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#015 - Minimally Viable Crisis Leadership Model
Episode 157th April 2021 • The Industry of Trust • Tiffany Lentz and Robert Greiner
00:00:00 00:24:54

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Today we start a series on leading in a crisis by covering the Minimally Viable Crisis Leadership Model. When times are good, we can get lulled into a false sense of security or competence in our personal and professional lives. Then, one day, the game changes, and we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis - seemingly out of nowhere.

In times of crisis, leaders must focus on what they can control and we have developed a simple model to help you get moving in the right direction - especially if you don't know where to start:

  • Decide to be part of the solution, and make decisions quickly
  • Communicate frequently with those around you (5x more)
  • Forgive yourself and others
  • Learn from this experience and your mistakes

Thanks for joining us today and don't forget to hit the subscribe button and reach out at


Robert Greiner 0:05

Okay, so what we were just talking about, I have been thinking about quite a bit around this crisis, leadership complexity, that kind of stuff. And so I'm hoping we can get into that a little bit today.

Tiffany Lenz 0:17


Robert Greiner 0:18


Tiffany Lenz 0:18

It's on the top of my mind for a variety of reasons.

Robert Greiner 0:21

But first, how's your week going? I'm on vacation this week. So I'm only doing stuff I want to do

as recording podcasts.

Tiffany Lenz 0:28

And I feel very privileged that this podcast with me is something you want to do and make it

Robert Greiner 0:32

Oh, awesome.

Tiffany Lenz 0:33

So thank you.

Robert Greiner 0:33

It is a professional joy of mine, for sure. So we're doing some recordings today and tomorrow, and then going to the vaccine mega Center here in Dallas, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, going to put in some time there, hopefully get vaccinated help with some logistics, which is sorely needed. You have people showing up and you know, they're not exactly tech savvy. Not sure where to go, there's 20 lanes, I think 11,000 people get vaccinated a day at this place. And so hundreds of volunteers, it's all pretty, and very high turnover once people get there 15 hours, and they mostly just bounce and don't come back. Which is fine. I don't have a problem with that. But as if I'm thinking about being on the ground there day after day, that's got to be tough. And so how do you get people trained up and super effective and 15 hours for something that's fairly life or death? It's probably the most life or death thing that I'll do this year, or maybe in the past few years. Like, we're not really in that situation much. So anyway, very excited. And I get to go with Diana. And so we can make anything. If even if it's boring. It'll be fun.

Tiffany Lenz 1:39

Yeah, I'm so excited to hear about your experience. Yeah, I can't wait to hear and you're such a process thinker. It's not just like what you're doing and people's lives that you're saving. But it's interested in hearing about the process efficiency, how, what sort of scenarios are they planning for what kind of like, where do they draw essentially, black boxes around volunteers can't do this work. And you'd like to your point of ramping people up quickly and losing people in a fast turnover. So just interested in hearing about the process works.

Robert Greiner 2:09

Get some really good advice, too, from Stan, which was, he said, Hey, I had to really put up just put on my volunteer hat for the day and not my consultant hat. Otherwise, I would have gone crazy.

Tiffany Lenz 2:18

Yeah, that I can

definitely imagine.

Robert Greiner 2:22

So I thought we'd start with a quote today. If that's cool with you.

Tiffany Lenz 2:27

Bring it, bring it

Robert Greiner 2:27

yes. Okay, so he was born in:

Tiffany Lenz 3:26

That's really good.

Robert Greiner 3:27

It speaks to me as an optimist, right? Because I think you can get into trouble is the right word, you're in a situation that's crappy, for whatever reason, and COVID is the easy thing to poke on here. And having a positive attitude, and trying to generally move forward through this crisis, which is gone on 12 months now, Happy COVID anniversary. And we'll probably go in about six more months. So some of the people we talked to you at the beginning, we're right, this is an 18 month plus or minus six month thing, which is interesting, because all the technology advancements we have which helped with the vaccine didn't help with the timeline, we still is the same as other pandemics have been there are and we talked about this in a previous episode, people who have been to worse and like the it's a very deep pit on how bad things can be. And the point here is controlling what's in your, what's in your under your control. You there's a lot of things at the macro level that you really can't have an effect on, but you can certainly have an effect on how you respond and move forward as a leader, as a human, as a team member, this kind of things.

