Bill Coletti, Critical Moments 

I’m sure we’ve all had days that have felt like we did nothing but fight fires. Nothing but intensely analyse, inspect and wrestle with problems, both big and small, that at times feel like the sheer volume might crush us, or our organisation entirely.

I can definitely tell you, from my own days of feeling like that, the last thing I often felt like I had, was a clear idea of how to address these issues in a manner where everyone wins. In fact some of the time it felt more like frantically getting one fire under control – just to move on and deal with the next.

So I want you to imagine if every day was one of those days. If everyday your job was to tackle some of the biggest crises happening in an organisation, or in the media – and work out how to get them through it.

My worst nightmare – and the reality for my guest this week. He walks alongside CEO’s, executives and organisations in some of their darkest hours, helping them work out exactly what they need to do in the midst of a crisis – to come out with their reputations intact (preferably increased – because that’s the opportunity not often talked about in crisis situations).

As a reputation management and crisis communications expert, Bill Coletti knows his way around the most complex and sensitive situations a business may face.

Having provided reputation defense to numerous high profile clients such as AT&T, American Airlines and Xerox, the thing that stood out to me most about Bill’s incredible approach to his work? He cares. I know that shouldn’t be a surprise – but I’ll admit it – the image I had in my mind of a reputation manager before this conversation was something along the Mad Men vibe – a spin doctor there to protect those than can pay from the worst of their actions.

What I found? Couldn’t have been further from that stereotype.

Bill’s approach to the people behind these crises, is deeply rooted in compassion. For those that have been impacted by the situation – but also for those in the midst of the fire, having to make very tough decisions with their livelihoods on the line… some due to their own mistakes – and others who just woke up one morning to a raging inferno they didn’t see coming. AND THAT is what elevates him to the best in his field.

As much as I wanted to get into the strategies, techniques and tactics he’s road tested over years of being the front line – most of our conversation today is about people. And how to manage the expectations, responses and behaviour of people at critical moments:

In today’s conversation with Bill we talked about:

Crisis EQ – what it is, why it’s vital and how – like any other muscle – it takes training
How to get unstuck when a crisis first starts to unfold – when everyone is in flight or fight and you can feel the panic starting to spread
Why most of us either ‘passively engage’ or over react when there’s an issue – and how to replace those responses with a process he calls Active Decision Making
The importance of storytelling in controlling crisis
A simple three-recipe for an effective apology… clue.. it doesn’t involve the words ‘if’ or ‘but’
And finally – having the courage to speak truth to power. In critical moments there is often significant fear, not of the situation itself but of swimming against the tide and offering a different, unpleasant point of view – how to overcome those moments and share what you know constructively.

One of the moments I knew I would enjoy this conversation as much as I did was when, in researching Bill’s work – I came across his love for a particular quote which has been one of my lifelong favourites:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

In critical moments – when the stakes are high, emotions are stretched – and every new piece of information feels like a missile – it’s easy to forget that it’s often not what we do that makes the difference – but how we do it. And that’s what Bill unpacks.

So, sit back – stride out – and pull into mind some of the critical moments you have in your life right now – organisationally, personally or socially – how much of an impact would it make if you had a blueprint ready to go?

With that in mind – enjoy my conversation with one of the best in the business, Bill Coletti.

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