"Crisis Management 101" SwatTalk
with Davia Temin '74, president & CEO of Temin & Company, Inc.
Recorded on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020
Davia Temin: Absolutely. It's not even the beginning part one.
Laura McKee: Great. We are live.
Davia Temin: Fabulous. She's just started recording just now.
Laura McKee: Good. Terrific. Thank you. All right. Welcome to SwatTalks. This is our periodic meeting of Swarthmore alumni virtually to listen to Swarthmore alumni talk about some of the amazing things they're doing in the world and to interact as an alumni community. Today we are so fortunate to have Davia Temin as our guest and our presenter. Davia is an expert in communications and crisis management and has worked with major corporations and the powers that be, including all of the major media networks both as a talking head on camera and in the strategic rooms helping them develop their crisis intervention strategies and their communication strategies. So Davia is going to share some of her tips and best practices in crisis management. And I'm going to turn it over to her.
I am Laura McKee, class of '88, and a member of the Swarthmore Alumni Counsel. The Alumni Counsel is a representative of the alumni community to the college and goes to campus a couple times a year to interact with campus leaders and especially with students, and supports the mission of the college and takes that back into our homes. So the Alumni Counsel is currently seeking nominations for our Alumni Awards for the coming Alumni Weekend in June, and we encourage you to send those awards in, go to the website to find out more about the Swarthmore Alumni Awards. And I'm going to turn it over to Davia.
Davia Temin: Thank you. Thank you so much for the introduction and for all the help in setting this up and putting it together. I'm actually delighted to be with you here today, tonight. No matter where we all are in our careers and in our lives, at least for me, I just speak for me, when I speak to fellow Swarthmore alums, it feels like home. Now, this talk on crisis management is rather a dour topic for 9:00 PM on January 8th of the new year, 2020, but frankly, as we all know, it's rather a dour time, and crisis seems to be surrounding us on absolutely every front.
So I think that that means that perhaps a small road map for how to get through tough times might be especially helpful for you and that certainly is my intent tonight. I've been doing this for a very long time for a really wide range of organizations, companies, colleges and universities, nonprofits, theater companies, countries, ambassadors, politicians, you sort of name it. Pretty much every organization you can name and almost every kind of crisis. So what I hope today is to try to get the best of the information that might be helpful to you, and offer a very, very short course on how to survive through tough times almost no matter what they may be.
When I started doing this, I never imagined that the field of crisis management would actually be something when I started doing this 30 years ago. And I never thought that it would be so ubiquitously needed. It felt like a sideline, frankly, and there might have been 20 of us in the world who said we did this for a living, and I suspect that 19 of them were lawyers. So what I really do now, just to let you know, is I run a management consultancy that's a boutique and we work on issues of crisis management. Not just communication, but management, because communication is a little bit like putting a lipstick on a pig, right? It doesn't matter, the mot juste is very nice and very good, but if it comes from the wrong strategy, it really doesn't help you in a crisis. It masks it for one nanosecond and people can see through that these days.
So it's really not just the "positioning", it is the reality of what the strategy is for action behind it. I think that's important to know. My story is that I was working... You all know everybody's age because they got the number after what your class was, so there are no secrets among us, right? You may try to hide it other places, but you can't here. So my [inaudible 00:05:03] was that I was head of marketing for a number of banks and investment banks, and a lot of these banks and other kinds of organizations, more than occasionally took risks. Often the risks didn't pan out, and often they got themselves into fairly severe trouble. Often very, very big trouble.
So I usually was on the executive team of the organization and worked with the CEO, and I started working around the world in these crisis situations, trying to get them to be better, because I had some weird ability to be able to get them out of these situations quietly and often fairly well when others could not. And when others would sort of get them to be escalated and escalated in a way that you see every day in the newspaper today, but you didn't always then quite [inaudible 00:06:02].
It was only later, and years later, that I finally realized why. While other counselors who were perhaps communications counselors only, sometimes lawyers, would counsel complete silence, stonewalling, reflexive fighting back, or even unethical behavior in the face of a crisis, because for any of you who have faced them, you know that sometimes the pain in these things is so great and will do anything, almost anything, to make it stop. But in fact, that is really the wrong way. And often it exacerbates it even more.
So the way I saw it, the way I believed then and what I very much believe today as well, is that you can become more forthright, you can admit mistakes, you can apologize, you can fix them, you can demonstrably change in many situations. Because I believe if you can put yourself in other's positions, see the world from their point of view, not just your own, and then you become fixated or focused on fixing the situation both for them and for you. And what I mean is truly fixing the situation for the good of most involved, not just pretending to take it "seriously", when in reality you're not. And by the way, the one thing I would say is have you noticed that everybody in crisis always says, their spokesperson stands up and says oh, we take this very seriously.
