Trump likes to label anything he doesn’t agree with Fake News. But it turns out that he’s the largest disseminator of misinformation about Coronavirus.

Cornell University’s Alliance for Science analyzed 38 million pieces of content published in English worldwide between January 1 and May 26, 2020. It identified 1.1 million news articles that “disseminated, amplified or reported on misinformation related to the pandemic.”

On October 1, 2020 the Alliance published its report. It notes,

“These findings are of significant concern because if people are misled by unscientific and unsubstantiated claims about the disease, they may attempt harmful cures or be less likely to observe official guidance and thus risk spreading the virus.”

Its conclusion:

“One major finding is that media mentions of President Trump within the context of different misinformation topics made up 37% of the overall ‘misinformation conversation,’ much more than any other single topic.

The study concludes that Donald Trump was likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation ‘infodemic.’

In contrast only 16% of media mentions of misinformation were explicitly ‘fact-checking’ in nature, suggesting that a substantial quantity of misinformation reaches media consumers without being challenged or accompanied by factually accurate information.”

But Trump may be responsible for more than the 37% of the news stories that name him. The report says that

” a substantial proportion of other topics was also driven by the president’s comments [but did not explicitly name him], so some overlap can be expected.

Graphic from Cornell Alliance for Science Report

The most prevalent misinformation was about miracle cures. More than 295,000 stories mentioned some version of a miracle cure. (Note that the study looked only at stories that were published before the end of May, long before the president’s statements about a vaccine being ready by the end of October.)

The report notes that Trump prompted a surge of miracle cure stories when he spoke of using disinfectants internally and advocated taking hydroxychloroquine.

The second most prevalent topic, mentioned in nearly 50,000 stories, was that COVID had something to do with the “deep state.” The report notes,

“Mentions of conspiracies linked to alleged secret “new world orders” or ‘deep state’ government bodies existed throughout the time period and were referenced in passing in conversations that mentioned or listed widespread conspiracies. Indeed, President Trump joked about the US State Department being a ‘Deep State’ Department during a White House COVID press conference in March.”

The third most prevalent misinformation was about COVID-19 being a Democratic hoax, mentioned in more than 40,000 stories.

 

Human Consequences of Misinformation

The report closes with a warning: Misinformation has consequences:

“It is especially notable that while misinformation and conspiracy theories promulgated by ostensibly grassroots sources… do appear in our analysis in several of the topics, they contributed far less to the overall volume of misinformation than more powerful actors, in particular the US President.

In previous pandemics, such as the HIV/AIDS outbreak, misinformation and its effect on policy was estimated to have led to an additional 300,000 deaths in South Africa alone.

If similar or worse outcomes are to be avoided in the present COVID-19 pandemic, greater efforts will need to be made to combat the “infodemic” that is already substantially polluting the wider media discourse.”

In my book, I help engaged citizens, civic leaders, and public officials recognize dangerous language and then confront those who use it. I urge such citizens and leaders to hold those who use such language responsible for the consequences.

I wish President Trump a full and fast recovery. He and those closest to him have now been affected by their own denial of science. I hope that now he can start to model appropriate safe behavior.

But even as Trump is being treated in the hospital his campaign says it will stay the course, including an in-person rally for Vice President Mike Pence the day after the vice-presidential debate in several days. This is both irresponsible and dangerous.

I urge civic leaders, engaged citizens, and public officials, regardless of party, to stop having super-spreader events such as in-person rallies. And finally to begin modeling responsible behavior: Wear a mask, maintain social distancing. Masking and distancing are not political acts; they are a civic responsibility.

New York, NY (July 30, 2020) – Last week, the fourth edition of Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication was released, providing much needed guidance for those charged with managing reputation in today’s environment.

Reputation Management is a how-to guide for students and professionals, as well as CEOs and other business leaders. This book provides a field-tested guide to core challenges in managing all the ways organizations engage their stakeholders to protect, maintain, and enhance reputation. When the first edition was published in 2006 it was the first book to take on reputation management in a systematic way.

“In Reputation Management, my co-author John Doorley and I strive to educate our readers on how to bolster their organization’s reputation,” said Logos Consulting Group president and co-author, Helio Fred Garcia. “By combining core principles, expertise across disciplines, and real-life examples from the field, Reputation Management is an invaluable resource for those tasked with building, protecting, and managing reputation.”