Tiffany Lenz 4:31

It's a great quote, and it's really rich, and even your comment just now of controlling what's in your control. That isn't just to part B of his quote, of being willing to face your current reality. No matter how bad it is, you actually can control the first part, which is having the faith to know that you're going to prevail. You can control that. That sort of positive momentum in yourself just like you can control the ability to balance back and forth and say, I'm actually here, I need to deal with this. I need to deal with these less than optimal, or extremely optimal circumstances.

Robert Greiner 5:11

Yes, yes, absolutely.

Tiffany Lenz 5:13

I love it.

Robert Greiner 5:13

in a pandemic, was obvious in:

Tiffany Lenz 8:54

Yeah, I want to pull on time, for a little bit. I just want to think about that as one of the axes in which we have to operate even in crisis, because there without that, that can be when we're trying to say there's a there's some sort of pattern of time that can be an amplifier of a crisis in in that if not tightly coupled with the second one in an effective way. There is a myth, there's always going to be a missed expectation. Are you acting fast enough? Did you do enough? Did you act? Did you act too fast and therefore act carelessly,

Robert Greiner 9:34

rashly? emotionally? Yeah.

Tiffany Lenz 9:36

So just I there's something that resonated with me, when you said when you mentioned time, specifically, because it is a key amplifier through any crisis, and managing either your team or the masses has to have to me a tight coupling between any sort of decision and he's acting and The way that you communicate the frequency in which you communicate. So that was my initial thought. Excellent.

Robert Greiner:

And I'm not sure really what to call it right now decide act or commit. I think that was some feedback that you and I talked about at the commit might be a little bit better. But there is some, I like the idea of an action of moving things forward, and then actually making decisions like decision making and what that implies. So maybe a little bit of work to do there, but they're all in the same idea space.

Tiffany Lenz:

Okay. Because we're talking continually about that. As you're as you're going, as you're setting the stage. This is a volatile space. This is not a peaceful time. It's obviously it's a with your your minute Bibles scenario. This is a it is it's uncertain. So the Yeah, the time element for some, even those who are deciding to hold up in play computer games until everything goes away, the time element is real, if they're hearing, no communication, but it certainly collapses and make any sense, right?

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. Yeah. You may have been thinking about your five year plan before COVID hit well, going into 2020. We were all Hey, the last 10 years have been great. Every but everything's moving forward. Everyone went into 2020 aspirationally. You know, 2021 was maybe a little bit different, a little bit more nuanced. And that's okay. Collapse your timeline a little bit. That should help. Okay, cool. So that's, number one, decide, act or commit. Number two is communicate. So this is huge in any kind of crisis, communicate with your family, there are if you see people getting your their salaries cut around you, if your industry is having a rough time, like this is stuff that like if you're starting to see signals and red flags, you know, but let your spouse or partner know if that's the situation that you're in. And it's one of those things like giving a heads up early, let's numb dampens the impact if something actually happens. Or if there's a situation where you need to lean in, what does that look like? You know, what does that negotiation, that's an ongoing discussion. So, have it early with your team, right, you want to be probably communicating five to 10 times more than feels natural, at least double, you should definitely be the most communicative person you know. So it's hard to give like a specific number, because everybody's situation is different. But again, on the first one, you should be moving a little bit faster than you're comfortable. This one, you should be communicating a little bit more frequently than feels natural. And one thing for me, especially in a crisis, like your body language really matters. Some of the feedback I got early on was at a very stern face on zoom cameras used to hiding behind your laptop and in person meetings. And we had a lot of stuff going on, we're negotiating a lot of different contracts, there's all sorts of stuff happening, hard to keep on top of everything. And so I was pretty laser focused on it. But my laser focus looked stern, and and concerned, which was not, you know, the right thing to bring to every discussion, you know, that was helpful. People are going to be judging your body language, your serious face, whatever it is much more closely than in peacetime Sure.

Tiffany Lenz:

Then what you're going for often with that kind of laser focus, where we're going for focus, by with the communication and through our body language, but we're also going for confidence that if it, if that's being missed, because of the way that we look over zoom, that will feed into people's sense of nervousness and dissatisfaction, and a further unsettled state than what we were going for maybe with confidence and seriousness.