Well, that has become such a code word for the fact that they're not taking it seriously, that they're just sort of mouthing what is expected of them that it's totally unbelievable, so don't ever say it, especially if you are taking it seriously. Because if you do, it's funny how when your intent is more pure, people usually see that and they will give you a chance. If they don't see that your intent is that pure, they won't give you one chance at all today. And social media, where information, and we all know misinformation, travels the globe at the speed of light, around and around, and warps every single time, you get no slack. It is a very slackless world.
Okay. So hence, does this work? John F. Kennedy's saying that in Chinese the symbol for crisis is a symbol of both danger and opportunity. But what I really call it is refiner's fire. That means if at the inflection point, when it all starts to fall apart, you can keep a higher goal in mind. If you can walk through the fire honorably and come out the other end, you have a chance for improving not only your own lot, but that of many others at the same time. And that, I would submit to you, is the real difference between ethical crisis management, or socially responsible crisis management, as opposed to the bobbing and weaving, deflecting, and lying, winning at any cost kind of crisis management that gives this field and anything having to do with reputation a truly terrible name.
There is a better way, and it is far harder to do, and it doesn't always work, and it's very hard to do right, but it is also way more effective when done well. Moreover, you have the benefit, obviously, to [inaudible 00:09:47]. So in 1990, of course, this is all new. Today, crisis, or a time of intense difficulty or danger, a negative event or circumstance, either predictable or unpredictable, which is not addressed immediately can cause significant physical, reputational, operational, or financial harm. It is the new normal. And frankly, as we all know today, chaos is not very far behind.
This concept has permeated our culture, adding instability, irrationality, and not a small degree of hysteria to our public zeitgeist. I've never seen a worse time. I wasn't living in either of the World Wars, but I sure have never seen a worse time, even throughout the Vietnam War. Just as an exercise, I tried to find out how many times the word crisis is cited in the news today. According to Google, 1.3 billion times and counting. Plus the range of crisis is ginormous. Everything from a headline in today's USA Today, Trump crisis management on full display with roll of dice on Iran, Iraq, and Suleimani, to the latest video game which is called, interestingly enough, Crisis on Infinite Earth, that'll put the fear of God into you, right? And then a wine, believe it or not, that is called Crisis Management. It's actually not bad wine either. I gave it to clients one year at Christmas. There are no more left.
But today I believe that leaders of all sorts think that crisis management is just another kind of regular leadership. I do disagree because I think basically at the heart of it, good crisis management, or great crisis management is counterintuitive. I have a picture here of one of our white papers that's on our website, and please feel free... We can talk about it if you want to talk about it in the Q&A, but otherwise you can just go read it and if you so desire, or you're sleepy and want to go to sleep, and another one that might be very interesting to you is that you have 15 minutes to respond to a crisis these days. And that, I think, is very, very true.
It used to be with the Tylenol case which everybody usually cites is the best example, best practice in crisis management, they took three whole days to decide whether or not they were going to take tainted capsules of Tylenol off of the market. Today, if you waited three days, you wouldn't have a company and you wouldn't have a product left. You have 15 minutes at least to get out there and say something.
So what I'd like to do now is give you two slight war stories about things that we have done in the past. Obviously, because of what we do, I can't talk about things that we are doing now. We have a huge practice right now in Me Too kinds of activities. Sexual harassment, where we are working for pretty much every side and in almost every industry there is. So we represent organizations, companies, nonprofits, colleges and universities, others. We represent their boards. We represent victims/survivors, and we also represent some men who have been unfairly accused, and two of them actually tried to commit suicide because of it, because I think we've lost kindness on every side of this kind of thing, and I would like to help us recover that.
We started even an index because you know, narrative is so important in this particular crisis, people telling their stories and having the courage to tell their stories. But narratives can only get you so far, both in telling the truth and sometimes in not telling the truth. So I thought that maybe metrics would be good to meld with that, so we started an index after Cosby and then after Weinstein of looking at how many high-profiled accusations there are of people, men and women, of sexual harassment. And by high-profile they have to have been in seven major publications, and we're at 1400 right now, it's a huge amount, it just keeps coming, and organizations are getting better at how to deal with this.
I do believe we will be able to eradicate this behavior almost completely and we should, and that certainly is my goal to help do that, but it's not easy and the pendulum swings both ways, sometimes overly one way. So if you want to talk more about that to the extent that I can, I'd be happy to in the Q&A. For now, I'm going to tell you some other stories. It's late, maybe story time is good, and these are ones that are pretty interesting, I think.