The fourth edition of Reputation Management features refreshed chapters from previous editions, as well as new information vital for communication professionals today, such as social media management techniques and communication in the age of globalization. This edition also features contributions from 36 leaders in the field, including from The Arthur W. Page Society, the International Communications Consultancy Organization, the PR Council, CVS Health, Edelman and Ketchum.

This edition also features scholarship from several members of the Logos team. In addition to four refreshed chapters by Garcia, this edition also features a refreshed chapter on corporate responsibility by Anthony Ewing and a new sidebar on social media and crisis by Holly Helstrom. Logos Institute Press authors authors Jeff Grimshaw, Tanya Mann, Lynne Viscio, and Jennifer Landis also contributed a chapter on organizational communication.

Co-author John Doorley is the former head of corporate communications at Merck and is now an associate professor of strategic communication at Elon University. He created and taught the first undergraduate course in reputation management, at Rutgers University in 2003, and the first graduate course on reputation management, at New York University in 2007. He served as academic director of New York University M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communication for seven years.

Co-author Helio Fred Garcia is an adjunct professor of management in the New York University Stern School of Business Executive MBA program, and an adjunct associate professor of management and communication at New York University’s School of Professional Studies, M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.  He is also an adjunct associate professor of professional development and leadership at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The fourth edition of Reputation Management is available on Amazon here.

New York (June 9, 2020) – The Chinese language edition of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis was featured in the 311th issue of Sino-Manager (经理人 in Mandarin Chinese) magazine, a leading business publication in China.

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

“This book is written by an expert with more than 30 years of crisis management experience,” wrote the Sino-Manager editor about the book. “It’s recommended for all government and non-government organizations, higher institutions, business managers, and public relations professionals.”

Helio Fred Garcia, the author, presents the lessons from this book to a multitude of audiences, ranging from one-on-one sessions, seminars, and interviews.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by one of the major business publications in China,” said Helio Fred Garcia, the author of the book and the president of Logos Consulting Group, “I hope it will help leaders in China navigate through difficult times.”

Sino-Manager is an elite business magazine intended to provide C-suite executives and senior managers with the latest business news and management solutions. Launched in 1989, the magazine is available both online and in a physical journal. The Agony of Decision was featured in the “CEO Bookcase” section, a monthly reading recommendation list.

-END-

For media INQUIRIES please reach out to Maida K. Zheng, mzheng@logosconsulting.net or at 315-368-4287.

 

About The Author

Helio Fred Garcia, known as the Global Crisis Advisor, has helped leaders build trust, inspire loyalty, and lead effectively for more than 40 years. He is a coach, counselor, teacher, writer, and speaker whose clients have included more than 400 CEOs of some of the largest and best-known companies and organizations in the world, in dozens of countries on six continents.

Crises reveal what organizations value. Whether a business demonstrates corporate responsibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, or fails to do so, can determine if the company and its leaders emerge from this crisis with the trust and confidence of their stakeholders intact.

Source: google.com/covid19/

Definitions of corporate responsibility have evolved from an exclusive focus on shareholder returns, to the acknowledgment by businesses of a much broader group of corporate stakeholders and range of responsibilities. Acting responsibly today means more than legal compliance and goes beyond corporate philanthropy.

At its core, corporate responsibility means meeting stakeholder expectations for responsible conduct. Meeting both the financial and non-financial expectations of its investors, customers, employees, business partners, suppliers, regulators, and the communities where it operates, helps a company to manage risk, protect its reputation, attract and retain employees, grow its markets, and sustain its financial performance.

Demonstrating corporate responsibility is a key challenge for business leaders in the best of times. As my colleague Helio Fred Garcia observes, the COVID-19 crisis comprises simultaneous crises (public health, business, economic, information, governance, social, mental health) of unprecedented scope that require a multi-dimensional leadership response. [1]

Unprecedented in its scope, the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for companies and their leaders to live their values by acting responsibly.

When navigating next steps during the pandemic, business leaders should keep in mind key principles for demonstrating corporate responsibility.

 

Understand the potential impacts of your crisis response.

