Resourced Leaders

'Resourced Leaders' is a premier Australian based Leadership Performance organisation that specialises in working with senior executives, leaders and high performing individuals who aspire to greater levels of personal leadership and success.

Surviving your inevitable crisis

Posted by Phil Owens
Phil Owens
Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He
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on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 in Leadership

If you are in business, you should expect a crisis.  Whether your organisation survives depends on how you manage it.

Is your business in crisis?

Often, businesses don’t know exactly when a crisis begins. A crisis can emerge because of competitive factors, because of external market factors, or even from internal actions.

A crisis can either make or break an organisation. The way the crisis is handled and managed says a lot about the underlying culture, the underlying values and standards, and the preparedness of the organisation to deal openly and directly with issues as they emerge.


A crisis well managed has the opportunity to build massive trust. It allows the organisation to demonstrate its core values to its target prospects and customers.

Unfortunately this really happens, as crises emerge in businesses large and small, it is often the opportunity for finger-pointing, blame, or the ostrich “head in the sand” approach to leadership and management.

Many organisations are not even prepared for the idea of a crisis. By ignoring the potential for crisis, they ignore a significant business risk which needs to be ameliorated, and at the same time they miss the opportunity that comes on the back end of managing a crisis properly.

Of course, nobody wants to see a business in crisis. However this does not mean that an organisation should not properly prepare for a crisis that can emerge. Consideration should be given, in any business plan, for what risks could emerge to the business. For small businesses, this could be something as simple as will losing all of the data files on no other company sole computer. It could be a legal challenge, a patent infringement, a customer litigation scenario. It could also be the result of new competition, sabotage, or changed market conditions which means that the income stream of the organisation is now no longer relevant to the customer base.

Preparing for crisis means understanding all of the potential risks that might emerge from within and from outside of the business. Going through a stepwise process of imagining what those risks could be, and even ‘ war gaming’ potential significant threats allows an organisation to understand its risk profile.

Having taken the time to understand the potential risks to a business also allows it to be more aware of the emergence of factors leading to crisis. It provides the organisation and those within it with a greater sense of the potential for risk, and alerts them to pay attention to the warning signs which might indicate a crisis is on the way and allow to be avoided even before it occurs.

Preparing for crisis is the first and most important step in navigating a crisis once it begins. By understanding what the risks are that face a business, it allows specific strategies to be created that can be rapidly employed to assist an organisation to move through the acute and chronic phases of crisis.

Organisations are encouraged to create a ‘red book’, that is a play-book based around potential significant threats to the business.  This handbook can be taken out of the drawer and shared as appropriate to get the organisation through the storm.

Too often organisations are caught on the back foot. A crisis emerges, and the organisation has not thought through the potential risk or the strategies which could be employed to deal with that risk. This means that there are always playing catch up. 

Particularly in large organisations (but true for all) being on the back foot is a terrible place to be. It puts the organisation at the mercy of external forces, such as the media, interest groups, government, and those out to benefit from the organisations crisis (such as competitors).


Having a play-book developed allows an organisation to be on the front foot. It should have within a clearly defined roles and responsibilities for times of crisis, a communication strategy including a media plan, legal and regulatory strategies, internal communication approach, worst-case scenario strategies, and backup planning.


By understanding the potential risks to your business you will be better placed to manage the crisis as it unfolds.  The truth is that every business should expect to be in at some time in the future. If it turns out that no crisis emerges, then you can consider yourself fortunate and simply keep your red book in the drawer.


When you consider your business, are you prepared to crisis?

What major risks do you foresee for your business that could lead to a crisis scenario?

Do you have a prepared red book to manage a crisis?

Are you already in crisis but it is not aware of it?


Stay resourceful.


Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He honed his skills working with executives and leaders around the world, coaching and consulting in over 30 countries, from entrepreneurial start-ups to boards of multi-billion dollar businesses.


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