So I'm not sure how many of you heard of a drug produced by Elan Pharmaceuticals and Biogen, called Tysabri. It is the first monoclonal antibody drug to have been produced for autoimmune diseases, specifically Tysabri is for multiple sclerosis. Now multiple sclerosis up until then could only be touched a little bit by what they call the A-B-C drugs, Avonex, Betaseron, and Copaxone, which don't really help people who are ill that much. It makes them feel like they have the flu, doesn't really help them in many ways at all, but it's all we have. And when they got this new discovery, this Tysabri actually started to and is capable of turning around the damage of multiple sclerosis. So people who had been in wheelchairs have gotten out of wheelchairs. So it was in clinical trials, there were 3000 people in clinical trial, and it's an infusion once a month. The results were so incredible that the FDA decided to fast track it, meaning to move it along more quickly so people who were afflicted with MS could get the treatment sooner.
They did this, and then 25 thousand more people were waiting for insurance clearance to get on the drug, and it was showing great signs of promise. When three different people from the trial started to get very sick and died, and they died of something called PML, which is a horrific brain infection that they'd only seen at that point in terribly immunosuppressed individuals, mostly people who had AIDS and were taking immunosuppressants. The FDA at that time, sort of newly chastened after the Vioxx disaster, they decided that Elan should voluntarily take the drug off the market. Now, there was only one drug in history that had been taken off the market voluntarily that ever came back, so that was sort of a death sentence for them. And I had known them just peripherally, they called me up and sort of found me, I was another client, and they said can you come over now, and I said yes. Yeah. They said just come over. I did. They had a board meeting. The board had just been told they had to pull the drug.
What this meant for patients who had been feeling better was indescribable. What it meant for doctors, what it meant for suppliers, what it meant for their stock price, which is an Irish company, Elan, it was, and it was in every pensioners pension fund, et cetera, was just enormous. And they didn't have a clue on how to do it. So we walk in and they say we have to withdraw this drug by tomorrow, and that's what they told us. And we don't know what's going to happen, we don't know whatever, and can you do it? So like many of you, you're not completely sure what you're doing but you say yes, and then you figure it out, and so we did. We got the drug off the market.
It was a firestorm in the media, in investments, in world, et cetera, but we did it for patient safety, and that was one of the best boards I have ever worked with because to a person they wanted to do the right thing and they were committed. They really meant putting patient safety first. A lot of people say these things and they don't, in the clinch, mean it. These guys did. Now mostly scientists, a lot of doctors on that board, and God bless them for that. So anyway, we did it, and then the next thing that we started to do was try to figure out what the mechanism of action was, if there were any scientific things that we could do to keep people from dying, et cetera.
And as that was going on, we started a patient outreach program, and what we heard from patients, most of whom were like women 36 and a half with 2.5 children, if one out of a 1000 people on this drug would get PML, but the other 999 would show significant improvement, they wanted to take that choice. They didn't want the choice taken away from them. So anyway, we worked in a million different ways and we ended up finding out ways that you could tell people had PML long before they got really, really sick, so that they didn't have to. We got the patients, the voice of the patient, to come out in hearings and this drug became the second drug in history to come back on the market after it had been voluntary withdrawn. And it had a black box warning around it, which means it's never the drug of first choice, but it's still out there, and it still has trouble, and it still has problems, but it is helping people. I love this story.
So about six months after, nine months after it had all happened, I was at some dinner party and I was telling it to somebody, and the guy looked at me and he looked at his wife and he said you know, I think our friend so and so, I think she has MS and I think she's taking it. So I said how is she, is she okay, et cetera? And he said oh yeah, she used to be in a wheelchair but she's not anymore, I think she's on safari in Africa now. For me, that was one of the most gratifying moments of my life, certainly of my professional career, because in what I do, you don't really get to save lives. Maybe some of the people who are on this call, you do get to do that, but not me usually. So anyway, it was wonderful.
The second one I'm going to tell you about for two seconds is a little different. So this comes from GE, where I ran marketing for GE before I started this company. In fact, they helped me start my company 23 years ago now. This was about Budapest Bank. At the fall of communism in the Eastern Bloc, GE had gone into Hungary and they had purchased a light bulb manufacturing company called Tunsgram that made GE light bulbs. And GE Capital, which is where I ran marketing, we wanted to get in there too, and so Budapest Bank was the place they had made a huge number of very, very bad loans. After all, they didn't really have an idea about credit in the former communist countries, so they just made loans to everybody backed up by the government, and most of those loans were underwater.
But the people at GE wanted to have a foothold, so they decided to buy the bank without even looking at how underwater they were going to be. They figured if there were anything that they could do, if they needed to pay more money they would, but they gave a very decent amount, and they bought the bank, and then all the people, Green Eyeshades, went in to try to figure out what was going on. Well, the opposition party, the party that was in power at that point wanted to oust the party that was in power, and they thought that they had the perfect thing to do it, because they decided that how could the party in power sell off a precious Hungarian asset like Budapest Bank to these American carpetbaggers, who were just going to try to get stuff at low cost and flip it or do whatever.