Responsible organizations understand the potential impacts of their actions and take steps to “do no harm.” Business leaders determining how to respond to the pandemic need to assess the potential impacts on all company stakeholders.

Well-managed organizations plan for foreseeable crises. Companies that engage in meaningful crisis planning likely had a standby pandemic crisis plan they could draw upon as they began to address COVID-19. Effective crisis management plans identify potentially affected stakeholders and catalogue relevant corporate policies for high priority scenarios. A global manufacturer’s pandemic planning, for example, would have considered the business impact of supply chain interruptions, triggers to suspend executive travel, and criteria for allowing employees to work remotely.

When evaluating next steps, companies should seek to “do no harm” by preventing or mitigating harmful impacts.

Companies without a pandemic crisis plan in place can still identify potential impacts to guide their response. Enterprise-wide impact mapping and assessment can help an organization prioritize next steps. By applying a human rights impact lens to its operations and stakeholders, [2] a hospital system, for example, might prioritize securing adequate personal protective equipment to ensure the health and safety of its healthcare workers; expanding diagnostic testing among vulnerable communities to ensure nondiscrimination in patient access to healthcare, and communicating information about the virus and medical capacity to ensure public access to reliable and timely information.

When evaluating next steps, companies should seek to “do no harm” by preventing or mitigating harmful impacts. Apparel companies that have cancelled supplier contracts for goods during the pandemic face criticism for triggering layoffs of the factory workers worldwide that make their products, often among the groups most vulnerable to COVID-19. A quick stakeholder impact assessment would have flagged the risk of harming supply chain workers. Responsible international brands have sought to protect workers by honoring their supplier contracts during the pandemic.

Similarly, companies that provide paid sick leave are protecting the health of employees, customers and the general public alike. When the California-based retailer Patagonia voluntarily closed its stores nationwide while continuing to pay its employees, its CEO and President, Rose Marcario stated, “It’s everyone’s responsibility to help stop the spread of this virus.”

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to help stop the spread of this virus.” 

− Rose Marcario, CEO and President, Patagonia Inc.

 

Anticipate changing stakeholder expectations.

Meeting stakeholder expectations demonstrates corporate responsibility and earns the trust of those who matter most to your business. All stakeholders expect a responsible organization to care about the multiple dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis and to take appropriate action.

What stakeholders expect a responsible company to do will change. The current pandemic is a dynamic situation that calls for decision-makers to adapt policies to new information. Responsible companies meet stakeholders where they are and adjust accordingly.

Customers, for example, expect essential businesses that remain open (or that reopen) to follow public health guidelines, to protect their employees, and to protect vulnerable community members. Obeying the law is the just the starting point.

On my first trip to the grocery store after a statewide “stay-at-home” order had been issued, the store had placed limits on the number of scarce items that customers could buy, like cleaning products and milk. Employees were working hard to keep shelves stocked. Two weeks later, consistent with evolving public health guidance, the store was limiting the number of customers allowed inside at once, plexiglass shields had been placed between checkout workers and customer payment stations, and all store employees wore gloves and masks. The grocery chain had also adopted an industry-wide practice reserving its opening hour for elderly customers. On my most recent shopping trip, the store had instituted “one-way” aisles to ensure physical distancing and all customers were required to wear face coverings.

Some of these measures were mandated; some were voluntary. All track what the store’s customers, employees, and community would expect a responsible grocery store to do under the circumstances based on available information.

Conversely, companies that act contrary to stakeholder expectations for responsible conduct, even if the actions are legal and contribute to the bottom line, risk losing the trust of customers, investors, and regulators. Large public corporations that secured millions of dollars of loans under the Paycheck Protection Program intended for small businesses, for example, have endured substantial public criticism prompting some companies to return the funds. The angry reaction should not have been a surprise for corporate leaders paying attention to stakeholder expectations. 

 

Philanthropy is not a substitute for responsibility.

Stakeholders expect responsible companies with the resources to do so, to give money and to tap their expertise during a crisis. Many businesses, large and small, have responded to the pandemic by providing financial or in-kind support to healthcare workers, to small businesses, and to international and community organizations addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations.

