“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.” That’s what Chinese writer and philosopher Lin Yutang said. Counter that with Murphy’s Law that dictates “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” and you get the full picture of why crisis and issues managers exist.
Striking the balance of when to nail an issue down and tell everyone about it, particularly when it’s a negative, versus leaving well-enough alone, is a noble art indeed. And it’s an art because despite all the data and codified solutions that are available to help us navigate life, managing the reputations of anything or anybody that depends on the trust and goodwill of the public still relies on instinct and judgment calls.
Any experienced issues manager who has been at crisis point a few times will tell you that when you’ve been called out because you’ve stuffed up, taken your eye off the ball or done the wrong thing, you fess up and eventually everyone moves on. In fact, if you get it right, you might even be held in higher esteem than when you started.
In these times of significantly diminished attention spans, it’s easy to think the big problems confronting our companies, politicians or public figures will simply fade from view and eventually disappear, after a searing couple of days under the media’s blowtorch. It’s tempting to move on without confronting some hard truths and hope that everyone forgets about it.
That might be fine if it’s a one-off, flash-in-the-pan episode that will never likely happen again. But when the issues are structural, there is nothing noble about sweeping the difficult stuff under the carpet. On that front, you need to look no further than three significant stories last week to prove the point.