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How Do You Deal with Adversity?


The way you or your company deals with adversity may be your single most telling trait. The way we deal with adversity often exposes our true self and the way our business deals with a negative event often shows the world how competent and professional we really are.

Is there a universally correct way to deal with a crisis? Probably not. There are however a few characteristics that should be adhered to when dealing with any adverse event. 

First and foremost be honest and accept responsibility for whatever part you or your company played in the event. It may be tempting to hedge your bets or sugar coat things but avoid this at all costs. Tell the truth in a manner that softens the blow as much as possible. State the facts and be up front about what you or your business will do to deal with or rectify the situation. Even the hint of deception may irreparably damage your reputation and any hope of a future relationship with the offended party.

Does being right absolve you of the responsibility to fix the problem? Absolutely not. Remember, the customer is always right. In the 1990's Intel had a flaw in its Pentium processors that affected only a few people doing advanced calculations but public perception became such an issue that it began to damage the chip making giants reputation.  Andrew Grove Co-founder and CEO of Intel at the time immediately stated the facts regarding the issue but the media sensationalized the flaw. Intel spent hundreds of millions of dollars replacing chips so consumers would feel more secure. Intel eventually earned a spot on Fortune Magazines list of most admired companies.

Respond quickly to adversity. Once a problem is recognized respond quickly and like Intel did in the nineties, do whatever it takes to resolve the issue. Avoid shortcuts or taking the easy way out of a complicated situation. Address problems directly, the way a company deals with problems is often used by the public to determine the character of a company. Businesses do not have hearts but the people who run them do and that is what the public relies on. Addressing public perception is tricky at best so be careful. A business should respond promptly to any problem but it is important to consider all action carefully and determine if the response has any long term ramifications.

Stand by your word and be flexible. It is easy as business types to view events through the warped lens of ownership. We are so used to "the way things work here" that we often have a distorted view of our business and how we are perceived.  Andrew Grove Co-founder and former CEO of Intel stated that at the time of the nineties chip crisis he still viewed the company as a startup even though it had sales in the billions by that point. The public perception of a company is the only one that truly matters.

Developing strategies in advance of an adverse event can help reduce the impact of such events. Who will deal with adverse events? Who will be the press liaison? What is the first step to resolve an adverse issue? Small business owners can address these questions by looking in the mirror, but it is still important that employees understand where to go and what to do in the time of a business crisis.

The character and integrity of a person is often revealed under the spotlight of adversity, whether the reflection is a dingy gray or a dazzling white is completely up to us.

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