So they talked to the press and they said things into the Hungarian press, and all of a sudden, our guys, Green Eyeshades and all, would be coming out of this building and others, and to a phalanx of press, who would stick microphones in their face and say why are you robbing a precious asset from the Hungarian people, and what is the secret agreement that you guys have with the government that allows you to do it? So what happened was that they were whipping up that there was a secret agreement, and there were articles all over the Hungarian press about this. It was going to be one nanosecond before that went into the Wall Street Journal or something else saying that we had done something nefarious, and we hadn't.
The agreement actually wasn't secret, it was just a purchase agreement, which you don't usually like put on the internet, but it wasn't particularly secret. So I went over there and tried to understand what was going on, and of course, in former communist Bloc countries, rumor and innuendo were very, very, very important, because there was a lack of official information about a lot of things. Hmm. Maybe a little bit like today. You could sink or swim on innuendo, the fact of the matter they were superseded by perception. So all of a sudden I realized it was a secret agreement. So I decided what would happen if we could reveal this secret agreement. And I went to our guys, and they said well nobody's every done it, but there's no reason not to. There's nothing in there that's bad. And they said to talk to the European Bank for Reconstruction, which had helped us buy it, and I went to them, and they said the same thing. Nobody's every done it, but feel free.
So I printed up the secret agreement. They were really very thick tomes of very small type in English, and I put them all over a big table, and I hold a press conference, and I said listen, there's no secret agreement, with a translator. Here's the books, here's the agreement, please take them, look through them, any questions you have come to us, we are totally open, we want to be transparent about this, no secret agreement please. And that stopped it. There was only one article after that, again in Hungarian, the next day and it said secret agreement revealed to no interest. And that did it. Which was a way of short-circuiting it, and nobody lost in that thing. Except for maybe the opposition party.
As a coda to this, about two or three months later, it turns out that one of the bad loans that Budapest Bank had made was to the second largest paprika manufacturer in Hungary. And these guys had not learned their lesson, they really thought with blinders on, they were going to foreclose on the second largest paprika factory in all of Hungary. Hungary paprika, like no. Could you see the visual then, it would be lines of pepper farmers with wheelbarrows full of peppers and babushkas and whatever, going to the plant, trying to get in but with a rowful of [inaudible 00:26:13] stopping them. Not acceptable, certainly right after we had been called carpetbaggers, so I told them they couldn't do it. Frankly, being in leadership, that was really nice to be able to do. I said you've got to figure out another way. We can figure out another way to do this, you can't do that.
And what in the end we did, was we sold the second largest paprika factory to the first largest paprika factory for something like five forint, which is like a penny or something, or a dollar. Then we bought out, we were out of it, and then the largest paprika factory sort of rejiggered what they were doing, and they handled all of that. We did not have to. So that was the second story.
Okay. Now, I'm going to just very quickly talk to you about a few crisis rules, which again we can talk about more if you'd like to talk about them in the Q&A section, but there a few that you might find interesting. Okay. So crisis rules. The first thing, truly, if you remember nothing else from this little SwatTalk, it's you've got to short-circuit denial. You've got to deny denial. When things go wrong, whether they're personally, whether you're having a heart attack, whether you don't feel well, whether it's professionally, whether you are the Deepwater Horizon and there is a horrific oil spillage, or whatever it is, the first thing that human beings do is that they go into denial.
This cannot be happening. If it is happening, it's not happening to us, or me. If it is happening to me, it's not that bad. If it is that bad, no one will notice. If somebody notices, it'll be over with quickly. If it's not over with quickly, and then on and on, it's just sort of this cycle of denial, which has got to be one of the worst things because the longer you stay in denial, the longer it takes for you to start to fix it. I hope you can see this, if the crisis is going up in an arc like this, the sooner you put in a fix, it evens it out.
The longer you wait, the worse the crisis gets before you start to try to fix it, and the worse the whole thing becomes, and then it gets to a tipping point that you can't do anything about it, a la Deepwater Horizon, and then you've got some stupid ex-CEO now who comes out like a fresh-faced Brit and says he wants his life back. Well, I bet the folks who died in Deepwater Horizon wanted their lives back too. So short-circuit denial.
Stay calm and control your emotions. We're not always good at this, but you can keep on trying to be good at it, because you think more clearly and you get the solutions better, obviously. And that's when everything with your kids [inaudible 00:29:15] for me to guide as well. Just because you may have gotten away with something before, or know of others who have, don't assume you'll do it now. Assume that eventually everything will be known, and design your actions accordingly.
