Guest Post: Be Prepared for a Crisis with the 7 Principles of the CEO’s Compass


I, like you, I'm sure, have been having a lot of conversations about being prepared for the next unknown--crisis or pandemic. While I work with organizations in the aftermath and reputation management side, I wanted to share an article with you from fractional CEO, Deb Coviello for a different perspective. 


Deb Coviello Says...

When an organization is experiencing a challenging situation, a crisis, or simply the perception of one, getting to the root cause, fast, is imperative. As an executive, you are a leader that your team, your clients, and your community will turn to for guidance. Articulating your ideas into something that creates buy-in, builds trust, and leads to implementing the necessary actions can determine the future of your and your brand’s reputation.

According to Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) 2021 Global Crisis Survey, 62 percent of businesses used their crisis plan in response to the pandemic and 95 percent of the businesses reported their crisis management plans needed to be improved.

Crisis management is the process of how an organization deals with an unexpected or disruptive event that threatens to harm it or its stakeholders. It’s intended to protect the organization’s reputation, ensure ethical actions are being taken, and limit the financial damage.

How is crisis management handled in your organization? Is it a compliance activity neatly tucked in the corner until you need it or is it an integrated conversation into your daily/weekly/monthly operational conversations? It’s time to wake up leadership to the harsh reality that their job is not done until they apply the 7 Principles of The CEO’s Compass.

When I’ve dropped into crisis events over the last 20 years, I have found a common theme amongst leaders. They have a false sense of calm because they can check the box on their compliance activities. They’re getting results (most of the time) and their team is loyal (or perhaps complacent). This calm before the storm is common and those that don’t respond quickly to a changing landscape (loss of a leader, changing customer requirements, changing customer perception), find themselves moving down the Crisis Scale from being in Control, down to Chaos and finally Crisis. When I’m finally called in to bring things back into Control and move them up the scale to Continuous Improvement and further into a Competitive Advantage, The CEO’s Compass provides you the direction of where you’re off track and how to make course corrections: 

The Framework of The CEO’s Compass to Navigate to Peace of Mind

  • Purpose – test the landscape and ask if people understand the purpose of the company in the context of their job function. This is an indicator that cascaded communications are effective
  • Performance – no longer the lagging indicator of results (quality, service, safety, sales), but leading indicators of closing the capacity, capability & confidence gaps of your team to meet the purpose of the company. 
  • Past – if you or your direct leadership team cannot articulate the deep culture that each individual brings to the table, go find out now. In doing so, you pay respect to the individual and their unique qualities that made them special and the right to be part of the organization
  • Pride – building on understanding one’s past and culture, you need to go the extra mile and understand the unique gifts and intellectual property they have. Whether you use them or not, by asking the question, you pay respect to the individual, they tend to be more loyal and you never know when you may need to leverage those gifts. Leaders that skip Past & Pride simply have a transactional workforce and they leave their minds & hearts at the door to your business.
  • People – developing the mindset & skills of your people falls on you to remove any barriers to enable them to reach their full potential. Ensure you have a robust program that starts with strategic investment in your people through 1-2-1’s and capability development. 
  • Process – the dynamic between individuals and functional groups is as important as people development. Without coaching team dynamics and leveraging each other’s skills, you will fall victim to wasted time and lost revenue due to process inefficiencies. 
  • Platform – a leader with an evolving team and moving towards high performance needs to provide them with tools to ensure they can maintain high performance. Often tools that enable good decision logic, prioritization, and accountability are critical when your people are taking on more work and need to increase their efficiency & effectiveness else they’ll burn out. 77% of people surveyed in a Deloitte survey say they’ve experienced burnout. 

I can assure you that most leaders are off track on 2-3 of these guiding principles to prevent a crisis. There is nothing in here about a crisis, communication, or risk mitigation plan that is typically developed by your Crisis Management Officer. If you’ve not shored up the compass, you become the 95 percent statistic of the company not being prepared and needing to make improvements. For the team that is navigating towards Peace of Mind, the eighth compass point, the Crisis is the opportunity when your fullest potential will be realized. 


Deborah A. Coviello is an advisor, author, podcast host, and Founder of Illumination Partners, a consulting firm for CEOs navigating change. brings 30+ years of experience and strategy in Quality and Operational Excellence roles combined with her 20 years in the Flavors and Fragrance industry to support her clients as they work together to identify, assess, and solve the issues that are preventing their business growth. She is Certified as Lean and Six Sigma Blackbelt in Process Improvement. Learn more about her at The Drop In CEO and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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