Introducing the ‘Moments of Truth’
By Harlan Loeb
In bullfighting, the moment of truth is the final sword thrust by the matador. In customer service, it’s that flash of contact that gives a customer the chance to form or change an impression about a firm. Former Scandinavian Airlines Systems’ CEO Jan Carlzon even wrote a book several years ago about his customer-driven culture called “Moments of Truth.”
Generally, though, moments of truth are those instances of crisis on whose outcome much or everything depends. Those are the occurrences we intend to focus on primarily in this, our Moments of Truth blog. Although at times, we will focus on other reality moments that offer lessons we can gain from.
Why? One, because we are students of our craft, having spent much time analyzing and offering counsel about such situations. Two, because these moments of truth and how we deal with them reward us with a rich base of knowledge that will influence us tomorrow. As Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the United Kingdom maintains, “The quiet leadership of influence seeks no power but it changes lives. In tough times like now, we need it more than ever.”
Think about that. As you left 2011, were you relieved or encouraged about how you marked moments of truth last year? Did you embrace and engage them, considering them opportunities? Did you view them as an opportunity to commit to spiritual growth or growth of a different nature? One thing is undeniable: We all confront such moments continually and they can trigger major consequences.
However, over the last several years, we have either purposely avoided managing such instances or we haven’t recognized them because we’ve lost the acuity to do so. We must address this.
From a global viewpoint, we find ourselves at the intersection of great volatility, with uncertainty at every level along with fear and anxiety. What actions have we taken to confront and address them? Too often, we’ve avoided them – whether the issue is European sovereign debt, instability in the Middle East, or an uncertain and uninspiring future for the U.S. on so many fronts. Credit a great political divide in Congress for that; it won’t disappear soon and perhaps not even when next fall’s elections are over.
That’s why it’s fascinating to see individuals, companies and even institutions pivot when confronted with a moment of truth as they employ intellectual integrity to make a decision. Right now, for instance, an unusual number of fresh college graduates are opting out of the big picture to start farming. Since 2006, they’ve been aided by the Cornell (University) Small Farms Program and the federal Agriculture Department’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. Many of these entrepreneurs are prospering as they live their values.
How have you dealt with a recent moment of truth? Did your response differ from your normal reaction? Or, did you realize recently that you missed a significant moment of truth? If you did, why? And what were the consequences? Has your company had to address a moment of truth? Do you think it succeeded or failed?
I’m interested in your stories and responses. Please send them. Perhaps we can begin a wide dialogue as, over time, we touch on many more specific situations. I’ve long enjoyed Whitney Houston’s classic, “One Moment in Time,” and particular lyrics apply to what we’ll be focusing on, for they also could be considered One Moment of Truth. The lyrics:
Give me one moment in time
When I’m more than I thought I could be
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me
You’re a winner for a lifetime
If you seize that one moment in time
Make it shine
Harlan Loeb, a nationally recognized expert in enterprise risk and crisis communications, is executive vice president and director of U.S. Crisis and Risk Management at Edelman and Professor of Crisis Litigation & the Court of Public Opinion at Northwestern Law School.