Source: covid19responsefund.org/

Google has pledged more than $800 million to support small businesses, health organizations and governments, and health workers on the frontline of the global pandemic. The company’s contribution includes $250 million in advertising credits to help the World Health Organization and more than 100 government agencies disseminate information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Citigroup is donating a total of $15 million to the United Nations Foundation and World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, to No Kid Hungry to support emergency food-distribution programs in the United States, and to international efforts in countries that are severely affected by the pandemic. The British and Dutch consumer goods multinational Unilever is contributing €100 million through donations of soap, sanitizer, bleach and food, including adapting its manufacturing lines to produce sanitizer for use in hospitals.

All of these efforts are welcome.

Philanthropy, however, does not excuse a company from acting responsibly elsewhere in its operations.

Source: www.ethicalconsumer.org

Amazon faces intense criticism for failing to adequately protect its employees from the outset of the pandemic; resisting paid sick time, hazard pay, and health benefits for part-time employees; and retaliating against a warehouse worker who protested working conditions. Since then, Amazon has enhanced its health and safety practices, hired 175,000 additional employees, and donated thousands of laptops to Seattle public school students, among other efforts. CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos announced a $100 million gift to Feeding America. The company’s philanthropic responses alone, however, are proving insufficient to meet stakeholder expectations for responsible conduct. Employees continue to protest Amazon’s working conditions and policies, and regulators have launched investigations into the company’s labor practices.

McDonald’s Corporation has donated over $3 million in food to support local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic; yet, more than half a million McDonald’s workers without access to paid sick leave are serving food nationwide.

Leading companies act and give responsibly.

 

Business leaders are called to act when government fails to do so.

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a crisis of government capacity and leadership. Corporate responsibility today means filling these governance gaps.

Business leaders should be prepared to address the governmental pandemic response by speaking out against harmful policies and advocating for responsible solutions.

Source: coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html, visited 5/8/2020

Responsible companies in the United States are meeting public needs that the federal government has failed to address. Companies in many different sectors are stepping in to manufacture, purchase, and distribute personal protective equipment; to accelerate production of diagnostic tests and medical equipment like ventilators; and to disseminate accurate data on the virus and its spread. Microsoft voluntarily told its employees to work from home in support of local health authorities’ efforts to communicate the urgency of the looming pandemic in Seattle. Apple and Google are partnering to develop contact tracing technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus.

Stakeholders increasingly expect corporate leaders to speak out on public policy issues, [3] such as gun violence and immigration policy, [4] when government fails to act or causes harm. COVID-19 is accelerating this trend. In his annual letter to CEOs, Larry Fink, the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, noted last year that “stakeholders are pushing companies to wade into sensitive social and political issues — especially as they see governments failing to do so effectively.” Fink called on CEOs to demonstrate leadership and corporate commitment to “to the countries, regions, and communities where they operate, particularly on issues central to the world’s future prosperity.” No issue meets these criteria right now more than the multi-dimensional COVID-19 crisis.

CEOs that understand and anticipate the potential impacts on of all of their company’s stakeholders are not rushing to reopen.

Business leaders should be prepared to address the governmental pandemic response by speaking out against harmful policies and advocating for responsible solutions. Consumer product brands have had to correct inaccurate information about disinfectants. Many businesses in the United States must now decide whether to reopen against data-driven public health guidance. CEOs that understand and anticipate the potential impacts on of all of their company’s stakeholders are not rushing to reopen.

Unprecedented in its scope, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity for companies and their leaders to live their values by acting responsibly.

 

Logos Senior Advisor Anthony Ewing counsels executives on corporate responsibility and works with clients to establish and strengthen crisis management programs. He teaches a graduate seminar on corporate responsibility at Columbia Law School.

 

Notes

[1] Helio Fred Garcia, “Leadership, Communication, and COVID-19,” (Mar. 25, 2020) https://logosconsulting.net/leadership-communication-and-covid-19/.

[2] Anthony Ewing, “Integrating Human Rights into Crisis Planning,” A Good Practice Note endorsed by the United Nations Global Compact Human Rights and Labour Working Group (6 October 2015), https://www.unglobalcompact.org/docs/issues_doc/human_rights/Human_Rights_Working_Group/crisis-planning-GPN.pdf.

[3] Aaron K. Chatterji and Michael W. Toffel, “The New CEO Activists,” Harvard Business Review (January–February 2018), https://hbr.org/2018/01/the-new-ceo-activists.

