Pearl's Paradise

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled teams yearning to breath free…"

November 14, 2011
by Steve Pearl
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“There’s No Whining in Dancing!”

What does it say about me that I love watching "Dancing With the Stars?"  

I can't dance like these people.  (Heck, I can't dance at all.)  I can't stand occasionally smarmy, sexual commentary by the judges.  I don't like the skimpy costumes, the racey song selection, and the forced staging of overly-long "results shows."

I am, however, drawn to this show.  I can't completely explain why.

So I sit at home, watching, appreciating, and critiquing the stars.  These people pour heart and soul into the competition, exceeding their own "two-left-feet" limitations by virtue of hard work, determination, and passion and we dare to couch-critique their performances.

Some stars hang on far too long, kept on the show purely by virtue of their popularity, not their skill.  Some press onward, struggling against their lack of natural talent, growing stronger, slowly but surely, week after week.  Some survive.  Somehow, they make it to the finals and their shot at the coveted mirror ball trophy.

Every season there are graceful competitors who fight the uphill fight, only to fall short.  They exit gracefully, they never whine, and they just keep fighting on until their ride ends.  David Arquette comes to mind.  Arquette had a little potential, but not nearly enough.  He knew it.  He worked his butt off but it was always just a little short of the mark.  When judges criticized him, he took it to heart and worked harder.  Arquette was as graceful in ejection as he was in success.

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November 10, 2011
by Steve Pearl
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Analysis: Paterno Pooch Kicks Resignation Statement

Few things in this world are more heinous than sexual abuse of a child by an adult.  It is the ultimate violation of human dignity, a shamelessly evil derailing of human potential before that potential has fully formed.  It pours acid on the heart and soul of the young victim, scarring them deeply for life.  It can often lead the victim into a life of substance abuse, inability to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships, and even suicide.

Which is why Joe Paterno's retirement announcement Wednesday was all the more puzzling.  From the moment the fingers of the writer left the keyboard and clicked "send" it was destined to be Paterno's undoing.

Among words of what appear to be genuine grief and apology, we found this tone-deaf, poorly-worded, note of arrogance:

"That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can."  (Emphasis added.)

Even if we give Paterno the benefit of the doubt – that he was attempting to sound reassuring, not arrogant – whoever edited the final document should have sensed the nuclear potential of such a statement.

Whoever advised Paterno – assuming it was not Paterno himself – misjudged both the furor of the community and the venom of alumni.  In that one, pivotal moment, Paterno believed in his own mythology; that the man who poured millions into the university over the span of decades, could define his own conclusion to a career-ending scandle.

They were sadly mistaken.  As I read those words, I shook my head.  "How could such smart people get it so wrong?"

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November 9, 2011
by Steve Pearl
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Crisis Communications 2: You Only Get One Chance to Get it Right.

(In our first installment of our Crisis Communications series we talked about how two very different organizations shared some eerie similarities as they confronted world-rocking crises.)


Hot Topic:

You only get ONE chance to do each crisis communication with excellence.  Start planning NOW!

Teaser alert:  In a couple of days I will recommend a book that will help you prepare to lead your organization through a crisis.  (It's such a great book  I devote an entire section to it!)  

For now I want to get you started with a simple concept, one that will help you survive your next crisis with fewer butterfly bandages on your organizationally battered carcass.

A carefully crafted "Crisis Communications Plan" is the most critical component of a comprehensive "Crisis Management Plan."

(We use the terms "Crisis Response Plan" and "Crisis Management Plan" interchangeably in this series.)

You say your organization doesn't have a Crisis Management Plan?  What are you waiting for?!  START WRITING IT TODAY!  Shame on you if you get caught flat-footed in the face of a crisis because you didn't put in a few hours to get a skeleton response plan together.

There are multiple facets to every crisis management plan, from security considerations, to financial considerations, to leadership structure sustainability, to technology considerations, to physical plant preparation, to social media connections, to web site capacity, and much more.  

