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A Lesson from the Comey Firing

Posted by on in Crisis Management


The firing of FBI director James Comey by president Trump is the biggest story of the week. Most of the focus has been on the constantly changing rationale for the termination. The television networks have been filling the airwaves with a variety of reasons for the firing. The various spokespeople including the president, VP, and assistant communications director have stumbled badly in telling a coherent, consistent and honest story.

Director Comey has been accused of being a “showboat” and “grandstander,” that “the FBI was in turmoil,” and that he was not doing a good job. Of course, one of the major issues behind this firing was clearly that Mr. Comey was leading the investigation into the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The director was in the third year of a ten-year term. According to the acting FBI director, in his testimony to Congress on Thursday, Mr. McCabe stated that director Comey had been highly respected throughout the agency.

There is no question that director Comey was a controversial figure. The Hillary Clinton e-mail server situation was a huge problem to the Democrats in 2016, possibly shifting the election at the last minute in favor of Mr. Trump. Then Comey mentioned in a public briefing to Congress earlier this year that he was investigating the links between the Trump team and Russia. In other words, he was investigating his new boss. This is not a winning strategy for job security unless the incoming administration has nothing to hide.

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These are tough times. In a recent issue (February 22, 2016) of the Journal of Commerce, the headline was “Is the US in a Freight Recession?” If a freight recession is defined as two or more consecutive quarters of year/year declines in freight volumes, parts of the US and Canadian transportation economy are certainly there. While we aren’t back into the Great Recession of 2007-2008, there has been a pronounced slowdown in business activity. Trucking industry executives confide that business volumes have tapered off.

This is when leaders are put to the test. Here are some thoughts on how to lead an organization through tough times.

1. Be Visible and Communicative

Don’t hide in your office all day in closed door meetings.  This is sure to unnerve your employees. Be visible and try to maintain a “business as usual” demeanor. Employees pick up on every change in behavior by its leadership team.

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