Truth prevails in crisis

A few years ago, I got stuck in travel hell. It was early evening when my US Airways flight landed in Charlotte, NC. As I deplaned, I was handed a piece of paper stating that my connecting flight home to Connecticut was cancelled due to weather conditions in the Northeast and to expect extended wait times when calling reservations. I tried calling multiple times and all I got were busy signals. Recommended hotels were sold out. My Marriott Silver Elite status finally got me a room 30 minutes from the airport. I left for the hotel without luggage or any idea when I’d get a flight home.

I got to the airport at 6:00 a.m. and waited in line for eight and half hours only to get a standby seat. After getting bumped twice, I finally boarded a flight home at midnight. Throughout the entire ordeal, all we customers were asking for was the truth from US Airways. The truth came out later that the problem was more US Airways’ switch to a new reservations and operating system rather than the bad weather.

A freak winter storm hit Connecticut the day before Halloween, leaving a record number of CL&P customers – more than 800,000 households statewide – without power. Wet, heavy snow on the fall foliage brought down power lines, as tree limbs broke off and entire trees buckled and fell. But this is New England. We have snowstorms. In January 2011 alone, storms dumped almost 80 inches of snow on the state. In less than 24 hours, people were out and about. But this Halloween storm was different. A week later, hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were without power. Promises of power restoration were broken. Homes were cold. Businesses were suffering. The crisis was begging for the truth.

And what would a presidential campaign be without the distraction and senseless drama over revelations of a candidate’s questionable behavior? Is Herman Cain lying about the sexual harassment accusations of four women and sealed settlements? Distrust in government and partisan politics has done its fair share to exacerbate today’s economic challenges. Stepping up and telling the truth early would be a refreshing change.

Crises are unavoidable. When you find yourself in a crisis, cloaking or hiding the truth is a guaranteed way to extend both its duration and damage. Consider these no-compromise leadership traits:

  • No-compromise leaders step up and allow the truth to prevail. The truth can be tough to disclose, but the truth is the only thing that’s real. No-compromise leaders never fear the truth. They seek it out and let it out.
  • No-compromise leaders step up and own their bad decisions and behaviors. Leaders are human. They make mistakes. They own their mistakes. That’s how relationship wounds are mended. That’s how trust is regained.
  • No-compromise leaders allow the truth to manage expectations. Uncertainty feeds drama, distrust and stress. The truth, even when it’s not good news, is still the truth. Knowing the truth early is the fastest way to get in sync with new realities. I want to know if I’m going to spend the night in the airport. I want to know if I will be without power for more than a week. I want to know if I can trust the word of my candidate for president.

One of the great lines in movie history was in A Few Good Men when on the witness stand, Jack Nicholson’s character, Colonel Nathan R. Jessep, said, “You can’t handle the truth.” We can always handle the truth. Bring it on. No compromise.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click above to comment.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


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