Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Slowing the game down

This past weekend, I spent the better part of my time nursing a terrible sinus headache. It's oak pollen season here in Florida. While many of you were shoveling snow, we have been shoveling tree pollen.
You don't want to do this with oak pollen. Yuck.
I have also been watching the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments. My beloved Maryland Terrapins men's team was knocked out of the big dance by the West Virginia Mountaineers, but the women's team is trucking on, hopefully headed for the championship game in Tampa.

There's something about this time of the year that brings out the basketball junkie in me. It's the single-elimination format of the games. It's the fact that many of these kids are not going pro in the NBA or the WNBA, and they are playing their hearts out for the pride of their teams. It's the insane buzzer beaters and upsets that make this time of the year one where your pulse races and your pupils dilate as the clock winds down.

I can't get enough of March Madness!
The players who stand out are the ones who have the ability to slow the game down. Not physically - they can't control the clock - but mentally, through their composure. They know what their next step is going to be, they know where their teammates are going to be and they know exactly what they have to do to make the next big play. Those players are in short supply, but can make a huge difference to teams that have them on their rosters.

In much the same way, public information officers working in times of crisis are under incredible time pressures. Maybe they are issuing warnings for impending haz-mat incidents or rapidly-developing weather situations. Perhaps they are pulling disparate members of a response team together to deploy to an area that has been hit.

A good PIO taking control of a situation
It's times like these when a PIO who knows how to slow down the game while others are hyped up on too little sleep, too much coffee or too little experience are worth their weight in gold. They have an uncanny ability to take control of the situation, pull everyone together and orchestrate the action, in much the same way that a point guard runs the offense on the hardwood. 

How do you get this ability? Are people just born with it? I think not.

It comes from a few different character traits. 

  • Experience, which is earned through training real world events and valuable lessons learned by others.
  • A level head. If you can keep your head while others are losing theirs...  it holds true especially when it comes to times of crisis. Simply by not feeding into the cycle of escalating tension and frantic activity can help short circuit the madness.
  • Courage. The guts to step up and take charge of the situation, especially when you can see things going off the tracks, is the best way to keep the team in the game. And, you can't just exercise that courage during the time of crisis - you have to exercise that during the strategic planning phases of preparation as well. Step up. Volunteer to take the leadership role.
Legendary UCLA Men's basketball coach John Wooden
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden - the Wizard of Westwood - led his UCLA Bruins to 10 NCAA Men's basketball titles in a 12-year span not through luck, but thorough the use of these important character traits. There's no reason why you can't build a winning team where you work if you take the same steps. 

Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida

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