Beyond Brian Williams: Remember the Mission


I’ve been following the scandal surrounding NBC news anchor Brian Williams and judging by the huge amount of constant news coverage, I’m definitely not the only one. In fact, it all sort of reminds me of a slow-motion car crash that’s really hard to stop looking at.

I’ve heard and read several different opinions about the Williams’ scandal while at work, on the train, waiting in line at Target (all I wanted to do was pay for my shampoo and Valentine’s Day cards) and splashed across my social media timelines. I definitely have my own thoughts on the situation but this isn’t what this blog is about it.

Bigger picture, NBC still has a job to do with or without Brian Williams and only they can decide the way forward long-term. One of the first things I learned in the Army was that no matter what damage we suffer, the mission doesn’t stop.

This led me to think about how government organizations can best respond to their own crises. Here are a few strategies below to help your team survive the storm.

  • Take responsibility- Clearly identify who or what the problem is and how your organization is going to fix it. That’s really all most people care about. Save the scapegoats and excuses. Sometimes there are no quick or simple solutions, but openly communicate what is your team doing in the meantime to find a remedy.
  • Be proactive – One of our most important principles in military public affairs is “maximum disclosure with minimum delay.” Basically if it happened, provide the facts upfront as soon as possible. Avoid stalling. Bad news doesn’t get better with time. Some commanders or agency heads may disagree, but I’ve never seen this principle fail.
  • Guard against personal feelings and gossip – Everyone on the outside looking in will have an opinion, suggestion or witty social media post regarding “your” crisis. Don’t allow yourself or your organization to become influenced by it and lose focus. Every leader and organization should have a trusted team of advisors that can help make the difficult decisions, provide candid feedback and offer objective counsel. These are the folks that will provide some clarity amid the confusion.
  • Prepare for rough weather – No one person should ever be indispensable or operate without any oversight. Ever. We set ourselves and our organization up for failure when we allow that to happen. If you’re the only one who knows how to do “your job,” (or at least the basics), then that’s a problem. Having some sort of a contingency plan is a must no matter what level of government you work in.
  • Remember the mission statement- Why do we do what we do? Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of business as usual, we can forget why we started working for our organization in the first place. I challenge anyone reading this to go and find their organization’s mission statement and read it aloud (preferably before a crisis hits). Sometimes we all need a friendly reminder to keep us focused or … to help bring us back when we lose our way.

Dijon N. Rolle is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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David B. Grinberg

Awesome post, Dijon, you raise so many excellent points! Well, for those folks who just can’t get enough of this scandal, I wrote a featured blog on @LinkedInPulse “Brian Williams: Did Ditgital Kill the TV News Star?”


Another great article Dijon. I always look forward to reading your musings.
I love ‘maximum disclosure, minimum delay.’ However, I have never seen maximum disclosure in my agency. In fact, it is minimum disclosure, maximum delay.