The recent blockbuster movie
about the unsinkable Titanic stands today as number two of the all-time
greatest grossing movies and is threatening to take the number one position.
Displayed with excellence on the big screen, this movie costing countless
millions of dollars about the April 14th, 1912 disaster that took 1,513
lives, leaves one with a sense of questioning scorn. Why did a well-equipped,
adequately staffed, state of the art vessel such as the British luxury
liner Titanic end up at the bottom of the ocean on her maiden voyage?
How could an experienced leadership team fail so miserably at handling
the emergency? While watching the movie, I helplessly observed as
mistake after mistake was made: errors which, even if made today in leadership
circles, would spell disaster if not corrected in a timely fashion.
With the movie fresh in my mind, I'd like to share a few of the lessons
I picked out - no doubt you'll even discover some others should you decide
to view it again, or even for the first time.
Rely on Technology to Save You!
The year 2000 problem should
be at least a slight wake up call. The more dependent we become on
technology, the less vigilant we are as leaders. Captain Edward J. Smith
ordered the engines to full throttle hoping to get to New York a day early
in order to impress the world. This was not a novice captain: he'd spent
his life at sea. But it seems the seduction of an unsinkable piece of technology
was too great to be ignored, for him. Losing all sense of propriety, Smith
disregarded the fact that the sea was calm (making it difficult to spot
an iceberg), sped ahead knowing icebergs were plenteous at that time of
year and failed to supply his lookouts with even the basic, traditional
Sacrifice Common Sense for Notoriety or Pressure!
In the corporate world,
and today especially, with the necessity for many of us to market ourselves
for future opportunities, care must be taken to avoid the temptation of
making an unwise decision for the sake of promotion. Captain Smith
knew that traveling at twenty-two knots in the North Atlantic at that time
of year was fool-hardy at best but the allure of notoriety and the pressure
from his boss proved more compelling than his professional nautical training.
As leaders, we must take time to think and be bold (if we're confident
we're right) especially when the decision could bring harm to many.
is Not a Lack of Confidence to Have a Backup Plan!
Some of the lifeboats (an
element of what should be a ship's effective backup plan) left the ship
with less than 20% of their capacity. People died because the crew
was either ignorant of, or ignored, protocol and procedure when it came
time to launch the lifeboats. The lesson here is that, when mapping
out a plan for the future, whether corporate or personal, we must ask ourselves
the what if questions. What if the market dips drastically?
What if my competitor begins to buy their raw materials from our supplier?
What if our management team is involved in an accident while on retreat?
What if we hit an iceberg? It is not pessimistic thinking or a view
toward failure to have a contingency plan.
Whether we are acting as
a leader in a crisis situation or not, we have a role to play. It
could be simply to motivate others with us but it certainly involves maintaining
a mindset that will make us most useful. Walking away with glazed
eyes because of a mess we may find ourselves in, helps no one! Differing
people need differing methods to regain control in a critical situation
- know what yours is. Maybe it's a splash of cold water on your brow,
deep breathing exercises or perhaps prayer can help. Whatever the
case, I'm convinced that if we can work ourselves into a frenzy, we can
manage ourselves out of one. If you are one of the fortunate people
who gain more clarity of mind when an emergency happens, congratulations!
However, it is highly recommended that you have some reliable comrades
around to catch you when you go into after-shock crash and burn.
Let the Band Play!
Sure we don't want to create
panic in an emergency but we also don't want to encourage complacency.
Having the band play to give an illusion that there is no crisis is far
from the most effective strategy for the orderliness in an evacuation to
safety. Certainly, the captain should have an air of confidence, as mentioned
He must radiate the calm
required rather than get into temporary face-saving tactics. Take action!
Gather the best people, ask for opinions, collect data and work out a recovery
plan no matter how limited the detail. In an emergency, whether of
the magnitude of Titanic or a manufacturing line that has collapsed, the
best way to create energy is to follow the football strategy and huddle.
All Your Resources - Think Creatively!
There is probably nothing
worse than viewing the aftermath of a tragedy and knowing that there were
options within arms reach that were never used. History records that
the Carpathia arrived at the site of the sinking one and a half hour after
the Titanic went under. Could they have used the engines while they
functioned to come and lots of freshwater to hose in some flat surfaces.
The bow anchors were not used and they certainly could have been snugged
onto the berg to buy a few more precious minutes of buoyancy. Could
they have assembled the crew or a group of passengers to lash together
several large rafts of wood furniture this would also have kept them busy
thus reducing the panic. In a crisis, we must ensure that all resources
are stewarded with great care. From time to talent to dollars, are
you getting the most of all the resources available to you?
Titanic was, by all measures,
a disaster whose history we cannot change. We can, however, honour
those who perished in the cold, briny waters of the North Atlantic by learning
the many lessons Titanic offers. It may never be from death that we save
those we lead, but saving from financial or emotional loss is nonetheless