Robert Greiner:

Yes, yes, definitely. And then I know we've talked about never split the difference before they talk about this idea of labeling helps put words to maybe things people are feeling, you could say something like, seems like you don't really feel like talking about this right now. And open up the discussion for a little bit more humanity and emotion. Seems like you're ready to talk about this seems like you're upset, stuff like that, where you could give some space for your team to express themselves a little bit when I've had situations where as someone on my team had a family member in the hospital, it's very hard to like come at them strictly business when you're in this sort of constant tension of this global pandemic, and then it's hitting them personally. And so you have to apply a little bit more, maybe nuance or sophistication to your approach. You can't just jump right in to work like you could on a typical Tuesday and 2019.

Tiffany Lenz:

Right. Yeah, something that I feel like you're saying without saying is your, through your communication, you're trying to manage a set of outcomes and very uncertain outcomes. Hence your comment about five to 10 times more communication than you're used to. But you're also trying to manage a set of behaviors in a group which can be their trust in you their ability to learn both facts as well as how to experience this situation. There's a whole set of there's a whole layer there of things That you're managing through this, including I think learning the way people are not just learning a set of facts that you're communicating, but they're learning more about this scenario and what it's going to look like to survive and thrive. That's right.

Robert Greiner:

That's right. Okay, so communicate number 2/3 is forgive. And the original thinking here was around forgiving yourself when you're in a crisis. And this is something I've experienced very personally, where I went into 2020. I just gotten promoted, actually, January 1 is when it went effective 2020. And I was feeling fairly good about myself, professionally, my skill set where I was at in my career, the thing that my five year plan, the things that I was doing, I felt pretty good about it. And it turns out, like rising tides, raise all ships, I was getting the benefit of a decade of expansion, like the huge formative years in my career where part of the one of the largest expansions in human history by economic expansions in human history that's meaningful, that's a tailwind. And it when you flip into crisis mode, it opens up this landscape of stuff that you are, hadn't been exposed to before that you didn't realize we're low stakes, things become high stakes things, and then all of a sudden, you feel very unequipped to deal with that current reality. And so you're gonna make mistakes, right. And especially if you decide from the first element to opt in, to try to be part of the solution, you can make lots of mistakes, it's key to take ownership of them. But at the end of the day, you have to forgive yourself and move on like activity moving forward is important. The standard here is human, not perfect robot. And the better your and more effective, you are being able to figure forgive yourself, for mistakes you've made, do your best to correct them take responsibility for them move forward, the better off you're going to be not just in a crisis, but just in general. And then the flip side of that coin, obviously, too, is forgiving others. Like I said before, I don't really know anyone who's like intentionally trying to sink the ship, who's being nefarious incentive structures may not be aligned. People may have different goals and objectives, but no one's trying to like implode the system, people are just trying to do the best. And especially in a crisis, they're all making mistakes, just like you are going back to what we talked about before assuming positive intent. People are dealing with the same things you are maybe worse, give some space and grace here. And you can hold a grudge when times are good again, and you want to get really competitive and grow your career. But now's not that time. So forgive yourself. forgive others.

Tiffany Lenz:

I like that, especially under the stemming off of the quote that you gave us to start with it. How does one possibly not lose faith in the future if they're willing to let themselves in pieces and chunks lose faith in in humanity? And I think that some what when you're talking about forgiving others, you are extending grace to people who are just floundering and struggling just as much as you are, who aren't doing as much scenario planning as they possibly can, and also missing the mark. What's the Eisenhower quote about the value not being in the plan, but in the planning, that's there's so much of that has to be done continually through any sort of crisis management that everyone is learning at the same time, and therefore, everyone has to forgive continually, and just tried to be do better together?