[4] Anthony Ewing, “Business and Human Rights: Lessons for Managing the Trump Presidency,” blog post, February 13, 2017, https://logosconsulting.net/business-and-human-rights-lessons-for-managing-the-trump-presidency/.

“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

~ George Washington Carver

So: You’re wearing a mask and keeping a socially responsible distance. You’re staying safe but taking long daily walks in the nearly empty streets of New York City to keep yourself healthy and sane. You peer into the dark, empty storefronts as you stroll along. You arrive at the place you always found familiar and comforting; it now looks abandoned and forbidding. There is no human to greet you, only a few words on a single page attached to the front door. Almost every door on every street has a similar sign.

As the days of shutdown have dragged on, I’ve become intrigued by these signs, snapping pictures of at least 100 of them. I’ve read the words again and again. They are breathtaking in their sameness, leading me to the question: How much difference can a few words on a simple sign possibly make?

Businesses reopening in the aftermath of the current crisis may soon find out.

Sometimes the message on the door is just one word – “Closed.” Not terribly helpful, is it? That feels more like the end of a relationship than a reassurance that you and your spot will be reunited in the future.

While heavily trafficked commercial chains may have a following who look for convenience alone, a cozy neighborhood haunt cannot exist without building an emotional bond – appreciation, affection, even love – with its customers. When that business closes indefinitely, or its hours are suddenly and severely curtailed, anxious customers need to see words of gratitude, emotion, and empathy: “We thank you.” “We appreciate you.” “We miss you.” “We understand what you are going through because we are going through it, too.”

Empathy should start right there at the front door.

Surprisingly, even in these difficult times, when those words of connectivity matter most, when customers expect to find love letters from deeply grateful owners, they find crisis boilerplate instead, often written in haste, dashed off as a formality and perhaps copied from a neighboring establishment. Even worse, sometimes, the desired words do not appear at all.

That strategically placed sheet of paper – occasionally drafted with the assistance of a lawyer or a communications professional – may be instructive but it’s not terribly personal. Or authentic. Or meaningful.

That kind of corporate jargon often makes me stop reading – I imagine you know the phrases: “our top priority,” “we are closely monitoring,” “we are committed to …”  But owners use them because they know they need to communicate quickly with customers coming to the door, and they want the message to sound official. Professional communicators reading this will understand that the sign on the door is a kind of stand-by statement to let the entire world, including those critical customers, know what is going on in that moment and what they can expect while the crisis – and temporary closure – continues.

As my colleague, Helio Fred Garcia, has written in The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis, an insightful guide to crisis decision-making (even during one not of your own making), critical communications like that sign on the door should embrace five fundamental elements:

  1. ACKNOWLEDGMENT – a statement of awareness that something has happened.
  2. EMPATHY – an expression of empathy or sympathy to those who are hurting or inconvenienced – and in COVID-19 times, everyone is hurting and inconvenienced.
  3. VALUES – a declaration of the business’ values – including how much that business values those customers.
  4. APPROACH – a summary of the actions the business is taking in the wake of the crisis.
  5. COMMITMENT – a statement that sets future expectations, i.e., “We will keep you up-to-date as we hear any important news and will let you know when we can reopen. We will be here for you online even while we are closed.”

[For a quick summary of these elements, see the Leadership Lesson on Standby Statements]

In all fairness, I’m sure these independent owners also mean to communicate how much they love and miss their customers. But their words – crafted out of necessity and in great haste from a template – don’t quite resonate. They don’t quite say: We are closed, but we miss you and are still there for you.

Contrast those signs with recent updates that a certain coffee company has posted on Instagram – the digital front door for many contemporary consumers. Note the likes and comments.

So, for owners of shuttered businesses – small or large, mighty or nimble – here are two important questions you should ask yourself:

1. How can you communicate your message in conversational human language, rather than boilerplate jargon? You’re dealing with ordinary humans. Why not sound like one?

2. How can you include a message of gratitude at the very top of the page? Owners should express their sincere thanks to the customer who has arrived at the door in the first sentence or two. What would happen if the language of the sign started there? Only good things, I promise you.

Here are some signs that hit the mark beautifully. Which ones do you like best?

