I often get asked “what makes a good crisis manager?” or “how do I know if I’d be good at this profession?” And while there are some specific skills and education required to be strong in this profession, being a crisis manager is unique in the sense that, unlike some other professions, it requires having a natural aptitude for the work that we do in this field. For example, let me share a story from my youth that has translated into me being good at my job today…
One of the attributes that make a good crisis management professional
I was a paranoid child. In fact, I was such a paranoid child that my Dad made up a nursery rhyme when I was young and he would sing it to me whenever I let my paranoia get the best of me. When he saw that I was beginning to over-analyze all the possible risks in a situation, he would lovingly tease me with this song: “Paranoia will destroy ya, paranoia will destroy ya!”
Growing up, we didn’t have much money. So doing things such as going out for dinner or to the movies was a rare treat. And, since my father didn’t have a car for a large part of my youth, we would take public transportation to get around. And this was fine… unless we had to take the subway.
The subway, to me, was just far too great a risk. It was a death trap waiting to suck us in! Anything could happen. My sister could fall onto the tracks… we could get mugged… I could forget to get off the subway with my father and end up *gasp!* on the other side of town all by myself!
I’m not saying that these were rational fears, but these were the thoughts that would go through my mind on the rare occasion when my father would ask my sister and I if we wanted to go see a movie or go out for dinner. My response was always the same: “Will we have to take the subway?” The answer, always being “yes”, meant that my answer was always “no, thanks! Let’s just stay home tonight.”
Old habits die hard
To this day, I’m still someone who sees and contemplates the potential risks in everything that I do. The difference, however, is that I no longer let the risks inhibit me (OK, so I still don’t like to take the subway). The difference today is that instead of focusing on the possible risks, I now think of ways to prevent or avoid them and then continue moving forward. This just happens to be a big part of who I am and how my brain works. And the more I think about it, the more I think that my instinctive risk assessing mind is, in part, what makes me so good at my job as a crisis management consultant.
My capacity to see risks, think through worst-case scenarios, and find ways to avoid, prevent or overcome them is a large part of my job and one of the reasons my clients hire me. Of course, there’s more to it than that (and I’m not suggesting that you have to be a paranoid individual to be a good crisis management professional!), but when I reflect on my own personal character traits, I find it interesting that I ended up in a profession that allows my paranoia not to destroy me, but to serve as a source for my livelihood… And I often wonder if I’m not the only crisis manager out there whose parents lovingly teased them about being paranoid?
What about you?
What are some natural quirks, qualities or traits that you think make you uniquely skilled at your job or chosen profession (whether your profession is crisis management or something else)?
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.