Clutch & Choke

Two new books reviewed in today’s Wall Street Journal, Clutch by Paul Sullivan and Choke by Sian Beilock are a timely reminder of some age-old crisis communications rules.  In describing Alex Rodriguez’s long run as a serial big-game choker, Sullivan writes about the batter’s excessive focus on external criticism, what people thought of him.  Professional crisis managers spend a great deal of time worrying about how things look.  They should be focused on what stakeholders think are credible solutions.

Beilock, according to the reviewer, discusses research into why people best-suited to problem-solving, reasoning and comprehension are most likely to fail under the pressure of a timed math test.  Apparently, they are unwilling to take shortcuts and “prone to putting too much meaning into situations they think are important.”  Improving in the ability to succeed under stress also involves facing the truth about one’s actual abilities.

We like what this says about how best to deal with crises: sweat the details, but don’t become captive to them.  Focus on what’s important to your stakeholders, not to you. Understand your weaknesses as an organization so, when the crisis comes, they don’t take you by surprise.  Better yet, practice effective scenario planning so you can eliminate those blind spots.  It’s simple, really.  Just like hitting a fast ball.


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