Lessons from a Crisis

The essential management character of a company is amplified during stressful times

No matter how smoothly your company runs during good times, even a thriving business can be brought to its knees in the face of a crisis. Be it a natural disaster, a nasty public labour dispute, or a public relations failure, the way in which a business handles itself in crisis mode can expose a company’s strengths and weaknesses to customers, shareholders, and the rest of the world.

One of the first steps in preparing your company to face events that can be unpredictable and often outside of a company’s realm of influence is to operate with a working definition of the word “crisis” that isn’t necessarily synonymous with words like “emergency” or “disaster.” In her research paper Challenges in Teaching Crisis Management: Connecting Theories, Skills, and Reflexivity (co-written with Christophe Roux-Dufort), Carole Lalonde, director of PhD programs in the Department of Management at Université Laval, cites that some scholars believe many companies put too much emphasis on the destructive effects when defining the word “crisis,” which can immobilize a company when responding to the greater impact of an unexpected event, Lalonde’s research posits that it is important to look at a crisis as a moment of decision-making, where it’s up to the leadership within a company to determine in which direction the event will lead them. 

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