When Parents Lead, Children Succeed

Stories From the Trenches: Business, Health, Education, and the Public Sectors

Stories From the Trenches: Business, Health, Education, and the Public Sectors

Elane V. Scott
Rick Stephens
Featured Guests:
Patrick R. McCluskey
Ken Collins
Dr. Bob Roth
Michael Benner

Crisis (noun) – a situation or period in which things are very uncertain, difficult, or painful, especially a time when action must be taken to avoid complete disaster or breakdown. So, the question is, if the crisis is foreseeable and inevitable, how imminent must it be before we address it?

Dear Valued Stakeholders,

This week: a first on the program. Instead of interviewing one stakeholder leader and discussing their work, passions, inspirations, and engagement, we’re establishing a topic and asking multiple guests to respond. We’ve invited Dr. Bob Roth to return, adding co-founders Patrick McCluskey and Ken Collins, Hope High School math teacher Sean Geoghegan, and stress and anger management specialist Michael Benner to discuss the medical, business, education, and human response (respectively) to crisis.

There’s no limit to the number of times in a day a person hears that word thrown around, especially if one happens to watch or listen to any kind of news after five p.m. “Financial crisis,” “healthcare crisis,” “Middle East crisis,” “political crisis,” “banking crisis,” “employment crisis,” and on and on….is anyone else experiencing crisis fatigue? How can one person/nation/world possibly respond to all this? Americans are, traditionally, crisis-driven. The squeakiest wheel gets the grease. We act, especially within the political sector at a national level, only when a given situation has gotten so bad it demands an immediate patch response or something dire will happen (see definition above here.) It’s the behavioral approach akin to saying “Get in! The boat’s just fine! Oh that? It’s just a little leak…look I’ll patch it…done! Off to Niagara we go…” Only when either action or death (literal or proverbial) are imminent, does the momentum for change exist. Precious few of us have both the foresight and chutzpah to call our colleagues on such behavior if and when we see it. And that, my fellow stakeholders, is the difference between how the masses respond, and a stakeholder leader creates a sea change.

Just what does it mean to be in crisis? How can it be managed? Prevented? Resolved? Stakeholder leaders do not wait for crises to affect them before taking action. More often than not, they are able to see situations developing before they become full blown disasters. In so doing, they take action by uniting stakeholders, identifying the problem, and through a shared agreement of language, vision, and values, begin the often messy process of change. Those stakeholders might be laughed at, told to “get a life,” “stop overreacting,” or simply to “relax”. It was this way with me when I began working, teaching and playing with my daughters from the first weeks they were born to develop their mental, emotional and physical capacities. “Let them just be kids,” I was told. It was this way with cautious investment managers who spent hours probing rating agency representatives for straight answers about the formulas used for giving mortgage backed securities and derivatives triple-A rankings. “There are lots of smart people working on this...don’t worry…get a life.” (Listen to This American Life, 6/05/09)

It was unpopular to challenge the status quo. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Except perhaps in the case of accidental medical emergencies (as Dr. Roth relates, pre-mature babies with collapsed lungs or heart failure, or natural disasters) there’s apt not to be a community/national/global-wide crisis that can’t be thoughtfully headed off by stakeholders and stakeholder leaders who are paying attention, with foresight, and broad systems thinking in place.

Elane V. Scott