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管理

危机管理高手养成秘籍

Vickie Elmer 2011年06月16日

面对层出不穷的危机,许多经理人已经练就一身本领,确保他们临危不乱。且看他们是如何做到的。

    燃油价格在不断攀升。公司的股价在持续下滑,员工的士气也日益低落。电脑又死机了——不会是病毒在作祟吧?压力和焦虑步步紧逼:从天而降的买断提议;员工要求加薪,不然就是要求在家办公;大学学费再次上涨。问题层出不穷,压力不断累积,让如今的职业经理人不堪重负。

    约翰•汉姆表示:“我们以前认为,压力是随机出现的危急现象,只会偶尔发生。但现在看来,压力或许是一种永久性的常态,高管需要不断处理各种压力。”约翰•汉姆曾经是位风险投资家,后来转行担任商业与高管培训师。

    纽约市的危机与公共关系主管戴维亚•泰敏对此表示赞同。她说:“风险已经成为新的常态。”

    近期对珠穆朗玛峰学院(Everest College)进行的一项哈里斯民意调查(Harris Poll)显示,在35到54岁的员工中,10%的人认为,在他们的工作中,“不合理的工作负担”给他们的压力最大,远远超过了通勤或对失业的担忧。

    美国心理学协会( American Psychological Association)开展的一项调查显示,超过一半的员工认为,压力使他们的生产效率受到影响;而近几年,薪酬、工作和经济成为最大的压力来源。因压力带来的生产效率下降、缺勤和失误使雇主每年蒙受的损失高达3,000亿美元。

    经理人和高管也必须分担这个重负——但是,部分经理人和高管掌握了在竞争激烈、变化无常的环境中取得成功的能力。他们知道,在危机中如何发掘团队的最大潜力。

    近期出版的《重压之下,表现更佳》(Better Under Pressure)一书的作者贾斯丁•门克斯认为:“想在未来取得成功的人必须视压力如氧气,并且善于利用压力实现超越。他们可以将困境转变成机遇。”

    门克斯曾与一些公司的董事会合作进行评估、测试和考查,帮助这些公司聘用或选拔新一任的CEO的人选。本书便源自他的这份工作经历。门克斯目前在猎头公司史宾沙(Spencer Stuart)担任顾问,他收集了对150名CEO候选人的评估结果,并按四分位数,将表现最佳的候选人所具备的品质,以及表现较差的候选人所缺少的品质进行了单独分类。经过五年的调查,他总结得出,最优秀的领导者均具备以下三种特质:

    1. 现实的乐观主义。卓越的领导者能够了解危机的实际情况,并从中找出脱颖而出的机会。门克斯在书中提到了务实的心态,他写道:经理人必须“拥有直面现实的激情”。他说:“经理人必须表明他们正用务实的精神直面问题的核心,并对风险了如指掌。”

    2. 在混乱中找到秩序。这需要经理人综合调动冷静的头脑、清晰的思路,以及改变现状的动力。要在面临严重危机时保持头脑清晰和无所畏惧需要经过训练。同时,也需要经理人拥有热情,以调动员工,共同解决难题。

    3. 服从公司的大局。这种服从于更高目标和更长远利益的使命感将发挥巨大的作用。门克斯在书中写道:挫折不断地时候,高效的领导者“能巧妙地引导员工对的情绪,将其转化成建设性的力量,继续推动企业向前发展。”鼓励团队团结一致、共同迈向某个重要的目标,不仅可以培养团队的韧性,还可以增进团队的协作。

    《压力之下,表现更佳》一书,引用了几位高管的事例,无论是在日常生活中,还是在及面对危机的时候,他们都会坚持这三个原则。比如,书中列举了一家地区性医院系统的CEO。他刚刚上任便面临非常紧迫的情况:检察官对该医院进行了制裁,限令医院在23天的期限内整改妇产科患者的护理服务,否则医院将被吊销医疗资格证书。

    这位CEO对门克斯说:“当时企业正面临生死存亡。”但是,这位CEO却将危机转化为机遇,把所有人都调动起来,迅速改善了状况。他非常清楚当前的状况,并在压力之下保持了冷静。这在很大程度上归功于他之前曾经有过应对严重挑战的经验。

    门克斯在书中写道:“危机迫使领导者简化事态,认清根本,即要取得成功必须解决哪些问题。然后重新鼓起勇气,实现这些成功必备的条件。”

    门克斯相信,任何人都能够培养和学习这种特质。他表示:“这绝对是后天习得的特质……即使最聪明的人,在适当的情况下,也会犯糊涂。”如果他们不能学会管理压力,在关键时刻,他们可能会丧失领导力,甚至无法思考。

    危机管理主管泰敏便曾经遇到过不少这样的高管。她说,很少有人能掌握管理巨大危机的所有技能。这些技能包括毅力、对形势清醒的认识,以及“全身心专注当前问题的能力。”

    她表示,拥有诚实品质和随机应变能力的高管在极端压力环境下仍然能够应付自如。“随机应变是一种无法言喻的能力……但却可以帮你渡过重重难关”

    那么,高管如何才能成长为冷静的问题解决者和现实的乐观主义者呢?

