The Three P’s of Crisis Leadership: Planning, Patience, and Practice

by | July 19, 2011

Today’s guest blog post comes from Dan Weedin, of Toro Consulting Inc.. Dan Weedin is a Seattle-based insurance and risk management consultant. He helps his clients to make better, more informed decisions on their risk management to save them money, time, and frustration. His strategies on crisis leadership helps his clients keep their business moving forward no matter what obstacles get in the way. Dan is an award-winning speaker and has a regular monthly column in the Kitsap Business Journal. Visit his web site at; call him at (360) 271-1592; or e-mail him at



Decisions made in real time more often than not…are really bad.


When crisis occurs, and it will every year, how you respond to it will ultimately determine your survival. If you’re a small business, you don’t get the cash flow, cash reserves, resources, or human assets that your larger brethren in the corporate world do. A sudden loss of cash flow, ability to operate, or reputation damage can literally kill your business regardless of how much insurance you have.


The newspapers and cyberspace are filled with recent examples of crisis – the tornadoes in the Midwest and East Coast; Ice storms; Earthquakes in Japan; Sony being hacked into 5 times; the UK cell phone hacking scandal; Delta being fined for excessive rat feces on their planes. You get the picture.


When I coached high school basketball, I used to regularly run drills called “Situations.” These would be end of half, and end of game situations where the game is on the line. Over the course of the year, we rarely ran into those situations. However, we were prepared for them when they came and as importantly, we knew how to act in a tight situation. Can you say the same thing about your team?


In order to be prepared to survive a crisis, you must be willing to understand and exercise the “Three P’s.”


Planning – You have to create some time to evaluate your vulnerabilities. Don’t be “Pollyanna-ish” and think it won’t happen to you. It happens to everyone in one form or fashion eventually. Bring your team together and brainstorm. Triage the perils into priorities and determine how you will handle each one. Will you insure, avoid, control, or some combination? The reality is that by bringing in your team, you will get a better understanding and rich dialogue about what should keep you up at night.


Patience – In this country, we are constantly on instant gratification mode. We want things done now and we want them done our way. Crisis management doesn’t work that way. It’s a process that takes patience and perseverance. It demands that all members of your team get engaged, have input, and above all implement. Just because you don’t have a crisis right away doesn’t mean it’s not working! Your goal is to expect the best and plan for the worst. Patience in developing a model that will be fluid at the outset and go through adjustments and course correction in the middle is a necessity.


Practice – Just like I made my teams practice their crisis situations, you’ve got to put your team and system to the test once in awhile. You can’t effectively save someone’s life if you’ve never practiced CPR or First Aid. You can’t effectively respond to crisis if you’ve never practiced it, either. Even if it’s simply going through the exercise of learning to think, act, and make decisions under stress, then your business and your team are the winners. You take practice swings before hitting a golf ball; practice giving a speech to the mirror before the audience; and practice that musical number before belting it out to the crowd. If you don’t make it a priority to practice your crisis response, you are doing your team a huge disservice. Practicing your plan fundamentally improves morale, increases efficiency, and may just save your business from disaster.


All the risk management in the world won’t prevent disaster and crisis from happening. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. As you read this, you know that, too. It’s negligent to not be prepared to respond to perils and situations that could ruin your business. Everyone gets the same amount of time in the day. How you use yours is about priority, not process. What you make a priority in your business, and in your life, will eventually be brought forward and tested.


Can your business pass the test?


© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved