Coaching and Mentoring : Job Security 101 - Five Surefire Ways to Create a Crisis

Sid Smith is not a coach, and he's not a consultant. You won't find him featured on the front page of Fast Company Magazine. However, you may spot one or more of his clients in the news. A former executive coach and consultant to technology companies, Sid is the President of WordSmiths, an organization dedicated to helping independent professionals and businesses look good on paper. His organization provides creatively precise marketing materials, web copy, articles, white papers, work books, and more to any individual or organization starved for attention.

You can reach Sid at

Have you ever noticed how much more "productive" people appear when they're in the midst of handling a crisis ? The troops rally around a common cause, getting the "nasty problem" resolved, the much aligned product out on time, or that most important document, project, web site, or (fill in the blank) completed and ready to go.

Whether you're an executive in a large corporation, or on your own, it seems that it takes a crisis to get the adrenaline pumping and creative juices flowing. That's why we'll often create a crisis in the midst of calm. These calm periods are scary monsters. It's like that quiet period in a horror film, when all appears peaceful - too peaceful. You know the big, bad, hairy monster is ready to pounce.

Consider this in your own business for a moment. Imagine that everything is moving along so smoothly that employees are actually leaving before 5:00pm. Nobody is talking about "issues", and instead are sending pleasant email messages to each other about how well everything is going. Everything you do results in a significant gain toward your ultimate goals, and it all feels very, very good.

Feel a little nervous ? You'd think the answer would be, "no, I feel GREAT", but in most cases, my clients would answer "yes". They feel just a little nervous when things are going well. Some might say they don't seem to be working hard enough, and are afraid something is going to fall through the cracks. Others feel that when things are going too well it's a sign that something really bad is about to happen. If you're managing your own business, or are a manager in a larger business, these lulls in crisis can be disconcerting, partly because we've been trained from an early age to search out problems. Solving problems gives us that sense of accomplishment we don't otherwise get, and in many cases actually provides a sense of job security.

Think about this - as long as you're solving problems and working through a crisis, you're valuable, significant, and important. Say for example that you were hired by a retail store to reduce losses from theft. This is a crisis. As long as there is theft, you've got a job. But, do your job well, and reach that quiet period of no theft, and your job is suddenly on the line. This may sound like an extreme example, but I've seen it happen.

What if this loss prevention specialist, or the manager who's figured out how to eliminate crisis management and create a highly proficient team, found themselves with a lot more free time because they did their jobs so well ? If all things were perfect, they would be freed to turn their brilliance into helping the entire organization run more smoothly. How cool would that be ? Unfortunately, most organizations don't work this way. If you're wanting this kind of job security, and the rush from resolving a crisis, then here are 5 surefire ways to create a crisis

Adding Value

Your employee, client, or peer comes to you with an idea. You listen intently, maybe even get a little excited. Then, you "add value" by improving on their idea, pointing out the flaws, or worse, coming up with an entirely new approach. What's wrong with this ? Nothing, as long as you like creating more work for yourself, undermining your employee/client/peer, and planting the seed for a later crisis. Instead, try coaching, brainstorming, or otherwise working WITH the person to help them fine tune their idea. They'll have more ownership of the idea, and will be more likely to see and resolve potential problems long before they arise.

The Sky is Falling

This scenario occurs when a single incident is used as a battering ram to break open and revamp the entire system. A mistake, error, or problem is discovered. Instead of examining it as an isolated incident, it is blown all out of proportion and "escalated" until everything else is seen through the filter of being wrong. These are the people who are forever looking for the one mistake in the midst of a barrel full of successes. Treat every incident as if it stands alone before you jump to conclusions and cause widespread panic and mayhem.


Delegating work to others is a good thing. What happens far too often, however, is delegating a task because you don't have a clue what the task entails. This happens in businesses of all sizes. The manager is given a directive to increase sales. He hasn't a clue how to do this, so he tells his sales manager to "do whatever it takes to increase sales." This manager has just created a crisis. It's far more effective to make it a team effort. Brainstorm as a group and make it everyone's responsibility to increase sales, including your responsibility as the manager. It's OK to not know everything, but don't let this be the excuse for delegating.

Somebody's Got to Do It

There's always one person who will be sure to "take up the slack" when a project is falling behind. Often, it's one of the managers. If you're on your own, it will be you. I know I suffer from this particular malady. If it's going to be done well, and done right, I'd better do it. Woe is me, and all others who have this gene in their DNA. Not only do we end up working way too hard, we're doing our best to create a crisis down the road when we finally wear out (and we will). How about helping others to succeed ? Or, if you're afraid they'll fail (and take your project with them), take a hard look at the next item.

The Judge is In

Think about all the people you work with or work for. What's your opinion of them ? This is a trick question. I say that if you're holding ANY negative judgments, you're brewing a crisis. If you think someone will fail, you'll end up doing everything in your power to help them fail, whether you're aware of it or not. In fact, you'll NEED this person to fail so you'll be right. Numerous studies have proven that the majority of people will live up to the expectations others have of them. Take a group of "average" students and tell the teachers these kids are "exceptional", and those teachers' expectations of them will actually create a group of exceptional kids. Try shifting your expectations about someone, then see how they suddenly rise to meet your expectations.

The bottom line: do each of the above with diligence and consistency, and you'll be certain to secure your job for a lifetime. Unfortunately, you may also have to work a little harder and die a little younger. But, hey, what a small price to pay for keeping that energy level up, right ? At least you'll "feel" like you're worth all those big bucks.

Get creative, and give yourself a break. Hire a coach (me) to help you through both the rough spots and the high points. Hard work doesn't have to be full of excruciating effort. Hard work can be quite fun. So, get out there, get it done, and have fun !

© Copyright Sid Smith 2004

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