    门克斯介绍说,有些公司会提供项目或下达任务,来帮助经理人培养这些品质。类似项目通常会以稳定的速率和合理的节奏逐步加大经理人的责任和压力。还有些经理人则依靠自身的力量或借助导师的帮助来培养这些品质。

    泰敏偶尔会组织高管进行“危机游戏”,通过在模拟情景中进行的角色扮演来揭示他们在面对剧变时的反应。

    高管培训师约翰•汉姆表示,经理人应该始终牢记,是哪些素质让自己出类拔萃,同时投入必要的时间来培养对自己和团队的信心。作为一名高管培训师,他经常看到有的经理人因为某几个问题就陷入全面的混乱。所以,他经常要求他们抛开所有情绪和焦虑,然后开始一点一点地理清形势,解决问题。他要求他们用事实来打败恐惧。他说“我们应该问问自己,如何接受压力、并利用它使自己更上一层楼?”

    Fuel prices are climbing. Your company's stock price is slipping and so is staff morale. The computer is freezing up, again -- is it a virus? The drumbeat of stress and anxiety nears: An unsolicited buyout offer for your employer; workers demanding raises, or the option to work from home; college tuition up again. Add all these items up and the pressure that an every day manager faces may seem unbearable.

    "We used to think of pressure as this random acute phenomenon that happened every once in a while. Now it may be more of a permanent whitewater state, something that executives need to deal with almost as a constant state," says John Hamm, a former venture capitalist turned business and executive coach.

    Davia Temin, a New York based crisis and public relations executive agrees. "Crisis has become the new normal," she says."

    In a recent Harris Poll for Everest College, 10% of workers ages 35 to 54 ranked "unreasonable workload" as the most stressful aspect of their jobs, classifying it as a more potent source of stress than the commute or fear of layoffs.

    More than half of workers say their productivity suffers as a result of stress, and money, work and the economy are the largest stressors in recent years, according to surveys by the American Psychological Association. Stress and pressure costs employers an estimated $300 billion a year in lost productivity, absenteeism and turnover.

    Managers and executives share this load -- but some have developed an ability to thrive in an intense, competitive, fast-changing environment. Such people know how to bring out the best in their teams during a crisis.

    "The people who are going to thrive in the future are those who can use this pressure to excel, as oxygen. People who have translated very difficult circumstances into opportunity," says Justin Menkes, author of the recently published book Better Under Pressure.

    Menkes' book is based on his work with corporate boards as they evaluate, test and consider who to hire or promote as their next CEO. Menkes, who is a consultant with executive search firm Spencer Stuart, gathered evaluations of 150 CEO candidates to isolate the behaviors that the top-performing quartile exhibited and the bottom quartile lacked. After five years of research, he found three key consistent characteristics that the best leaders display:

    1. Realistic optimism. The exceptional leaders demonstrated an ability to understand the actual circumstances of a crisis and see a chance to excel. Managers must "have a passion for confronting reality," Menkes writes in his book, referring to a pragmatic mindset. "You have to show you're staring into the sun with them; you're aware of the risks," he says.

    2. Finding order in chaos. This combines calmness, clarity of thought and a drive to fix the situation. It requires practice to stay clear-eyed and fearless when the world is tipping. It also requires zeal to solve a puzzle by engaging your staff.

    3. Subservience to purpose or corporate goals. This commitment to the higher calling or the greater good can make a huge difference. Effective leaders channel staffers' "intense reactions to recurring setbacks in a way that constructively keeps the organization moving forward," Menkes writes in his book. By encouraging a team to come together around some important goal, it cultivates tenacity and encourages collaboration.

    In Better Under Pressure, readers meet several executives who use these three principles in daily life and during crises. A CEO of a regional hospital system -- and one of the subjects in the book -- faced an urgent situation just after he started his job: The Inspector General had sanctioned the hospital and it had 23 days to show that it was correcting its care of obstetrics patients or the hospital would lose its Medicare certification.

    "You're staring at the near-death of your organization," the CEO told Menkes. Yet the CEO used the crisis as an opportunity to bring people together and improve things quickly. He was aware of the circumstances and calm under pressure in part because he had some experience with major challenges before.

    "Crisis forces leaders to boil things down to the essentials of what really needs to get done in order to succeed -- and then to pursue those essentials with renewed intensity," Menkes writes in his book.

    Menkes believes that anyone can develop and learn these traits. "It's absolutely learned…. The smartest person can be rendered stupid in the right set of circumstances," he says. If they don't learn to manage pressure and stress, they may lose their ability to lead or even think at a crucial moment.

    Temin, the crisis management executive, sees many such executives. "Very few people have all the skills" to manage a huge meltdown, she says. Those skills include stamina, a clear view of the situation and "the ability to focus themselves full bore on the problems at hand."

    Executives with honesty and "a spirit of improvisation" may do well under extreme pressure, she says. "That uncanny ability to improvise … gets you through a huge amount."

    So how do executives develop into a calm problem solver and realistic optimist?

    Some companies offer programs or assignments that help their managers develop these qualities, Menkes says. Such programs often increase a manager's responsibilities and pressure at a steady, measured rate. Others managers develop these qualities by themselves or with the help of a mentor.

    Temin runs occasional "crisis games" with executives so they can role-play scenarios and discover how they react to upheaval.

    Executive coach John Hamm says that managers should remember to recall what makes them talented and take the time to trust themselves and their team. As an executive coach, he sees managers collapse several issues into one large mess, so he often asks them to remove the emotion, the anxiety and start untangling things, bit by bit. He asks them to use facts to fight off fear. "How do we allow the pressure to call us to a higher ground?" he asks.

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