Today, with the internet, with recording devices everywhere, both audio and visual, you have to assume that everything that you say and do is recorded by somebody somewhere somehow, and it can all be used against you. And I'm sorry to say that because it's terrible. Arthur C. Clarke actually wrote a book about that called Light of Better Days, I think, about someplace where there was never any privacy, and we are very rapidly getting to that. So that's awful, and you just have to do what you can do, that's all. But you have to know that and plan accordingly.
Inform your gut. Most people who I know in that split second when you've got to make decisions, and they now say that your gut has brain cells in it too, so it's everything that you have learned that's tangential to what you actually do for a living, or know, or are interested in, actually bonds together and helps you make better decisions. So try to read at least two publications, or five if you're good, in areas, one, that you don't agree with, and two, that are very, very different from your own so that you can get other kinds of information and be better informed and better able to make split second decisions.
Move quickly to assess the situation and damage, not only to publicly strike the right note, which is of course very important, but to start to do the right things, which in the end, of course, is even more important. Embrace technology and technological redundancy. I mean in rocket science there is nothing if not redundant systems. Really, that's pretty much everything these days.
Stay nimble. Talk about that more. Respond in a trustworthy manner and show yourself to be trustworthy when crisis hits you. Whatever it is, whether it's a college and university, or whether it is a corporation, or whether it's a Me Too kind of scandal. Accept accountability, find out the facts, fix them in real time. There should be another one here, which is share the facts as much as you possibly can, not when you can't, but as much as you can, and then apologize authentically when necessary. And then don't do it again, right?
Know when to fight, smart, hard, and on every front, but with grace and dignity. If it calls for it, be unstoppable. Try to stay in control as much as you can, try to impose control over chaos. In you know, some big public emergency or let's say there's a fire in a plant of some kind, everybody wants to be in the limelight, everybody wants to speak for you. The police want to speak for you, or the government wants to speak for you, or this or that. It is pretty important to try to speak for yourself too, but to stay in the place of compassion, not denial. Action and fix things, not sort of taking things seriously.
Each crisis is different. The particulars absolutely matter. You can never just copy the responses of others, though you can learn from those who do it well, and not so well against. This is probably my most important one as well. You want to use the opportunity to reset your moral compass, go akilter in these kinds of things. It probably was akilter to allow such crises, or maybe 50% of the crises to happen anyway. And then you want to become a visible and real part of the solution no matter what it takes. You want to be part of the best case, and you'd do anything to become that.
Also, and resiliency's a whole other thing, but there's a woman by the name of Diane Coutu who has written for Harvard Business Review, who has a wonderful article on resiliency, and she says that there are three aspects to being a more resilient person. The first is the ability to see clearly, and in 20/20, that's just really important, which means to don't get fooled. So for example, POWs in the Hanoi Hilton, the ones who said we're going to be out by Easter, and then they weren't. And then we're going to be out by Memorial Day, and then they weren't, et cetera, et cetera. They're the ones who killed themselves. The ones who saw clearly enough to say we don't know how long this is going to last, who said listen, I'm going to have to pace myself, pace my expectations, whatever it is, they were the ones who survived. Pretty terrible stuff. So that's one thing.
Embrace a credo or a purpose bigger than yourself. It can be religion, it doesn't have to be religion. It can be a corporate credo, it can be your internal purpose. Everything now is they're trying to get purpose-driven companies, the B Team kinds of companies. This is being recognized more and more as highly important, something bigger than yourself. And then three, the ability to improvise. So think of Swiss Family Robinson or Castaway. To walk around corners, to go under, over, around, get unique solutions to situations. That is another really great way to be resilient.
Finally, I'm going to leave you with... Whoop. My karmic cockroach test. We use that as litmus test here, to look at whether anything we do or say, or anything we would urge a client to do or say. If it would have any of us come back in our next life as cockroaches, you can't do it. You can't do it. That's all. You have to figure out another way, because you can't be a cockroach, you can't come back as a cockroach. And I'll tell you that's a very quick litmus test as in moment to moment kind of action of whether you should do something, or whether you shouldn't. And the end of course, is that there is now something that they call post-traumatic growth, which is so much better than post-traumatic stress, and it means that if you do these things right, you can actually come out better. Better able to face the next one, better able to help others, more compassionate to others who are in that situation.
So that's my talk. I'm not sure what we're going to do to take Q&A, but I turn it over to the Swarthmore people. I hope you're still there.
Laura McKee: Hi Davia. The Swarthmore people are definitely still here.
Davia Temin: Right?
Laura McKee: In fact, you've got more than 120 people listening in, so we got a great turnout for your fabulous talk, and we've got several questions in the queue. Everyone who's participating is reminded that you can send a message via chat and we will read it for you, or if we can work the technology, there is a way for you to raise your hand and we can recognize you, but I'm not sure if I have the power to do that, or if only Lisa can do that, so it's probably best just to chat your message if you can. I wanted to go back just for one second, because I think that cockroach test will definitely stick with me. Can you give us an example of how you've used the cockroach test before?
