Crisis Leadership Retreat   |   Workshop Description

Crisis Leadership Workshop:

Crises can be a great leveler, putting your leadership style and your ability to motivate, inspire and drive behavior to the test. In fact, the role of leadership is probably the single most important variable in the perceived—and actual—effectiveness of an organization’s response to a crisis.

Our Crisis Leadership Workshop is designed to help you avoid the mistakes that many organizations make when events are unfolding rapidly, accurate information is scarce, and the pressure to respond is high.  We’ll also help you seize potential opportunities that a crisis can present to ensure that you not only survive but emerge stronger.

In these interactive, scenario-based sessions, we cover:

  • The nature of crisis and reputational risk
  • The critical elements of decision-making in a crisis and how it differs from business as usual
  • Team dynamics including how to avoid groupthink—or worse, bunker mentality
  • The hallmarks of effective crisis leadership
  • Getting ahead of the issue—understanding the role of context and externalities, including political pressure and unrelated events
  • The culture and structures necessary to ensure a consistent and repeatable approach
  • Preventing crises through proactive issues management

Click the “+”s below to read more about the Crisis Leadership Sessions

Focus on Campus Unrest >

Colleges and Universities across the country have struggled recently to address campus unrest. The following sessions will focus on the topic in the broader context of crisis management best practice:

  • Breakout Option 1: Media Training
  • Breakout Option 2: Protest Management Policy and Planning
  • Contentious Meetings, Event Intervention and De-escalation Training

More detail about these sessions >

Session Descriptions

Welcome to Colorado!  We’ll kick off our retreat by grounding the next two days in the fundamental belief that guides our work—that the perceived effectiveness of crisis response can have more influence on an institution’s reputation than the underlying event or issue. And that’s great news.  It means that while you may have little to no control over the event that precipitated your crisis, you do have control over how you respond.

So, we’ll dive right in and lay the groundwork for the rest of our time together with an exercise that will challenge teams to consider the impacts and consequences of the crisis presented in a scenario.  Because here’s the thing—in the heat of a major issue or crisis, even something as fundamental as an understanding of the situation and the risk it poses may be different from one member of a crisis team to the next.  This illustrates why the path forward can be so difficult. If your team does not even agree on what is at stake, how can next steps be determined?

Institution of Higher Education are uniquely ill-positioned to respond to crises in a timely and effective manner.  In this session we’ll discuss these challenges along with the culture, mindset, and structural components necessary to overcome them.


Much of the stress created by crises stems not so much from the underlying event or issue but from the ad hoc approach most institutions use to respond. In this session, we begin to lay the foundation for a predictable, coordinated, and strategically aligned response process.

In this session, we’ll explore:

  • The differences between Emergency Management, Crisis Communications and Crisis Management
  • Right-sizing your Crisis Leadership team
  • The role of the president/chancellor (and the Board!) in crisis
  • Expectations around information flow and coordination between responding teams


When crises arise, one the first question many leaders ask is, “Why didn’t we find out about this earlier?” In this section, we’ll focus on discovering and managing issues before they become a crisis.

In this session, we’ll work on:

  • Developing a culture of “fault-free” reporting
  • Establishing a strategic incident screening process
  • Determining parameters for activating response teams


In the heat of a crisis, it can be tempting for leaders to look to communications to solve problems, but that strategy fails without strong, efficient decision-making at the core. Creating a defined management process keeps teams on track and well-coordinated as they respond to issues and crises.

In this session, we’ll focus on:

  • Moving beyond a “war room” to a more formalized and consistent process
  • Managing team dynamics and diverse personalities
  • Efficient time management and accountability
  • Avoiding “group think” and “bunker mentality”
  • Cultural and hierarchical obstacles that inhibit problem-solving


Communications is arguably the most visible—and therefore most impactful—component of crisis response. It shapes perceptions around decision-making and effectiveness and can have a profound and outsized influence on the credibility of an institution and its leadership team. Likewise, missteps in communications can have an outsized influence and significantly damage the credibility of the institution.

In this session, we’ll discuss:

  • A stakeholder-centric, as opposed to media-driven, approach to communications
  • Defining roles for the team as they interact with institutional leadership
  • Approaches to help expedite communications approval
  • The role of social media in issues/crises
  • Tools to effectively manage meetings, action items, accountability and proactive preparedness for new developments

Crisis Leadership Retreat
Breckenridge, Colorado
July 31 – August 2


Retreat Price Includes:

  • 2-night stay at the all-suite Residence Inn Breckenridge
  • dinner upon arrival
  • daily breakfast
  • lunch & snacks during sessions
  • hosted happy hour
  • a copy of Managing Partner Simon Barker’s book “Preventing Crises at Your Institution”