May 11, 2017
More than fifty women, including Community Foundation fundholders, senior executives, elected officials, corporate and nonprofit board members, and “communitarians” – people who have a passion for local volunteerism – came together to hear from keynote speaker Karen Peetz.
Karen Peetz has had a remarkable career in business and leadership, and is renowned for her ability to guide large organizations through major crisis events. She led BNY Mellon through the September 11th attacks and guided it through an outside software malfunction that threatened key business functions, became chair of the board of the United Way of New York City after the organization’s president was fired for theft, led the Penn State University Board of Trustees to right the ship in the wake of the school’s sexual abuse scandal, and was recruited to join the board of Wells Fargo to set the bank on a new course.
From these high pressure, high stakes leadership experiences, Peetz has developed a list of ten things any board must do before, during, and after a crisis event. She shared the following with our attendees:
- Take responsibility for the problem even if you did not know about it.
- Apologize and actually say the words, “I am sorry.”
- Consider what the man or the woman on the street would think about the issues and address them head on.
- Do the right thing from the beginning and forget the legal advice if you have to.
- Create and practice a crisis management plan and playbook. Most organizations eventually get to the right place but it can take too long.
- Identify the key risks to your organization and practice different crisis scenarios. Cyber attacks are a question of “when” – not “if”.
- Know who you would assemble from the inside and the outside of your organization during a crisis. Outside help can lend perspective and unique experience.
- Trust but verify management’s actions. Depending on the problem, boards may have to fire members of the management team. Don’t be conflicted about this.
- Keep the objective of what is best for the institution for the long-term at the forefront of all that you do. It is your “duty of care.”
- Ensure that everyone’s values align with the organization’s best interests. The people and leaders involved in your organization should have integrity, humility, compassion, courage, and self discipline.
We are enormously grateful to Karen Peetz for sharing these lessons and engaging in an illuminating conversation with our fundholders and invited guests.