Perhaps the most critical component is the most overlooked…

An effective Crisis Communication Plan and a decent set of Crisis Communication Protocols.

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November 8, 2011
by Steve Pearl
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Crisis Communications Concept: Emergency Plan, Crisis Plan, or Both?

(This brief side note expands concepts introduced in our “Crisis Communications” series.)


Key Concept:  The Difference Between “Emergency Response Plans” and “Crisis Response Plans.”

When it comes to anticipating and planning for a crisis or emergency, most organizations don’t understand the differences between these two types of response, mitigation, and organizational recovery plans.

“Emergencies” are almost always “crises” but “crises” are not always “emergencies.”

Emergencies usually require a quick, pre-defined, tactical response.

Crises, on the other hand, require a thoughtfully crafted, more fluid, strategic response.

Emergencies often pop up on you without warning, requiring you to mobilize your team with tactical responses like building evacuations, fire suppression efforts, flood mitigation, contacting loved ones of affected employees, or cleaning up a mess after a snow-collapsed roof.

Crises, on the other hand, can sneak up on you over the span of weeks, months, or even years, leaving the urgent, tactical tools of emergency response sitting on the shelf.

A crisis can also be the outcome of an emergency, laying bare an organization’s inability to move beyond tactical responses and onward to thinking strategically about the future.

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November 8, 2011
by Steve Pearl
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Crisis Communications 1: Jack and Jill Went Up the Crisis Hill…

“Wow!”  That’s all my friend Jack could say.  Then there was another moment of stunned silence before he added an even louder, “WOW!” for emphasis.

I had just finished telling my long-time friend the heavily abridged, ultra-sanitized, super-condensed version of my eight month journey through an organizational crisis of mammoth proportions.  It wasn’t a tidy little, “here today, gone tomorrow” crisis.  It was a, “This isn’t going away any time soon and we could lose the company” crisis.

Jack’s reaction pretty much said it all.

“Wow!”

Jack and I hadn’t seen or talked to each other in nearly two years, so we had quite a lot of catching up to do.  The last time we talked he was congratulating me on my new job.  A few months later I was heading off to another state, believing I was about to build a brand new college from the ground up.  As far as Jack knew when he picked up the phone, I was about to share the good news with him about the college opening in the fall of 2012.

We reconnected when I called Jack for some advice on a potential consulting project.  One thing led to another and our conversation soon took a turn toward my eight-month-long trip down the crisis management rabbit hole.

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November 4, 2011
by Steve Pearl
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“Making Meetings Matter” Series Returns in Three Weeks

Editor's Note…

It's time for one more side-trip, friends.  I apologize.  

I normally don't like side-tripping during an extended series, and our "Making Meetings Matter" series seems to resonate with many of you.  I have received several positive notes from readers who stumbled upon it, liked it, and are waiting for the next installment.

The next installment in the MMM series, by the way, is, "Planning Matters." Better meeting planning and putting a little work into better meeting execution will take you one step closer to unleashing the creative power of your team.  We are proud of the impact this series is having, so we are eager to get back to it.

Recently, though, I have watched helplessly from the sidelines as organizations I know and support have faced life-and-death crises.  I'm talking about the kind of crises that can take an organization to its knees, leaving it fighting for survival.  Such crises expose the urgency to craft high-quality "Crisis Communications," including practices, themes, and messages that connect at emotional and intellectual levels with a community or customer base in turmoil.  

Crisis Communications are far trickier and more delicate than day-to-day organizational communications, often outstripping the capabilities of otherwise gifted communicators.  A seasoned communicator can come off looking like a bumbling rookie in if they lack awareness of the difference between crafting largely one-way communications designed to "sell" a product and communications that are designed to open a deeper "conversation" with a doubting customer.

So, for the moment, more so even than helping you with "Make Meetings Matter" it is important that we talk about how to do effective "Crisis Communications."  As you will soon see, the issue is not "if" you will one day face an organizational crisis, but "when." 

Prepare yourself with better communication tools now and you will increase your organization's chances of survival when a true crisis strikes.

Let's dig in…

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