Davia Temin: Good question. Yes, I can. So this has got to be blinded out. This has got to be so blinded out, right? What if posit one is working with an organization that has where a senior person within that organization has been accused of really sort of snarky, Me Too kind of behavior, not Boko Haram, not rape, not the most horrific, but not just an arm on the shoulder either. Right? The person has already just about left the organization for some other reason, and it would be really easy when somebody makes the allegations to try to sweep it under the rug. Because when it's not swept under the rug, by the way, there's often hell to pay, and it becomes a huge deal in today's world. Do you do that for expediency and lack of your own pain, or do you think about the person who had enough courage to come do that, and do you try to take some action? That may not be the most public, it may be the most public, I don't know, that depends. Everything is different, as you said. So you put that up there.
So is that a cockroach, or is that the Buddha? The cockroach, you would come back as a cockroach if you dis or pass off or sweep under the carpet that complaint. You can't do it. You simply can't do it. The other thing that I would say is that, and we're working a lot with cyber crime and cyber hacking, and do you know, truth, 1.5%, 1.5% of all cyber hacks are announced these days. That means that 98.5 of all cyber hacks are not announced. Talk about not having any privacy left. Everything about you's already out there somewhere, probably.
But what that says is people are choosing to ignore it. One of the reasons is because the populace doesn't seem to get so out of joint, but still... Sorry. I think my iPad just went to sleep. Can you still get it? Are you still there?
Laura McKee: Yes. We still see you. You're fine.
Davia Temin: Okay. All right. So there are things... I mean you know, you have expediency, you have business priorities, you have operational priorities. Believe me, this isn't just for profit companies that have to go through these issues, it's pretty much everybody today. So it's a continuum, I mean it's not probably an AD switch, but you know if you're going to come back as a cockroach, and you can't do it.
Laura McKee: Got it.
Davia Temin: I'm writing about this, by the way, for Forbes, and I wanted to have it up for today so I could send you all to it, but I didn't.
Laura McKee: You know, that's a good segue to one of the questions we have here. You mentioned a few white papers.
Davia Temin: Yep.
Laura McKee: And someone is looking at your website and does not see them. Can you tell us where to find the white papers that you mentioned?
Davia Temin: Yes. You have to scroll down. So we do not have a minimalist website. Everybody tells me I should, and it's a maximalist world in my opinion, so if you go to... On the right side of the page and you scroll down and down, you'll see them. And they're blue or orange, they're not white, but they're there.
Laura McKee: Great.
Davia Temin: And if you have any problems just email me. I'm happy... email@example.com, and we'll send them to you.
Laura McKee: Dtemin@... I'm sorry at what dot com?
Davia Temin: Teminandco. So T-E-
Laura McKee: Teminandco.com.
Davia Temin: Right.
Laura McKee: Thank you. I'm just slowing down, some folks have had some challenges with the audio, so I'm making sure that they can hear that.
Davia Temin: I live in New York and I deal with crisis and I speak too fast.
Laura McKee: That sounds like an occupational hazard for sure. Speaking of which, one of our fabulous Alumni Counsel members who also happens to be a kick-ass lawyer, Petrina Dawson, would like to know how do you navigate your lawyers who are also worried about admissions against interest and liability?
Davia Temin: You bet. Well, it's such a good question because like with every other profession, no two lawyers are alike. I work with an enormous number of lawyers. We work with a lot of them. In fact, often we're hired by them because that can sometimes preserve privilege. And some of the people, my closest friends in this work, are lawyers because we think in a simpatico kind of way. Similarly lawyers who are just so hamstrung, if you will, by everything, they are very difficult to work with, and in those kinds of situations what I say usually to the CEO or the board chair is this is your decision. We don't agree. I work with a court of public opinion that also has a lot of experience. Your worthy counsel has another point of view, and we're going to present our best cases and then you get to decide and then certainly I will do what you choose. That doesn't mean I'll shut up, but I'll certainly do what you say.
Laura McKee: Thank you. So Laura Asencee, and her last... She's hyphenated and I can't see what her whole name is. Laura Asencee something asks what is your approach when you discover that people did something unethical and you know that you will implicate them in this behavior?
