Is It Easier to Row the Boat or to Rock It?
What NFL and GM have in common… and something everyone needs to consider.
While the former FBI Director Robert Mueller investigation is on-going, bets are the NFL’s leadership will be cleared. It doesn’t mean, however that they are blameless. Among all the noise and chatter about when the Rice tape arrived, if it arrived, who saw it and when, lies a more fundamental challenge almost every organization faces. Does the organization have a culture that encourages proactively sharing bad news?
Human nature doesn’t help. Faced with a problem, we all tend to want to solve it first, before confessing that something went wrong. Does a “shoot-the-messenger” mentality at your organization mean that bad news is buried, whether you are out in the field or at HQ? Is “plausible deniability” more important than facing the issue and starting to address it? Is it easier to row the boat at your organization or to rock it? An organization’s culture can either further enforce this mentality or it can define a new set of expectations that are critical to managing reputational risk.
The legal department at GM probably wins the prize for the most egregious recent example of hiding information for fear of the fall-out. Potentially that is what happened at the NFL also. Developing a culture in which sharing bad news is not a career-killing step is important. Developing a defined, understood and enforced escalation and reporting process can signal that culture change. This isn’t a compliance program or an ethics hotline – rather it needs to be an intelligence-gathering process that allows an organization to get a heads up on issues that are potentially challenging, allowing it the time to make proactive decisions that will both stand the test of time and satisfy stakeholder expectations.
Crisis management isn’t just about how you respond to a crisis once you are in the middle of it. It’s about identifying issues early enough to prevent them from becoming crises in the first place.