The Boeing CEO, the Governor of New York, and Crisis Communications
During the past few weeks, we watched how the Governor of New York managed the coronavirus crisis, and how the Boeing CEO dealt with the various issues hitting the planemaker. There are some very clear learnings coming from the two in leading and managing during a crisis. Let’s take a look:
The Boeing CEO shows us what not to do. Here is the litany of some of his failures:
1.) Don’t Give Mixed Messages: The CEO has made very strong statements claiming the need for government aid in order to survive. At the same time, he made the public statement that Boeing could secure private financing if the government offer is not to Boeing’s liking!
2.) Don’t Blame the Whole Thing on Somebody Else: He told the New York Times that Boeing’s problems were worse than he imagined, primarily because his predecessor was focused exclusively on boosting the company’s share price. Among employees, he ruined his credibility with those criticisms since he has been on the Boeing board of directors for the past ten years, and most recently, the chairman of the board.
3.) Don’t Anger Those Whose Help You Desperately Need: In January, right after the FAA pointed out the need to reposition a bunch of wiring in the 737Max, the CEO publically stated that the 737Max would be ready to go by midyear 2020. Prior to that statement, the FAA had told Boeing it did not agree with its proposed solution to the problem. The FAA senior management was quite upset that Boeing publically stating a re-launch date since there was no agreement regarding a plan to fix the wiring problem.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Governor of New York has gotten broad praise for his handling of the very tough coronavirus situation in his state. Here are some of the positives behaviors:
1.) Take Clear Responsibility for the Situation: The Governor has made it clear that this is a serious public health crisis and laid out what needed to be done. He consistently said, when laying out specific plans, that “This is my decision, and I’m responsible for it.”
2.) Be Clear and Factual About the Situation: In his daily press conference, he methodically laid out the data, with the implications being summarized in very simple statements on PowerPoint slides appearing next to the video of him. He was transparent and concise.
3.) Be Yourself and Be Honest When You Don’t Know Something: His style has been very personal and believable, and he consistently calls on the experts to answer questions out of his knowledge areas.
4.) When Stating Your Personal Opinions, Clearly Label Them as Such: The Governor’s views have been prefaced by him clearly stating that this was how he personally is seeing the situation.
There is nothing surprising here, but what is surprising is how easy it is to ignore these things in the heat of battle!