One last thought: many of the signs that I see on the doors have been left there unchanged for weeks.

Dear shop owners— It’s not too late to change that sign!

Love,

Your Devoted Customer

Leaders are judged based on how they deal with their biggest challenges.

In the COVID-19 crisis we see a contrast of leaders so stark that it can serve as a leadership laboratory for future generations to study.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shows a steady, compassionate, and urgent tone as he informs New Yorkers and the broader world about the reality of COVID-19 in his state. His briefings are direct, honest, consistent, and clear. He sprinkles his commentary with expressions of concern for health workers and hospital patients, he invokes his parents, his brother, and his daughters. And he tells the truth.

President Donald Trump, on the other hand, shows none of these qualities. He bungled the first two months of the pandemic in the U.S. He denied the severity of the virus and downplayed the risk of contagion. He alternates between the rosy – churches full at Easter – and the gloomy – social distancing for much longer. There is still not a whole-of-government response. Rather, there are fragments of a government response. He leaves it to governors to figure out supply chains, even as governors confess that they’re bidding against each other – and the federal government – to secure desperately-needed medical equipment.

President Trump heaps praise on himself and expects others to do as well. He recently bragged during a COVID-19 press briefing that he was the most popular person on Facebook.

Governor Cuomo, who, according to Politico, has a “long-standing revulsion to social media,” has nevertheless “rapidly emerged as an internet star.” (Earlier this week, #Cuomosexual was trending on Twitter.)

President Trump contradicts his own public health experts, who then have to clean up the mess in his absence. He improvises on the existence of testing equipment, medical equipment, and miracle drugs that don’t exist. He violates every principle of effective leadership in a crisis.

Winston Churchill admonished, “You must look at the facts because the facts look at you.” President Trump ignores the facts in front of him and invents new ones.

Trump insists on calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” or “Chinese Virus” even though the World Health Organization advises against naming diseases for a particular location because of the stigma involved. And last week the FBI warned about a wave of hate crimes against Asians and Asian-Americans in this country.

Since the pandemic started my team and I have been studying the best and worst practices in communicating in a COVID-19 world. The best include:

  1. Begin all communication, whether written or verbal, with a statement of values: Don’t dive directly into the facts. Create an emotional connection.
  2. Show you care. Calibrate communication with empathy.
  3. Be direct, no euphemism: It’s confusing and causes unnecessary stress.
  4. Tell the truth, the whole truth: Your stakeholders are in this for the long term.
  5. Address all relevant dimensions of the crisis: A narrow lens is inadequate.
  6. Remember that expectations are dynamic. Calibrate current expectations.
  7. Communicate through multiple levels and channels. Be consistent.
  8. Align on values: Provide detail appropriate to each level and circumstance.
  9. Convey a positive attitude: Convey urgency short of provoking panic.
  10. Express emotion, vulnerability, and humility. Effective leaders do.

Governor Cuomo scores on all elements of this scorecard. The President, sadly, misses the mark. Other leaders can learn from both.

WORDS ON FIRE:    

The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It

 

Author and leadership communication professor Helio Fred Garcia documents President Donald Trump’s increasingly dangerous rhetoric, from his campaign through the first 2 ½ years in office, and how some lone wolves were motivated by that rhetoric to commit violence, in his new book, WORDS ON FIRE: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It. Published by Radius Book Group, Words on Fire is scheduled for release on June 30, 2020.

WORDS ON FIRE is about the power of communication to do great harm, and how civic leaders and engaged citizens can hold leaders accountable to prevent such harm. Garcia focuses on the language President Trump uses that conditions an audience to accept, condone, and commit violence against a targeted group, rival, or critic. The book includes a history of such rhetoric and identifies a playbook of twelve forms of communication that typically precede acts of mass violence up to and including genocide. The Nazis used all twelve; the Rwandan Hutu used ten. Trump uses all twelve. Garcia also introduces a new, more accessible name for rhetoric that provokes violence: lone-wolf whistle violence, on the model of “dog whistle” politics, where politicians use coded language that conveys one meaning, usually benign, to most people, but a different meaning to members of a certain group or followers of a certain ideology.

