Thought Catalysts: Melissa Agnes on Making 2017 Crisis-Free

January 3, 2017 Melissa Agnes, Speakers' Spotlight

There are leaders and then there are followers. Generally the idea is to be the former. 

But perhaps it's worth a shot to look at this phrase the other way around. Maybe to be a leader, it's worth being a follower. 

The people who lead the way with awesome ideas and unique talents did so by acquiring knowledge and applying it in new and interesting ways. We all need to learn stuff to lead stuff. And those who do it best inspire others to act. 

They are Thought Catalysts. Here they are as told by the movers and shakers from Speakers' Spotlight


2016 has seen its fair share of organizational crises. From Wells Fargoto Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, to Whole Foods Market, the Cincinnati Zoo, Dyn Inc. – and the list goes on.

Some of these organizations managed their crises exceptionally well, while others failed miserably and, as a result, will be forced to continue their crisis management efforts well into the new year.

But such is the story each and every December. Last year we were talking about Volkswagen and Chipotle, while the year before it was the Ebola crisis and Malaysia Airlines – and next year, we’ll be right back here talking about the epic crises of 2017.

This is because crises are far from being a new or rare phenomenon. In fact, in this age of live-streaming, data vulnerability and heightened stakeholder expectations, a crisis striking your company is almost an inevitability. So the question is, how can you protect your organization?

In my experience working with some of the world’s largest and most proactive organizations in their respective industries, here are five things smart leaders are doing to better their chances at making 2017 crisis-free for their organizations.

1. They Admit They Are Not Immune To Crises

No company is immune to crises, especially in this day and age. And the smartest organizations are the ones that are not shy or scared to admit this. Instead, they choose to leverage this reality to their advantage, using it as fuel to make sure they’re fully prepared to successfully manage any crisis that comes their way.

2. They Identify Their Organization’s High-Risk Scenarios

Every organization has a number of high-risk scenarios that they are vulnerable to. Identifying these scenarios is a rewarding process that requires input and careful deliberation by different members of the executive team. This is one of the most important and productive first steps in implementing a crisis-ready corporate culture.

3. They Develop A Practical Crisis Management Governance Model (With An Emphasis OnPractical)

At the heart of an organization’s successful crisis management is a strong team who clearly understood their roles and responsibilities within the management of the crisis. A strong governance modelmirrors the organization’s governance structure, has clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each member of the crisis management team, and includes internal escalation protocols that ensure prompt escalation when time is of the essence (as well as the avoidance of wrongful escalation).

4. They Prevent The Preventable And Prepare For The Unpreventable

It’s not enough to just identify the threats, risks and scenarios. The identification process needs to lead to proactive and strategic action. Once the organization’s high-risk scenarios are defined, smart leaders take the time to dive into each scenario in order to identify gaps and additional vulnerabilities, prevent the preventable risks, and plan and prepare for the unpreventable. In other words, they work to develop a crisis preparedness program that is robust, scalable and viable.

5. They Commit To Conducting Regular Exercises and Drills

Strong leaders who lead their teams to crisis management success understand that practice makes perfect. They understand that, while they don’t want their team to ever have to face a crisis, when the inevitable day eventually comes, they want their team to have crisis management experience. So they help them develop that experience and hone their crisis management skills by conducting regular and realistic crisis trainings and simulations.

Making 2017 Crisis-Free Begins With A Commitment From Leadership

Smart leaders take crisis preparedness seriously and understand that, in a world where things can quickly take a turn for the worse, their team needs to be ready to successfully put issues to bed just as soon as they occur – and better yet, turn them into positive experiences and opportunities for the organization. Achieving this requires a commitment to implementing a crisis-ready corporate culture that stems from the top, down.

Are you ready to make such a commitment in 2017?

*This article originally appeared in Forbes, December 2016


Melissa Agnes is a crisis management strategist. To read more of her posts, visit her page on Speakers' Spotlight. To have Melissa speak at your next function, email Speakers' Spotlight at info@speakers.ca. 

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