Never Waste a Crisis

Never waste a crisis. Depending on which Google link you follow, that was first said by Niccolo Machiavelli or Winston Churchill (both of who I enjoy immensely, BTW). Whoever said it, it’s been on my mind these past few weeks during the economic slowdown caused by the government response to COVID-19.

It was also a frequent theme in Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others, which I read while trying to discern what leading in this crisis would require of me.

In the book, author Justin Menkes tells the story of a new CEO who was facing almost insurmountable problems. But, instead of correcting the problems, “he embarked on changing the whole organizational culture to one that focused on putting forth excellence in every aspect of the business.

Most people resist change until forced. That’s why, as a business leader, you should never waste a crisis. The CEO mentioned above used the crisis to force the kind of tectonic shift in the company that made it less susceptible to future crises. As Menkes writes, he “fixed the cause of the problem, and the problem itself went away.

How are you going to make sure you don’t waste this crisis? Have your people grown complacent and in need of a motivational purpose? Have they become siloed and lacking a rallying cry to unite them? Have they gotten sloppy and ready to be called back to excellence? That’s the role of the leader.

Don’t simply respond to the crisis. Use it to become the kind of organization that is impervious to crises.

There’s a lot more to say about this book, and I will likely say more here. If you want more now, I recorded an episode of Mastering Your Mindset on Better Under Pressure:

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