“In my teaching and research, I study patterns: patterns that help leaders enhance competitive advantage, build trust and loyalty, and change the world for the better. I also note patterns that predictably, even if unintentionally, lead to hurt, to harm, and to violence,” said Garcia. “In reflecting on the President’s language, I noticed a pattern: He was using the very same rhetorical techniques that had preceded previous mass murders, including genocides. I worried that, left unchecked, he would continue, with increasingly dire consequences.”

WORDS ON FIRE describes the changes in the nation’s political culture and media that led to Trump’s nomination and presidency. It profiles leaders who dialed back their rhetoric when it was shown to put people’s lives at risk. The book closes with a call to action: We can learn the lessons of today to prepare for tomorrow, to help civic leaders, engaged citizens, journalists, and public officials recognize the phenomenon and take steps to hold other leaders accountable in the future when they use such language.

 

Advance Praise for Words on Fire

“Language is power, and powerful. It can uplift, or harm. Helio Fred Garcia is an astute student of language and communication. This book offers historic examples, keen insights and valuable advice on recognizing patterns of language that can harm or lead to violence.”

—  Former Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security spokesman, Col. David Lapan, USMC (Ret)

Words on Fire serves as a guiding light during this dark moment in our history. Every American should read this timely, imperative book if we are to save our democracy.”

—  Gold Star Parent and Immigrant American Khizr Khan

“Words On Fire should be mandatory reading and a guide book for every journalist, business school, religious leader, and elected official. Important institutions in our society and culture have the affirmative responsibility to stand up and speak out against the users and use of dangerous language.”

—  James E. Lukaszewski, America’s Crisis Guru®

“This is a highly readable guide to how we can call out and combat Trump’s toxic language and malignant agenda, and push back against the corrosive forces that enable Trumpism and put our country in peril.”

—  Evan Wolfson, Founder, Freedom to Marry

“Garcia, a proven scholar on communication, identifies rhetoric that breeds violence, affirms autocracy, and prompts terrorism as well as critical responses to those developments that serve as antidotes to trouble and strategies for building a more equitable, united world.”

— Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President Emeritus, Interfaith Alliance

 

About the Author

For nearly 40 years Helio Fred Garcia has helped leaders build trust, inspire loyalty, and lead effectively. Garcia is a coach, counselor, teacher, writer, and speaker whose clients include some of the largest and best-known companies and organizations in the world including. He has worked and taught in dozens of countries on six continents.

Since 1988 Garcia has been an adjunct professor of management at the New York University Stern School of Business executive MBA program, where he teaches crisis management and was named Executive MBA Great Professor in 2016. He is an adjunct associate professor of management and communication at NYU School of professional studies where he teaches communication strategy, communication ethics and law, and crisis communication.

Garcia is also an adjunct associate professor of professional development and leadership at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, where he teaches ethics, crisis, and leadership.

He is a senior fellow at the Institute of Corporate Communication at Communication University of China. He is a contract lecturer at the Defense Information School and at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

###

Media Contact:

Johanna Ramos-Boyer

JRB Communications, LLC

703-646-5137

Johanna@jrbpr.biz

New York, NY (May 7, 2019) – On Friday May 3, 2019, the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership honored Dr. Guanpeng (Steven) Dong with the 2019 Logos Institute Outstanding Leader Award. The award reception was held in the evening at the Logos Institute, where dozens of guests came to honor Dr. Dong.

Dr. Dong is an accomplished strategic communicator, crisis advisor, educator, and philanthropist with a multinational presence. He is the Chair and Professor of Media and Public Affairs for the Faculty of Professional Studies and Executive Education of Communication University of China in Beijing, the leading school that prepares journalists and PR practitioners. He also serves as Vice Chair of the China Public Relations Association and is a public relations advisor to the senior-most government officials in the Chinese government.

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

 

“I’m excited to accept this honor and to reunite with my friend Fred. I also look forward to potential opportunities to collaborate with Logos in the future in terms of joint book publishing and teaching,” said Dr. Dong.

Logos Institute president Helio Fred Garcia and Dr. Dong have been friends since 2011. In 2015, Dr. Dong invited Garcia to teach strategic communication in Tsinghua University through its Institute for Strategic Communication and Public Relations, of which Dr. Dong was a founding director. Garcia has been a Senior Fellow of Communication University of China since 2015.