Davia Temin: That's a great, great, great question. And then I go back to that every situation is different. I did have a situation like this within the past year where the head of an organization actually, now that I'm thinking about it, did some stuff that was wrong. There was some extenuating circumstances as to why. And what we figured out, the board and I, was how to fix the situation completely. It revolved around funds and the misuse of funds, and how to fix it, how to make the organization whole, how to get that person to exit the organization, how to work with the government to make sure that everything was copacetic and that they were completely happy, but not to make a huge public deal about it. So we tried to combine compassion and absolutely doing the right thing. And we did it. And to more or less, I've done that with other places. Sometimes not as well, sometimes it didn't work out as well. Sometimes things get public or sometimes you know people stay when they shouldn't, the board gets them to stay when they shouldn't stay.
But every situation is different, and that's sort of what I love about it because this work that I do, it is a little bit like 10-dimensional chess. I'm a Star Trek fan, and Mr. Spock playing three-dimensional chess, well 10-dimensional chess is crazier and I love it because you've got to be thinking on a lot of different planes at the same time while you're trying to do the right thing.
Laura McKee: Compassion is definitely part of our ethical compass, right? So Meg Terry, class of '08, thank you Meg for putting your class out there and for asking a question that lots of people are interested in, including Charles Bailey. Sometimes we call long-term, large-scale catastrophes "crises", e.g. climate change. How are the dynamics of these long-term crises different from the more acute crises or something where there's one person clearly responsible? How do you think of that?
Davia Temin: Great question. Well, so denial, not just a river in Egypt, is active with both of them, right? And so if you look at climate change, what is the thing that has doomed us more than coal plants? It's the denial that coal plants were dooming us. It's the denial that it was happening, it's the obfuscation of science, it's the dimunition of science, and on and on and on and on. I mean I like my plastic bags, right? I know that I'm going to do without them. Silly example, but from the sacred to the profane here. And I think that's where you get the unstoppability of it. So if you see a truth that others don't see, I guess it's probably your duty as a human being, to the best you can, to [inaudible 00:47:45], unstoppably point that out. And that's where activism of the kind that we've all faced or been involved with one way or another comes to the fore.
I have to say I'm on the board, and I have to say that while I have one point of view, I am so impressed by others who may feel the point of view. And you have to be [inaudible 00:48:16]. That's one of the things I hire for actually, the people. They can get tired. You can get dispirited, you can go and meet 'tini, but when you're done with the martini, you better get back to work, get sober, and keep going no matter what. So I guess it's also the ability to improvise, look around walls, look around corners, and figure out new ways, continuously figure out new ways to persuade people. I'm not sure that's a very helpful answer, but it's, I think, so true.
Laura McKee: Yeah. Great. What is the best or better course of action when your institution is telling you don't leave a paper trail, e.g. don't use email, and other administrators are making decisions that you strongly disagree with, breaking the karmic cockroach test? That's from Barbara Schafer.
Davia Temin: Thank you.
Laura McKee: Yep.
Davia Temin: That's a really hard to answer in the abstract. It's easier, I think, although not easy to answer the specifics. First of all, I often believe you shouldn't leave a paper trail. Remember there is no such thing as privacy. Everybody misinterprets it, I mean you're misinterpreted no matter what you do, even if you are the right hand of God, so believe me, you're misinterpreted in every other way too. And that is true. So I'm not so worried about no paper trails. I also think this open [inaudible 01:00:10] stuff on everything can be very worrisome in many different ways, and it also has collateral damage that people don't think about. I think that if people are breaking the karmic cockroach test, you've got to figure out what is the best kind strategy, the strategy has to kick in, for how you can get the right thing done without maybe compromising yourself or getting yourself ostracized.
Speaker 4: [inaudible 00:50:54]
Davia Temin: Or sort of diplomatically, with diplomacy, getting what you need to have done.
Speaker 4: [inaudible 00:51:05]
Davia Temin: So I guess I would say that that's probably the key. We don't always... Younger people, maybe, are... And certainly myself when I was younger, are a little bit more in [inaudible 00:51:22] about right and wrong and know fuzzy lines, probably better at fuzzy lines [inaudible 00:51:29] then sort of people... My class probably are a little bit... I think that's a little bit of wisdom. And it's still not a good answer to your question, I'm sorry. But the specifics matter.
Speaker 4: Yeah.
Laura McKee: And we're going to wrap up fairly soon, so let me see, what's one more good question? There are actually several questions out there, but we want to be respectful of people's time, and especially your time, Davia. Thank you so much for sharing so much of your wisdom with us. I saw one from Jeff Tarlan who didn't list his class, but he was at Swarthmore when I was, which must make him an '87 or maybe 6ish, somewhere in there. Jeff asks to what extent do you find that managing through a crisis results in meaningful changes to a company's corporate culture versus deal with the crisis and then back to normal? Thanks. Oh wait, Jeff was in my class, class of '88.
Davia Temin: Oh great.
Laura McKee: Sorry Jeff.
