At some point, most companies will undergo a crisis. Good leadership will be prepared to respond immediately to mitigate the risks of the emergency.
University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business Executive Education program has organized a lecture series on crisis management and ways to help professionals adopt the best practices to manage an emergency from a leadership standpoint.
“When people are in a real crisis, they need to know exactly what to do,” said Leo Flanagan Jr., Ph.D, president of Flanagan Consultants LLC in the lecture series.
How a leader responds to a crisis and handles the economic, social and individual impacts in its aftermath can be an invaluable indicator of the long-term profitability of the company.
With nearly 30 years of experience consulting businesses, nonprofits and government and corporate agencies on effective ways to implement strategies and deal with crises, Flanagan examines the leader’s role in understanding the workplace reality of the likelihood that a crisis will occur.
Flanagan’s background as a member of the World Trade Center’s Ground Zero rescue and recovery team, and developer of a plan to help a corporate giant re-occupy its headquarter near Ground Zero are among the varied professional roles that give him insight into how an effective manager should prepare for a crisis, he said.
An unpredictable incident can do grave damage to a company’s brand or destroy it.
Flanagan cited the BP oil spill as a case where the company had a series of reputational and physical crises, which eroded and damaged the brand.
A reputational crisis, also known as a public relations crisis, is often related to product defects or tampering, firings or downsizing, criminal acts, labor disputes or disclosure of confidential information.
A physical crisis is often based on a physical risk to people or a business such as natural disasters, fires, industrial accidents, power outages, terror attacks, workplace violence and vehicular accidents.
Forming a crisis management or business continuity team is essential to providing early intervention to prevent or manage unpredictable occurrences.
It is important that a chief executive, a key decision-maker, be the first member of the crisis management team, joined by representatives from departments such as human resources, technology, facilities, security and fire safety, risk management, health, and communications and public relations.
A crisis management team should be a company’s first line of defense to insure there is a clear, comprehensive policy and an organized team already in place, should an unforeseen incident occur, Flanagan said.
It is the responsibility of the team to make recommendations and take actions to reduce the potential for a crisis, plan an immediate response in the event of a crisis and run disaster scenarios and drills depending on regulatory requirements.
To get ahead of a crisis, Flanagan recommends the crisis management team notify emergency services, conduct appropriate evacuations and provide building evacuation supplies for every 50 to 100 employees to support them for several hours.
In every crisis, there are bound to be common risk factors. Flanagan noted the dangers of delaying notification of first responders, improper exits and obstructions blocking doors, the failure to practice full-scale drills, and inadequate public address and alarm systems.
“When a crisis may be occurring, you treat it as the real thing,” Flanagan said.
You can learn more about this lecture series and the University of Notre Dame’s 100% online Executive Education Programs.