Don’t let them see you panic

We keep a list of topics for these posts; this one was added to the list several years ago and I’m just getting around to writing about it. I preface the post with that because the incident(s) which inspired it were even longer ago and happened with former, not current, team members. The incidents usually involved technical failures at mock jury research. Most often, the problems were with the closed circuit feed for audio and video. Knock on wood, these have gotten more stable over time, probably due to technology changes. But, we have experienced many failures in this regard. The audio works, but the video doesn’t, or vice versa, and it is time to start the session. The clock is literally ticking but the show can’t go on without the feeds. (This is not the only example of a situation which could lead to panic, it’s just one of many.) The fact that something went wrong is not unexpected, by itself. It is the reaction that matters. And, in particular, it is the reaction, the “face” that the client sees when something does happen. Akin to “don’t let them see you sweat,” this is about keeping cool under pressure. Don’t panic everyone else by panicking about something that is within your realm of responsibility. If one does, and one doesn’t learn from the issue immediately, one’s job prospects will likely diminish. The need not to drag others into the panic is there because the others, particularly clients, have enough to worry about without the distraction of, for example, a technical glitch. Most of our employees have had composure in these situations, but a few definitely did not! We learned long ago to screen applicants for this variable – or at least ask about it. I’ll never forget one applicant, who was asked how she handled things when they went wrong. Keeping in mind that her current job was working as a police dispatcher, her answer, “I go to the restroom and cry, then go back to work…” She wasn’t hired.

Over the years I have been working as a trial consultant, I have had many reasons to panic.  I have also had many opportunities to observe my staff members panic.  There are numerous things that can, and do, go wrong, including things over which we have no control and things that occur from mistakes, carelessness, etc.  For example, I have been involved in several hotel fires, several bomb scares, many broken down rental cars, too many delayed and cancelled flights to count, and I was locked inside a courthouse (along with everyone else) when the 911 attacks occurred.  Some people might think these are good reasons to panic, or even, to never again travel, but for me, it’s “all in a day’s work.”  When, not if, the inevitable something goes wrong on a day when Magnus is conducting mock jury research for a client, we hope everyone who works with us relies on their training on how to troubleshoot the problem (usually one related to all of the complicated audio visual and/or computer set up required for our work) so that the problem can be fixed as soon as possible.  Just as important, however, all of Magnus’ staff are trained on the maxim “never let ‘em see you sweat” which is another way of saying “don’t let the client know anything is wrong.”  Some people have calm, assured personalities while other people tend to have hysterical, dramatic reactions when they forget a piece of essential equipment, can’t figure out why there is no audio coming from the camera, or are unsure of how to help the clients figure out how to operate their laptop.  Needless to say, the only type of person who has consistently had success as a Magnus employee is someone with the former personality type.  In our line of work, there is absolutely no room for panic or tears.

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