Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ups and Downs

I remember the day I met the Al Gore "crisis management team" we were in trouble. Gore eventually lost the presidency and hanging chads were all the rage. David Boies did has best, mas. (incidentally David & his son Chris were more useful to our litigation but that's another story)

2 seemingly average guys in every san francisco way....our PR team was muzzled and every communication had to be screened. The next 5 years was a series of ups and downs only at the peaks and valleys were fewer and far between.

You got used to the adrenaline, the rush....

You got used to the slit your wrists disappointment and depression.

You even got used to doing the 180's in between, at high speed.

You got used to the fact that you could not wear it on your sleeve - you had to keep an even keel, no matter how dire the circumstances, no matter how exciting the rush. MANAGING. And you had to know when it was time to pull people out of the depths of despair or bring them down out of the clouds. LEADING.

I am not sure if it is the frequency or amplitude of the peaks and valleys - but over time, to stay in the game, to maintain your sanity and those around you - you've got to be able to control your emotions and in a most dispassionate, detached manner, keep looking at the horizon, keep marching ahead toward the goal. Very here is some football-ease:

Run a play- break your enemy down into a set of smaller problems. run a play to attack these problems...divide and conquer, go for the weakness....get help....and more

Throw a block - Use your front line, and get some blocks up. These save you time, energy and allow you to focus on the goal.

Give'em the Heisman - Think straight arm. Sometimes, to score, you've got to get your hand in their face.

Go to the sidelines - Even talking the coach through your plan can be very effective.

Call a timeout - Give your team a break.

Call in special teams - if 'normal operations' aren't getting you there, "surprise" can be a great weapon.

Sometimes it just helps to have some teflon handy. It's hard to beat a quarterback so slippery that you can't bring him down.

Ok, enough with the football analogies.

The point of all this is simple - crises are great training grounds for leaders. If you come out of a crisis alive you've likely learned how to manage through a rapid fire series of highs and lows. Most startups are living breathing crisis generating machines. So are enterprises in steep decline....countries at war....

The management skills developed through crisis are invaluable and can come in handy in day to day executive management, running for office and more. Just ask Rudy Giuliani.