How to Lead in Tough Times
Watching, listening to or reading the news you will "know" that new layoffs are announced every day, a shaky stock market is followed more closely than ever, and uncertainties seem to be everywhere. This article is written to address this current situation, but the lessons apply to any challenging time you and your organization may be facing.
As I write this in April 2009, many would say we are living in tough, uncertain economic times.
Watching, listening to or reading the news you will "know" that new layoffs are announced every day, a shaky stock market is followed more closely than ever, and uncertainties seem to be everywhere.
This article is written to address this current situation, but the lessons apply to any challenging time you and your organization may be facing - whether global, local or company specific.
Whenever and for whatever reason times might be tough, consider these five specific things you can do to create better results for yourself, those you lead and your organization as a whole.
Focus on what`s in your control. The news media feeds us what they know we really want to hear - DRAMA. What is better drama than talking about the real life situations of the larger economy and how people are being impacted? Consider these three factors, simply as examples:
•National unemployment is rising.
•Banks are in upheaval.
•Venerable American car companies are in big trouble.
Now, two questions.
1. Is there an immediate and direct impact of any of these things on you and your business? (Likely not unless you are in the automotive or banking businesses or perhaps sell to those industries.)
2. Whatever the impact, what can you actually do with that information? In most cases not much, so the best thing to do is STOP THINKING ABOUT IT. But you can also think proactively, think creatively and think accountably. Ask yourself and your team, OK, what can we do about this situation? How can we influence or control the results these things will have on us?
As a leader it`s your role to help people focus on what is in the person`s or team`s control. When you do, you become more proactive and less focused on what is going on "out there."
Engage top talent. If times are tough, you may not have much attrition; your people may not be looking to move somewhere else. If that`s true, it can be easy to take people for granted or rest on your laurels. Don`t do it. The economic conditions will change, and when they do it is your top talent that will be most desirable and most open to making a change. Use the current situation as a chance to develop and engage your organization - in projects, problem solving and development of all kinds. When people are fully engaged they are less likely to leave. Keep your focus on engaging your organization - especially your top talent - in tough times.
Communicate goals and vision. When things seem uncertain or challenging it`s especially important to focus people on the big picture. Does your team see the vision for the future? Do your people know the most important and meaningful organizational goals? As a leader it`s your responsibility to make sure the answer to those questions is YES. Spend more time communicating, sharing and engaging people in your picture of the future and their place in it. Not only will it help people see past today, but it will focus them on something positive and helpful.
Expect good results. Refuse to allow people to become victims of the environment. Your industry will be off by 20% you say? That doesn`t mean your sales have to be off that much. Challenge people to do more, and to do things differently. While you shouldn`t deny the current environment, you shouldn`t accept it as fact either. Expect the best of your people, provide them the support and encouragement they need, and help them succeed. It starts with your expectations.
Model the right attitude. The attitude and mindset you bring to work is incredibly important, but never more so than in tough or challenging times. Fill your mind with ideas and thoughts that help you maintain an upbeat attitude and a positive mood and frame of reference. Do whatever it takes to maintain that attitude for yourself, knowing that your attitude is contagious.
All of these things are great leadership activities anytime - even when things are great - but they become particularly important in tougher times. The underlying point here is that as a leader you must focus on the results you want, regardless of the situation you find yourself in.
It`s your responsibility to provide that focus - first for yourself, and then for those you lead.
Potential Pointer: As a leader you want people to follow you in a manner, and direction, that produces great results; especially in tough times. To do that you must recognize your role in helping people focus on what they can control to get the results you desire.