When does an issue become an emergency and when does an emergency become a crisis? My friend Len Biegel authored a book called Never Say Never (Brick Tower Press, NY, 2006). It was intended to prepare corporations for when the garbage hits the fan. A lot of what he writes applies to families facing tough conversations.
For example: Mom has cancer and has to decide how to divvy up her estate. Should her three children receive an equal share, or should brother Bill who lost his job and faces foreclosure receive more than the others? That’s an issue.
Mom’s cancer has worsened, and she is likely to die in a few weeks. She’s let it be known that she wants to leave most of her estate to Bill with minor amounts going to the other siblings. That’s an emergency.
Mom just passed away. She left the bulk of her estate to poor Bill, and small amounts to the other siblings. They are furious…at Bill AND Mom. Relations between Bill and his siblings may never be the same again. That’s a crisis.
The question facing us is when should we take corrective action, or have that tough conversation? At the issue stage when we recognize there is a problem but it’s not critical. enough to warrant action? Or, when something bad happens, but it is reparable? Or, when we have no other choice but to take corrective action.
Two lessons emerge from this post: One, we need to distinguish among issues, emergencies, and crises. Two, we need to know when to begin planning the tough conversation: before an issue becomes an emergency, let alone a crisis.
Let’s face it: families are like businesses. They need members to work together, plan for the unexpected, and come out of challenging situations all the stronger.
Question: Are you in an issue, emergency or (heaven forbid) a crisis situation?
P.S. Are you ready for that Tough Conversation?