The all important human touch in a crisis
Imagine now that you are the boss of a major organisation whose prime purpose is to send volunteers into the homes of old and vulnerable people to deliver freshly prepared meals. You are there to extend a helping hand to ensure their wellbeing. Imagine also that disaster can strike on two fronts. First that one of your volunteers abuses one of the people they are meant to protect. Or, that one of your meals causes food poisoning. Well those are two of the nightmares we covered in crisis management courses, and very enlightening the experience proved to be, especially as we racked up the pressure on participants by simulating crises that just kept on growing and threatened to spiral out of control. In the abuse case, the scenario was that inadequate checks had been carried out on volunteers, there was a lack of supervision and that the organisation had failed to call in the police when the case first came to light. In the second, that safety checks on cooking by a sub contractor had not been carried out, that one of the old people had become seriously ill, and then to top off the nightmare, reports came in during the interview that the old person had died. Needless to say, both situations had the potential to destroy a reputation that had been built up and nurtured over many decades in a single day. The answer in both cases: honesty and openness on the facts, public apologies, sympathy for victims and families, an explanation on what would be done immediately to ensure the situation could never arise again, and resolve to do whatever it takes to put things right. And, very importantly, a performance in interview that was caring, apologetic, firm and convincing. As usual, the human touch is all important. Empathy with the audience is key.