We can learn so much from our great leaders if we pay attention to their words and deeds. I’ve been looking at how they deal with ‘difficult situations’ – what we might call a crisis – and it’s fascinating to see that, whatever the event, they basically follow the same pattern.
Perhaps their well-worn responses might help you if you are faced with difficult situations: be it breaching a code of practice to breaking an actual law. Maybe you have behaved inappropriately, accepted money for favours, failed to report income streams, covered up the facts, misled or even lied. Not that our leaders would ever do any such thing.
The issue might relate to you personally, your organisation, or a product or service you supply. For simplicity, let’s call it Anygate. If you are faced with Anygate accusations, worry not. You can give the appearance of doing what’s right without actually doing anything at all. It’s all in the words.
Here are the different phases your Anygate might go through and some suggested responses to be used as needed.
Whatever the allegation, start off by denying it in the hope it might go away. If the accusations continue, adopt a different approach. That’s not to say you admit it’s true, or that Anygate happened, just that you are aware of the allegation and will look into it. Try these at different stages:
• Anygate? We are wholly unaware of these allegations.
• We are aware of these reports, but it is too early to comment.
• We are looking into it.
• It’s complicated; we must avoid a knee-jerk response.
If evidence about Anygate mounts, it’s vital to be seen to be responsible and reactive. But, as before, without actually admitting anything. If others have committed the same sins, use that to your advantage.
• We will continue to monitor events closely and act accordingly.
• It is a serious situation – as we were the first to recognise. While others have done nothing, we are responding.
• We see this as a priority. We will spare nothing to put it right.
• It is a major issue, and we call on all to act.
An Inquiry is Announced
To further defer mounting allegations and criticisms, announce an inquiry /or detailed report to be commissioned. Don’t rush to get it started – or finished.
• We are launching an inquiry. We will carefully consider its conclusions.
• The very fact we commissioned this inquiry is proof that we take this matter seriously.
• The inquiry cannot begin yet as we must focus our efforts on dealing with the current situation.
• The inquiry has begun. We must await its conclusions before commenting further.
The Report is Published
When the inquiry concludes/ a report is published, always focus on the positives. Avoid committing to specific actions for as long as possible.
• The report has been published but we cannot comment until we have rigorously reviewed it.
• We have considered the report. It confirms that the majority of our actions were correct; it recommends certain actions which we will, of course, consider.
• We must not overreact because of a few bad apples. (The person responsible has resigned, so no further action is required).
• Any minor misdemeanours, for which we humbly apologise, must be seen in the broader context of our excellent record dating back decades.
Things Heat Up
Anygate could attract significant criticism and media coverage. Alternative actions (Plan B) might be vigorously promoted. Firm rebuttals might be needed:
• We totally reject Plan B – it is wholly ill-conceived.
• The media is projecting a very biased account. Focusing on this small item is highly unrepresentative and distracting.
• These allegations are a hoax. This is nothing more than a witch hunt by conspiracy theorists prone to exaggeration.
• There is no evidence whatsoever to support these views. A mere smear! Fake News!!
A Change of Plan
Despite your robust efforts, you might have to change course – eventually. As always, make this a positive.
• We are giving careful consideration to Plan B, but there are many options to consider.
• After due consideration, we are delighted to announce that we are going to adopt Plan B.
• We have not done a U-turn. Our adoption of Plan B reflects our agile thinking and ability to respond to changing circumstances.
• From the start, we were one of the first to propose Plan B as an option. It is an excellent solution.
Time to Move On
As soon as you can, put Anygate firmly in the past – bathed in a positive light.
• We have listened and acted. Our stance is transformative.
• Our response has been world-beating.
• We need to put the past behind us and look to the bright future ahead.
• Anygate will not be discussed further. The matter is closed.
Remember: Appear to commit but never admit!