Does your company have offices in multiple jurisdictions? If so, you know what’s on the line when a crisis happens. Whether it’s due to external or internal factors, the stakes are higher – and strategies more complex – when it comes to dealing with a company crisis on a global scale. If you’re the GC, how can you make sure that you’re steering your company in the right direction?

During our recent Going Global ForumLouie Pastor, Chief Legal Officer at Xerox, and Olivia Radin, Partner at Freshfields, discussed what GCs need to keep in mind during a global crisis. Here are the key takeaways for GCs:

Create Operating Principles to Align Your team

When you’re dealing with a global crisis, the jurisdictions that you operate in will have different sets of problems with different threat levels. For example, global companies in 2020 had to uniquely address the pandemic in each country based on government policies, available resources, and other local factors.

Creating operating principles will allow your leaders and teams to have a common ground for tackling complex issues across distinct geographies.

As an example, a company during the Covid pandemic might have built out operating principles such as:

  • We aren’t going to expose customers or employees to undue risk
  • We are going to abide by all applicable government directives
  • We are going to bring people back to the office in phases
  • We will follow the best available health guidance from the CDC and WHO

Even if some of your principles seem obvious, it’s important to articulate them. These principles shouldn’t change across geographies unless your team has made a conscious decision to apply different standards in different geographies.

Additionally, having a set of operating principles will make it easier for you to get consistency in terms of buy-in across the team. In a crisis, there’s a lot of chaos, and having a concrete set of principles that your company adheres to will make decision-making faster and more effective across the organization.

Think as Broadly as Possible

Lots of things are at stake during a crisis, so you need to be able to think as broadly as possible. What does the company need to accomplish on a macro level, and why? What teams and stakeholders will the company’s decisions affect, and how will those secondary issues be resolved in the future?

An invaluable skill to have during a crisis is the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes. If a stakeholder is objecting to a certain strategy, understanding their reasoning may illuminate a different path you have for solving the problem.

In addition to broadening your thinking, always encourage others to see the bigger picture versus only looking at deliverables and deadlines that relate to their own interests.

Understand How Legal Privileges Differ in Other Jurisdictions

As a global company, your legal privileges will differ by jurisdiction. Do your research on the differences so that you understand how these work across geographies, and remind your team and key stakeholders what’s privileged – and what’s not – so that you can act accordingly and minimize risk.

Know When to Escalate, and How

During a crisis, you’ll likely be privy to more information than others on your team. One of your most valuable skills as a GC is knowing when and how to escalate this information to appropriate parties.

You and your CEO should have a clear understanding of when the Board will be looped in, and how. If the crisis concerns your CEO or company leadership, consider if an issue is something the Board would want to know about. At the end of the day, the company is your client, not the c-suite.

Don’t Expect to Know Everything

During a crisis, you’ll be taking on problems that you’ve never dealt with before, so it’s not realistic to expect to get everything right. To successfully get your company through a period of crisis, you’ll need to ask a lot of questions to get all the information you need.

Mistakes are inevitable, and the important thing is to avoid getting derailed by distractions or non-critical issues. Move on from missteps quickly and focus on getting your company through to the other side.

Want to learn from other GCs about handling a global crisis? Apply to become a member of TechGC today. If you’re already a member, be on the lookout for more information about our upcoming Employment and Executive Compensation forum on September 30th!

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