Thursday, May 27, 2004

Weary and Confused 

There comes a point in every crisis in which everyone is tired and feeling paths forward on a hidden course. There are landmines everywhere and a misstep can set one off. Sometimes the wound is minor, but it can be fatal if the wrong set of circumstances occur in the right combination. When I write fatal, I mean a company can face a huge loss of business and perhaps loss of the company itself. Anyone who thinks this isn't true hasn't been around in the last three years.

The questions that the client will ask focus on what is right. Is the course taken the right course? Should the company be doing more? Should the company be doing less? What will make the crisis go away? Answers to these questions are rarely clear. And an answer that will solve the problem may be too difficult or unachievable at the moment. The company might be fastened firmly to a tar baby that smears it over and over and cannot be pulled off.

There are tactics one can consider in instances like this but they rarely bring much relief from the relentless pounding that a firm and its CEO takes day after day after day. In many ways, the counsel one gives is not what the CEO wants to hear. Open up, one advises, but the CEO isn't ready to open up for good reasons, some of which the counselor cannot know. Answer reporters' questions, one thinks, but even the counselor knows this is impractical when the company cannot say any more than it has. Saying the same things over and over while facts emerge that make things look worse is a way to make a company irrelevant and not credible.

What to do? Sometimes the only option is to sit there and take it. That's the worst option but sometimes there isn't much else one can do.


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