Davia Temin: So you know, look it, it's aspirational. Here's what I think. I think the more scared they are, organizations are of the ramifications that will happen to them if they don't change, they will. Fear works, the press works, everybody's worried about Harvey Weinstein-like kinds of things now, I'm telling you we could just only do that all the time. This stuff works. So whether you find the most change when people are worried and now anybody can out anybody about anything almost anytime and some things really take hold, you never know quite what does. My rules is, by the way, that the things that you want people to write or know about or get visibility about that you really want to put forth, nobody will care. The things that you absolutely don't want anybody to know, they will find out and they will care a whole lot. That's just sort of a general operating principle.
So I find it now more than I've ever found it before. Moreover, there's also this whole movement. It's called the B Team. It was started by Marc Benioff and Richard Branson and my friend, Halla Tomasdottir, is the CEO of it, working with them, and it is to envision for profit companies that have a higher purpose, and have a higher calling, and that you can do both things. So there are movements, and even the business round tables started to talk about purpose, and it was more important now, stakeholder responsibility not just shareholder responsibility. So these are all things that are all really going in the right direction. And for as awful as the internet is about spreading lies and losing elections, it is wonderful at getting people to maybe know that what they do is not going to be hidden all the time.
Laura McKee: So I apologize for the background noise in my house. It turns out these headphones I've got are really good, they pick up everything, including the fact that my husband's having conversation. So technology is great, it works great, we love it, it just doesn't love us.
Davia Temin: You have to have the redundant systems.
Laura McKee: Right.
Davia Temin: Which I, you know, sort of have here. If you ever were to come into my office, you would see like-
Laura McKee: Wow, that looks like mission central.
Davia Temin: It is. I've got like seven huge screens, so yes, that's a reason. There's always a redundancy factor.
Laura McKee: So even Donald Trump would be comfortable watching TV at your office, right?
Davia Temin: No. Matches might be under toenails. I don't know. No.
Laura McKee: Oh, Davia. And Jamie Seamons has actually been on as panelist now for some time and I think she did finally get the technology to work. We were having some trouble at the beginning. Jamie, would you like to close us out and take us home at a very early 9:00 Chicago time, which it's past my bedtime practically.
Jamie Seamons: Hi Laura. Yes, please. I have one question for Davia, which is how did your art history honors degree prepare you for all of this powerhouse problem-solving and crisis management and CEO consulting?
Davia Temin: Thank you, Jamie. Well, I was on my way to get a PhD in Art History and I was going to study Dagon, I was on my way to France to do research for, and probably drink wine, and meet boys for two years to do that from Columbia, and all of a sudden I realized that I really didn't care as much, that what I really, really wanted to do after identity crisis number 5890, was to have an impact on the world, and one for the good because of Swarthmore. And that saying that's on a bench somewhere which seared into my brain, let your life speak, it's the [inaudible 00:57:00]
Jamie Seamons: Yes.
Davia Temin: Well, I wanted it to speak, and from then it was just sort of figuring out how, and really sort of creating this actually quite a bit, and sort of creating this way and morphing all the time. That's why. That's how. Sort of almost in reaction, but because of Swarthmore.
Jamie Seamons: Thank you very much. That makes a lot of sense. Davia Temin, class of '74 and member of the board of managers. Wonderful to hear you speak tonight.
Davia Temin: Thank you so much. A real pleasure.
Laura McKee: We're so grateful for your time, Davia, and would love to invite everyone who's participated tonight to come back, because more SwatTalks are being planned. In February we have Mara Hvistendahl, class of '02 speaking about economic espionage, a new national security threat. In March, we have Ayse Kaya, associate professor of political science speaking on Asian infrastructure, the Asian infrastructure investment bank. In April, we have Professor Amy Vollmer, speaking about the gut microbiome, which is probably helpful to all of us, and in May, Tim Harrison, class of '87, will be speaking about his professional journey, marrying, personal loss, and professional vocation.
So we would love to have as many alumni participate as possible, so invite your friends, and as I mentioned at the top of this particular SwatTalk, we're really encouraging alumni to send their nominations for the annual Alumni Awards which will be awarded during Alumni Weekend. It's the season when Alumni Counsel reviews those nominations. There are two awards, one the Eugene Lang Impact Award, which it sounds like Davia may be a candidate with the work that you've been doing, and your impact on the world at large, and then the second one is the Unsung Hero Award for Social Impact, and I happened to notice that Panis Alinus who won that award a couple years ago was on the SwatTalk, so please do think about who of your classmates, particularly in the classes ending in zero and five, like Jamie's class, '85, who would be worthy of recognition from the Alumni Counsel. So thanks again, Davia. We really appreciate your sharing so much with us, and we'll see everybody next time.
Davia Temin: Thanks Laura.
Laura McKee: Bye bye.
Davia Temin: Bye.
Speaker 4: So [inaudible 01:00:10]