Is your company immune to PR disasters? With so many eyes on the public-facing piece, with processes in place, could a nuance of words (or pictures) take you down?
The answer is yes.
Why? Because those mistakes occur based on personal and collective beliefs that often fly outside of any checks, balances or accountability. We may not be able to influence the beliefs and behaviors of our employees, but we can influence company culture. And that’s where we have to start.
Interestingly, the World Economic Forum’s 10 most in-demand skills for 2020 for successful professionals can also serve as a checklist for what leaders can focus on to build an inclusive culture, which gets you one step closer to avoiding PR disasters.
The skills are Complex Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Creativity, People Management, Coordinating with Others, Emotional Intelligence, Judgment and Decision Making, Service Orientation, Negotiation, Cognitive Flexibility.
My top four favorites will help leaders avoid a PR catastrophe.
Emotional intelligence is defined as the capacity to “accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions, to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions.” And this starts with basic self-awareness. Do you understand your emotional triggers? Have you spent time exploring how past dramas (yesterday or yester-decade) impact your behavior today? Do you truly understand how you impact others? If you react impulsively and expect others to adapt to your whims, you’re not self-regulating enough. True emotional intelligence means knowing when to step in and when to step back–and acting on that wisdom.
How it Prevents a Disaster: If you become aware of your own biases, you won’t accidentally expose them to the world.
How a Leader Makes it Happen: Improve your own self-awareness first. At that point, action items will appear. You’ll know what to do.
You may hire top talent, but if your environment, even in small ways, squelches, ridicules or lambasts opinions or expressions, you’ve got a problem. Critical thinking won’t thrive where toxicity and exclusivity grows. Do you have a culture of kindness and open-mindedness? Do you have a culture of active-listening? The greatest gift is the freedom to be yourself. Can your employees say this is a benefit that they enjoy?
How it Prevents Disaster: When people aren’t afraid to speak up about a controversial issue, the more easily they’ll catch a mistake.
How a Leader Makes it Happen: Model this behavior yourself.
Surprise! Life is not an either/or game. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to accept and discuss two opposite ideas. It encourages coordination, problem-solving and common ground. A dualistic attitude says: “It has to be this way. I’m staying in my silo.” A cognitively flexible attitude says: “It can be both/and. We just have to find a way.”
How it Prevents Disaster: If your culture is open to conversation and debate, compromise comes much easier. Less insular decisions. Less panic-driven actions.
How a Leader Makes it Happen: Organize difficult discussions in small groups. Ensure everyone gets to speak. Respectfully take turns. Adhere to inclusive meeting procedures.
Coordinating with Others
This is inclusion personified. Coordination is the unification, integration, synchronization of the efforts of group members so as to provide unity of action in the pursuit of common goals. At its core, it’s collaboration. Did I mention silos? They have no place here. Protecting one’s territory has no place. Egos do not belong. Organizational goals are everybody’s goals.
How it Prevents Disaster: When you include everyone at the table, the risk of a faux pas goes down dramatically.
How a Leader Makes it Happen: Leave egos at the door. Understand you don’t have all the answers, and be willing to be vulnerable.