Leaders Behaving Badly

Susan_Rink-portrait-forwebMaybe we should blame it on a full moon.

In the past two days, we’ve seen two high-profile examples of politicians whose words — and actions — have gotten them into hot water:  California Assemblyman Mike Duvall and South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson

You have to wonder what these two seemingly intelligent adults were thinking, what temporary insanity would lead them to misstep so badly.  Unfortunately, they are not alone.

The business landscape is littered with examples of executives who engaged in underhanded dealings or put their company at risk due to unethical business practices. 

When those egregious errors in judgment are made public, most Corporate Communications teams spring into crisis mode, issuing public statements and attempting to minimize the damage.  All too often, their focus is on managing the external message, and the employee population is treated as a secondary audience. 

The result is a sanitized internal statement, couched in legalize, and totally devoid of genuine concern for the team’s feelings of betrayal and uncertainty.

Face it, this is a crisis.  And whether you are dealing with a warehouse explosion, a massive hurricane or an executive caught with her hand in the cookie jar, the same rules apply:  respond quickly, get in front of the story, and give equal weight to communicating to internal and external audiences.

Employees have a stake in your business.  You tell them, over and over, that they are the key to your success.  In a crisis situation, they need to know what has happened, and how the company is addressing the problem.  And they need to know how to respond to questions from neighbors, friends and family.

Most importantly, they need to get that information directly from their company, not from the evening news.


About Susan Rink

Susan C. Rink is president and owner of Rink Strategic Communications, LLC (www.rinkcomms.com) and presenter of the "Take Note" podcast series (http://www.youtube.com/user/RinkComms).
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