In a high-profile United Airlines incident in April, a passenger was forcibly removed from the flight to accommodate a member of the airline’s flight crew. The resulting – and instant – public backlash, fuelled by sharing of the incident on social media, raises a number of issues about how companies should handle such an enormous public relations crisis.

    New York-based management consultancy firm, Temin and Company, has outlined 11 crisis rules for directors to consider in the event of a public relations nightmare.

    1. The buck stops with you: deny denial.
    2. Become the guardian of the company’s reputation.
    3. Help your company see clearly; don’t let the company’s first response be naïve or a lie.
    4. Proactivity is needed before, during and after a crisis.
      • Monitor risks officially at least twice a year.
      • Insist that the company has a crisis plan and review it annually.
      • Understand who will lead and be a member of the company crisis team.
      • Understand who will be the lead communicator in various situations.
      • Understand the role of your private company board in a crisis.
      • Determine to be a part of the “after action review” and recovery.
    5. In a crisis, increase your input and impact.
    6. Understand that immediacy is key, especially with social media. Make sure the company acts swiftly and does not retreat into silence.
    7. Make sure your board is high-functioning and impactful before a crisis occurs.
    8. Provide a moral centre for the company to do the right thing in a crisis. Limit liability – but not humanity.
    9. Work to ensure that the company becomes a visible and real part of the solution – no matter what it takes.
    10. Practise board crisis management through sophisticated role-playing board exercises.
    11. Ensure that the company does not make the same mistake ever again.

    A guide to good mentoring

    Given the importace of mentoring, there’s surprisingly limited guidance about how to become a good mentor. An article published in the Harvard Business Review provides a number of informal guidelines that can be used for those looking for a basis on which to form good mentorship practice. These can be applied across all disciplines.

    Choose mentees carefully

    Mentors trade away hours they could use to pursue their own career goals and spend them on someone else’s. Having the wrong mentee can be painful. A mentee should be curious, organised, efficient, responsible and engaged.

    Establish a mentorship team

    The exclusive, one-on-one relationship of mentor and mentee, long the norm, was ideal for a time when both parties stayed put in one institution or devoted to a single mission. That time has passed, the authors write. Mentees should work with mentors to create a mentorship team, with members selected for their various areas of knowledge, such as subject matter expertise or career advice.

    Run a tight ship

    Mentoring needn’t take an excessive amount of time. Establishing firm and clear ground rules with mentees can improve efficiency.

    Head off rifts…or resolve them

    It’s not uncommon for mentors and mentees to have a falling out. What seemed like a perfect pairing on the surface may wind up being a total mismatch. Sometimes this becomes obvious suddenly. Deal with it.

    Don’t commit mentorship malpractice

    Because mentors are in the dominant position in the relationship, it’s easy for them to wield their power inappropriately – even if they’re not fully aware of it. This has negative career consequences for both parties.

    Prepare for the transition

    While the actual moment of transition from mentee to mentor varies, the mentor should feel that the mentee has achieved real expertise and is equipped to make the leap. For this to happen, a mentor’s accumulated wisdom and expertise should have passed on to the next generation.

    Do you really innovate?

    Strategic and organisational factors are what separate successful big-company innovators from the rest of the field.

    However, innovation is difficult for well-established companies and many are better executors than innovators, succeeding less through game-changing creativity than by optimizing their existing businesses.

    According to an article published by McKinsey & Co, there are eight essential attributes that can help a company succeed at innovation.

    The first four are strategic and creative in nature and help set and prioritise the terms and conditions under which innovation is more likely to thrive. The next four essentials deal with how to deliver and organise for innovation repeatedly over time and with enough value to contribute meaningfully to overall performance.

    Testing for innovation

    • Aspire – Do you regard innovation-led growth as critical, and do you have cascaded targets that reflect this?
    • Choose – Do you invest in a coherent, time and risk-balanced portfolio of initiatives with sufficient resources to win?
    • Discover – Do you have differentiated business, market and technology insights that translate into winning value propositions?
    • Evolve – Do you create new business models that provide defensible and scalable profit sources?
    • Accelerate – Do you beat the competition by developing and launching innovations quickly and effectively?
    • Scale – Do you launch innovations at the right scale in the relevant markets and segments? v
    • Extend – Do you win by creating and capitalising on external networks?
    • Mobilise – Are your people motivated, rewarded, organised to innovate repeatedly?

    Legal advice

    Barristers Jennifer Batrouney QC, president of the Victorian Bar and Annette Charak explain the benefits of ‘direct access briefing’.

    When you need legal advice, ask a barrister. The response will be expert, quick and cost-effective. The introduction of new rules in 2015 means barristers’ expertise is more readily available to boards than ever before.

    In the early stages of a matter, a barrister can provide an objective and independent view of the arguments.

    Barristers can provide advice and opinions in complex matters, particularly in developing a legal strategy and foreshadowing litigation. Many are also skilled mediators and arbitrators.

    Traditionally, a barrister was briefed by a solicitor on behalf of a client. Changing times led to changes in practice. In-house corporate and government counsel holding a practising certificate began to brief barristers directly in the same way as their law firm counterparts did. This practice of ‘direct briefing’ has grown in popularity, especially for advice and small litigious matters. The strategic, early and direct involvement of a barrister can save time and money.

    New rules for barristers have made it easier still for boards to access barristers. Since 1 July 2015, in most circumstances, a barrister can accept instructions from a person who is not a lawyer.

    This practice of ‘direct access briefing’ makes a barrister’s expertise accessible to boards and senior management. Companies are increasingly taking advantage of this easy access to specialist expertise, particularly where the company does not employ its own in-house counsel.

    Barristers are nimble. They make themselves available and respond quickly when briefed. They are accustomed to strict deadlines and know how to turn advice around in tight timeframes.

    It is easy to brief a barrister issue by issue, whether the concern is a narrow question of law or a broader question of legal strategy and dispute resolution. In addition to advising – in writing or in conference – barristers can review contracts and other documents for particular issues such as tax, human resources, restraint of trade, public relations and compliance.

    If you know the barrister you want to brief, contact them directly or through the barrister’s clerk. If you aren’t sure who to brief, the Bar Association in your state will make it easy to find the right barrister for you.

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