How Leadership Helps Move an Organization from Reactive to Proactive

A crisis planning meeting probably isn’t the place where one would expect to have one of those lightbulb  moments. You know, when you’re sitting in a meeting and you finally figure something out on a level that you never have before? This happened to me one day when I finally figured out why-as Director of Communications-I felt so frustrated with the crisis planning committee. Why were we only talking about things like active shooters and hurricanes and other catastrophic nightmares that the National Incident Command System addresses? This is what crisis planning is for, of course, so why should I find that frustrating? Well, I wanted to talk about the pre-crisis, that time when things go askew, but before all hell has broken loose. How could we make interventions at those junctures? How could we proactively anticipate the problem and avert it in the first place? But I finally understood that this was outside the scope of what the crisis planning committee was tackling. 
 
At the Independent Schools Association of Northern New England (ISANNE) Leads conference, Linda Johnson, Esquire of McLane Middleton Professional Associates helped me understand the frustration I had with crisis planning. That pre-crisis zone that I wanted to talk about? She called it risk management. This is the continual process of identifying, evaluating, and mitigating potential risks that threaten your institution. I felt a click in my head. This was what I had wanted to do. This spoke to me as a way that we can become agents of change. 
 
Ms. Johnson outlined the role of leadership in creating a culture of risk management. She shared a quote from Carol Stephenson: “You can’t control people through policies, procedures, and policing. You can only do it through a strong risk management culture and absolute integrity in all leaders.” She offered the example of how codes of conduct can be more than just language that we publish in an inert staff handbook. These codes can be living documents that we creatively communicate. Can review and acknowledgement of codes of conduct be incorporated better into new staff orientation? Can the codes become part of an annual contract signing process? The answer is yes, absolutely.
 
The ISANNE leadership training program helped me clarify the difference between reactive crisis planning (which is an essential and standard part of managing any crisis) and proactive risk management practices that could help keep us from getting in the crisis in the first place. What an amazing week of workshops, full of insight! Thank you, ISANNE!
 
Tricia - ISANNELEADS 2016