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Handling crises calmly and capably

This is an excerpt from Sport Business Handbook-Revised Edition, The by Richard B. Horrow,Rick Burton & Myles Schrag.

By Gary Bettman

It has been my privilege to serve the National Hockey League as commissioner since 1993. The longer you do a job of this type, the better you understand the nature of what you’re doing. Perhaps most significant, you understand what’s important and what isn’t, how to make the right decisions. The most important thing that I’ve found: Do what you think is right.

People will criticize. There is never any shortage of criticism; it comes with the territory. Some people will say you’re great and some people will say that you’re an idiot—and, by the way, they’re all wrong. Which is why, if you want to sleep at night and you want to have success, you’ve got to be comfortable that you’re doing what you believe is the right thing.

You can’t worry about playing politics or doing what you think is popular because, with all due respect to the media, they’ll present a suggestion one day as the greatest idea, and if you happen to follow it and it turns out not to be a good idea, they’ll say, “That was ridiculous. You never should have done that.”

It is virtually impossible to do a job of this type, particularly in a very public industry, if you have a thin skin. You have to decide that if you know the facts and the truth, and you’re comfortable in your own skin, it doesn’t matter what the media, or your adversaries, are going to say. While I focus on the fans and the game, I also report to the owners of our teams. The goal is to satisfy all the constituents at the same time.