How standing for something helped deal with a crisis

When a major IT system fell over, the CIO, Graham experienced the single most high-pressure period of his career. Customers were angry, and it exposed the business to major reputational risk.

He had to resist the temptation to take over and pretend to have all the answers. He recognised his role was not to be a technical expert. Rather, he was the agent of hope, conveying the message, “We are going to get through this.” That meant he delegated and let the experts work through the issues without breathing down their necks. That sometimes took massive amounts of patience and care. He avoided the temptation to play the blame game, knowing that would not take them forward.

They divided the team into three, one working the issue, another trying to find out what happened and a third team managing business as usual. He focused on how to look after the people under pressure. Graham believes they had laid the pipes beforehand of a culture of collaboration which helped them get through the crisis.

A long-serving team member commented that previous command/control style leaders would not have achieved such a successful outcome. They could compel people to be present but could not instruct them to bring all of their professional passion and energies to bear. That is something people give at their discretion. 

Graham’s stand for the collective wisdom of his team is a key part of his operating leadership charter, not just in a crisis. He says, “We are collectively smarter than we are individually; no-one has a monopoly on good ideas.” His stand helped tap into the power of the team to deliver a successful outcome.

Bernadette Jiwa puts it well in her book, Marketing: A Love Story: How to Matter to Your Customers, “Nobody can tell you what to stand for, or how your values, wants and needs should intersect with those of your customers and then manifest as a business, an idea or an experience. Figuring out the destination is hard—but recognising it is more valuable than knowing exactly how you’re going to get there.”

🙋What examples have you seen of leaders standing for something?🙋


Best regards, Brian