Robert Greiner:

Yes, absolutely. And you've hit on the fourth one, a couple of times now, which makes me feel good, because you've corroborated but the fourth is learn. So on the bottom end of that, decide, communicate, forgive, learn, crises happen all the time, you think about the pandemic is maybe a once in 100 year thing, the financial crisis might be once in 150 years. There's environmental, political, social, all sorts of crises. And those happen about every decade, on a very big level. And then Not to mention, like I said before, if you just happen to be working for a company that's going out of business, if you happen to live in a part of the country that is economically depressed, even though everyone around you is doing better, those happen a lot, quite frequently. And so your ability to inoculate yourself against a crisis and maximize your chance of surviving through it is important. And then to thrive later, there has to be this feedback loop of learning where you have to be better after you get out the other end. Otherwise, you're going to be in a lot of trouble, I think. And part of that is around journaling. I don't typically journal. I have my crisis journal I was just looking at it's got 123 entries in it goes back to February 2020. I took a picture of a little like, Olympic countdown clock is a business as usual thing. And that was sort of when you started seeing things like professional sports games being played with no audience, like with no crowd, very weird feeling and it's okay this thing is real all the way up to last week had a couple of things there. And I haven't really synthesize much of this yet this conversation today is maybe our first attempt at going through some of those notes. But the point is you're journaling things that are important to you that you've learned mistakes, you've made key decisions. So there's a whole decision journaling aspect that, you know, is well documented that you could take a look at. And the idea is when you get through it, you synthesize and then create a playbook, or some codified wisdom that you wish you had when you started the last crisis. And if you can consistently capture that knowledge and wisdom, we've been doing this for a year, there's lots of stuff in my journal, I didn't capture, there's lots of stuff in there that I forgot about, it'll be very beneficial to go through later and try to codify and conceptualize some of these things, to ultimately bake them into who I am as a leader, and then human.

Tiffany Lenz:

So one of my favorite aspects of these four is the tight coupling between them, like you've already called out, like, we almost can't talk about one without talking about two, we can't talk about three without talking about four, if either, you simply can't, because they don't operate in a vacuum that way. So that speaks to some validity to me of the way that they're interoperable. But then the second, my second favorite thing is going to be the expression, you just use this kind of this idea of grasping codified wisdom, because what you're doing with pulling these four things out and articulating how they connect, is, you're not trying to force leaders or managers or thinkers, into some sort of a predictable space into if we're looking thinking that kind of fun framework into a complicated space, that will not get them through managing this crisis, you're actually these four pieces connect in a way that allows one of the focuses to be wisdom to be this constant learning, single, double, triple loop learning, that would be an interesting thing to explore here, but you're allowing them to get more and more comfort in this unordered space, which is in complexity, the answer is not if this isn't going to be the equivalent of a cookie recipe that will turn out the same every time. This is a set of principles that will help them codify wisdom and respond better in the next crisis, which will be around the corner, it may not be COVID level, but to your point, it'll be around the corner. So I think that there's a nice flexibility that you build that's worth noting.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, excellent. So those are the four. Anything you any other comments, anything you think we should add or remove?

Tiffany Lenz:

No, I don't I like I like the the depth of each one of them. I know there's so much more like we could talk about each one independently.

Robert Greiner:

I think we are

Tiffany Lenz:

Yeah. Oh, good. Good. That'll be good. Because I think we could dig into more of the pieces that will let people feel comfortable. I it takes so much courage to go through this phase, Robert, to just be willing to decide, act, commit, be willing to put pen to paper, if you will, and be the person communicating and then be willing to be wrong. Be willing to forgive yourself, even if others don't, so that you can keep moving on and then be willing to reflect, adapt, learn. Try again, because there is no, there is no predictability to this. I think predictability is an illusion, for the most part. For the most part. It's always some form of illusion. But right now, it's very much an illusion, whether you're talking about a social agenda, or industry or a project that you're on, there's just so many unknowns. So any structural pieces that make us feel safe while we go through this, this kind of cycle of ambiguity is an excellent tool.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, well said couldn't agree more. Excellent. So yeah, we'll dig into these four in more detail. in future episodes. I want to create a little graphic around this and have it out there. Again, this is all stuff that the standard I'm applying here is what I have loved to have going into this time last year. And this would have been helpful for me, I think, and we can also get into how do you inoculate yourself for future crises. And be put yourself in a position maybe if you're able to when times are good to avoid some of the multiplication magnification effect of bad things happening? When the there's something going wrong at the macro level. And we'll cover that in a future episode as well.

Tiffany Lenz:

Awesome. Now, the codified wisdom. I like it.

Robert Greiner:

Great. It's good seeing you today.

Tiffany Lenz:

You too. Thank you.

Robert Greiner:

All right. We'll talk soon.




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