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Crisis At Southern Border Provides Timely Lessons For Business Leaders

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Crisis At Southern Border Provides Timely Lessons For Business Leaders

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It’s usually easier and less expensive for corporate executives to learn from the crisis management mistakes of others than to repeat those same mistakes.

The crisis at the U.S. Southern border—where 60,000 migrants are reportedly poised to cross into the county from Mexico—is a case in point. Indeed, there are several parallels between how the decades-old crisis has been managed—or mismanaged—and how corporate crisis situations are often handled.

Plans, Policies, And Resources

Three fundamental best practices for managing a crisis is to have plans, policies, and resources in place for responding to any crisis.

The degree to which companies and organizations don’t have updated plans, current policies, and appropriate and sufficient resources can make responding to a crisis more difficult, if not impossible.

But as Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters at a White House briefing yesterday, “Our current situation is the outcome of Congress leaving a broken, outdated immigration system in place for over two decades, despite unanimous agreement that we desperately need legislative reform.

“It is also the result of Congress’s decision not to provide us with the resources we need and that we requested,” he said.

Do The Best You Can With What You Have

The longer business leaders delay in responding to a crisis, the longer it will take to address and resolve the situation. In practical terms, this means that they should respond as quickly as they can and to the best of their ability.

Mayorkas noted yesterday, “Our efforts within the constraints of our broken immigration system are focused on ensuring that the process is safe, orderly, and humane, all while protecting our dedicated workforce and our communities.”

Tell People What You’ve Already Done

Do not assume people will know what you have done or are doing to address the crisis. Provide as much detail as possible and, when appropriate, quantify the actions you’ve taken.

Mayorkas told reporters that “In addition to securing the first increase in Border Patrol agent hiring in more than a decade, we [the Biden administration] are in the process of surging personnel to the border, including over 1,400 DHS personnel, 1,000 processing coordinators, and an additional 1,500 Department of Defense personnel.”

Manage Expectations

The public can have unrealistic assumptions about how quickly companies can or will respond to a crisis. It is critical to establish reasonable deadlines and timelines for those responses—and when people will be able to see progress or results in addressing the crisis.

Mayorkas told reporters, “We prepared for this moment for almost two years, and our plan will deliver results. It will take time for those results to be fully realized. And it is essential that we all take this into account.”

He warned that “people who are thinking of making the journey to our southern border, know this: Smugglers care only about profits, not people. Do not risk your life and your life savings only to be removed from the United States if and when you arrive here.”

Expect Blowback

The bigger the crisis, the more likely it is that others may criticize or find fault with your response to the situation. In a politically-charged crisis such as the one at the Southern border, blowback can be taken as a given.

But politics is no stranger to corporate boardrooms, where board members may disagree with the actions or decisions of the CEO or staff. And don’t forget about social media, where second-guessing or outright opposition to the steps that are taken by business leaders to address a crisis can be immediate—and persistent.

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