It’s not the breach, but the poor response that gets leaders into trouble.
We all have to accept it as a fact of life that regardless of how hard organizations try to protect their systems and data to prevent cybercrime, it happens. Indeed, hackers are getting more organized and the techniques and technologies they are using are getting more advanced. There are no “silver bullets” that can be applied to stop 100% of these bold attacks. (Note: I’m not implying companies should stop enhancing how well they protect their systems and data. It is an on-going battle.)
Where leaders and their companies are failing is in their response. They are coming across as either covering it up, being asleep at the wheel, and most importantly focusing on themselves instead of their customers. To make a bad situation worse, leaders often communicate as if they are on trial and don’t want to say anything that might incriminate themselves. That approach is wrong. Studies show that customer loyalty actually increases when companies handle problems to their satisfaction.
It reminds me of the time I sent out an email with the subject line “I was wrong!” acknowledging that a problem was far worst that I initially said. I thought I was going to get fired, but one of the most powerful men at the company thanked me for my honesty and asked if there was anything he could do to help resolve the problem. That situation established my brand as being a straight shooter and problem-solver. It also reminds me of how effectively Johnson & Johnson handled the Tylenol tainting crisis years ago. They immediately pulled all products from stores until the problem was resolved and they came up with more secure packaging. They did because their focus was on the customer, not themselves, which brings me to my main point: To effectively lead during times of crisis you have to have an inner compass that is anchored not on you or your company, but on the customer. If you do, you will weather the storm and come out better on the other side; if you don’t, be prepared to be found guilty in the court of public opinion.
Leaders can turn a bad situation into a good one by focusing on the customer.