September 16, 2015
4 tips for recovering after a stumble in the spotlight
Harald Krueger, chief executive officer of BMW for just a few months, fainted during a press conference to introduce new car models at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Reports indicate he is recovering.
Was it pressure at his first major appearance and at one of the most prestigious events in the industry?
Was it, as apparently suggested by a company spokesperson, the result of a frenetic travel schedule?
Certainly it is important to know what caused the dizziness to make sure it does not happen again.
But what he does then is critically important to make sure that one very real stumble does not define him as a leader for the rest of his life.
Because the media will keep this story alive for as long as possible – and the photos and videos of Krueger collapsing between his cars will play over and over like a jukebox favorite.
For example, media swiftly will psychoanalyze the life of a chief executive officer and pointedly ask whether anyone can long meet the demands of the job. They will use psychiatrists and other experts. And they will start with Harald Krueger in what could become a notorious defining moment for him.
I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Nobody wants to be a poster child for failure.
So Harald Krueger, chief executive, meet Frank Sinatra, master psychiatrist.
Sinatra had the perfect advice for Krueger and every other leader who literally or figuratively – but very publicly – falls down flat. Pick yourself up, and get back in the race.
And then reframe the story on your terms, not on theirs. Here are several suggestions:
1. Get out there fast and talk to the media.
Do a press conference – make it a sit-down presser if that makes you more comfortable – and talk conversationally to show you are back in the race.
2. Be candid in explaining what happened.
These days, people call that “transparency.” It is still just plain honesty. Once you can explain how and why you stumbled, explain it yourself.
3. Find the humor in the situation.
You can be really funny or slightly funny, but joke about the situation e.g., “Our new cars seem to have taken my breath away. I hope that happens every year. But without the fainting, of course!” This helps make the story go away.
4. Create a short video message for your employees.
Everyone in your company wants to know what happened – and that you are capable and qualified to run the company that provides them a job. So do a short video and tell them – and do it while driving one of your new cars.
Of course there is more that you can do to protect your reputation and preserve your business when as a leader you fall flat. It happens, if not always quite like this. Pick yourself up, and get back in the race.