Back in one of my previous lives (working for a Fortune 50 company), most of my job was managing a variety of the inadvertent kinds of problems that negatively affected the business, or the variety of other issues brought on by dumb manager decisions and things that people in the company had done or failed to do. The guy that hired me considered himself to be quite a guru of crisis management so the situation became a case study for the old adage, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Most of my time was actually managing my boss’s perception and overreaction to everything that happened in the company.
It was a melodramatic time with every day providing a new test in judgment of trying to figure out what “crises” to take seriously and immediately, and on what to avoid wasting time, energy and resources. At the same time, I was managing the unrealistic expectations and ego of the guy that I worked for. I had both a real job and an albatross.
That takes us to today where it seems that we live in a constant state of crisis management. TV news readers feed breathlessly important ‘breaking news’ stories 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Political actors hyperventilate on the atrocities committed by the other side. And the rest of us, who are the audiences and recipients of these opinion makers, are living in and learning from this new norm. In part, it’s resulted in a new generation of wound-collectors – people who search for reasons to be offended by relatively miniscule issues and then overreact as much as possible.
It’s tough dealing with people for whom everything’s a crisis, but as facilitators, mediators and communicators, it’s part of our new norm. This new kind of crisis management requires slightly different skills than our craft required just a few years ago, but it can be done and it needs to be done. Because sometimes reasoned people have real crises to manage.