One of the toughest things to learn about crisis management is when to pick your battles. Because the truth is, sometimes – ofttimes, really – your crisis really isn’t.

I’ve said it for years – wrote a book about it even. When it comes to crisis management, perception IS reality. And while that thesis seems at odds with what I’m telling you now, trust me when I reassure you that my thesis stands. I’m here to tell you that your own perception is, ironically, not quite what you think it is.

I have lost count of the times I’ve been asked to help deal with a crisis that, in hindsight, really wasn’t.

Oh, it was a full-blown crisis by the time I got involved. But it didn’t have to be.

Far too often, the guy responsible for deciding whether there is a monster under the bed sees that monster in the dark, via the furthest reaches of his diminished depth perception. Far too often, the person responsible for deciding whether there is a monster immediately calls for the Ghostbusters instead of simply switching on the lights, pulling back the covers, and finding not a monster, but that dusty old golf bag he’d been meaning to move up to the attic.

Perception IS reality.

When your customer is in crisis, you need to deal with that monster. When your employee is in crisis, her monster needs handling.

There are plenty of monsters lurking in plenty of closets that will need your attention. And you cannot do that effectively if you’re too busy inventing monsters of your own!

This has probably happened to you. Lord knows it’s happened to me. I said up front that this is one of the toughest things to learn about crisis management, and I meant it.

Being a great crisis manager means anticipating the worst, preparing for the worst, and being pleasantly surprised when the worst doesn’t happen. It, unfortunately, also means anticipating the worst, preparing for the worst and being kinda wrong almost all the time. Setting aside the psychology, I will stipulate that it kinda sucks. Nobody wants to be Chicken Little (unless the sky is actually falling).

But here’s the thing.

It’s your business. They’re your employees. YOUR customers. These people are counting on you, even if they don’t realize it.

You can tune your own perception and still be aware of theirs. You have to. All it really takes is a little practice taking a little time. Don’t trust your peripheral vision in the dark. Take an extra minute to turn on the light and throw back the covers.

Trust me, if it turns out that a monster is really there, you will still have plenty time to deal with it.

AND you’ll know precisely what it is you’re dealing with.