Winning Takes Care of Everything?
What Tiger Woods can teach crisis managers about organizational resilience
by Stan Polit, Firestorm Expert Council Member, Merged Media
Much to the joy of some and the chagrin of others, Tiger Woods is once again the number one golfer in the world. Golf rarely has moments that capture the public’s attention, so it worth taking a moment to reflect on the journey Tiger has endured to return to this point.
Few athletes have ever experienced such a rapid fall from grace and such a pronounced recovery. It is not so long ago that the thought of Tiger once again being the world’s best golfer seemed almost unthinkable. Embroiled in a crisis fueled by allegations of morally blameworthy behavior, we watched as a once invincible athlete appeared much more human than we initially wanted to admit.
With these struggles certainly in mind, it did not take long for Nike to celebrate Tiger’s return to prominence by posting a picture of him with one of his classic comments, “Winning takes care of everything.”
As expected, pundits came out in full force to interpret the broader meaning of Nike’s choice. Some commended Nike for capturing the essence of Woods’ recovery and the unabashed pursuit of excellence fueling his revival. Others quickly pointed out how the phrase seemed to embody the hubris that led to Tiger derailing his life in the first place. Regardless of the pundits, Nike’s comments represent one thing for certain; they believe the crisis is over and Tiger is back.
However, Woods’ resurgence and Nike’s response represent a cautionary tale for what happens when crisis managers become blinded by the end goals of recovery and resilience.
Nike’s actions represent a problematic approach to crisis recovery. One could easily view Woods’ return to prominence as a case study in effective crisis resilience. A story of someone at the center of a seemingly unending crisis who rose from the ashes by doing what he has always done best, winning.
However, effective crisis recovery does not come from viewing the world according to the binary distinction of “winning” and “losing.” When organizations adopt this approach they often find themselves in a position where they have solved the immediate cause of the crisis, but fail to understand the broader impact of that event on the world around them. In other words, their losses can make them reflective, but their short-run victories can blind them.
Woods may be the number one golfer in the world, but that ranking is only a number. A number that will not silence the critics who now view his skills with a dose of skepticism. A number that will not bring back the sponsors who avoided their own crises by severing ties with him. A number that will not change or mitigate our collective shock that someone who seemed to have everything could so callously throw it away.
True resilience only occurs when organizations recognize that crises fundamentally change who we are. They change the reality we live in every day. “Winning” cannot take care of everything until we are willing to accept that crises are not about defining moments, good or bad. They are opportunities to show a devotion to not only improving ourselves, but everyone around us.
A tiger may not be able to change his stripes, but that does not mean that organizations pursuing resilience have to do the same.
Stan Polit is a nationally recognized speaker, communication coach, and crisis communication scholar. As a three-time collegiate national champion public speaker, he has actively worked with universities and organizations to improve the quality of their public communication efforts. Contact Stan