With each passing day, there’s more news that the economy is weakening. Factory orders go down. Consumer spending decreases. The sub-prime shakeout continues. Inflation raises its ugly head. It is enough to make any manager shudder, but take a deep breath. Times are tough, but our economy has weathered crises such as these and much worse many times. Your business is not likely to go under. Some will, but the overwhelming majority will not.
This now becomes a time to spread some confidence throughout your organization. That is what leaders do: give their people reasons to believe in themselves and their teams. Here are some suggestions:
Keep your door open. People will pepper the boss for the inside scoop. Is our budget being cut? Is the department being ask to reduce headcount? Is my job safe? Some questions you can answer easily; others you cannot. But you must listen and say that you will share what you know when you know it and can share it. (You may have to repeat this statement 100 times. No matter; people need to hear it.)
Encourage creativity. The future is uncertain. What is certain is that if the organization is to survive, it will need good ideas that can benefit stakeholders: customers, investors, and employees. Some ideas will be products; others will be process improvements. Getting people to focus on such improvement focuses their energy on adding value.
Cheerlead. People need their spirits boosted. Find ways to spread some cheer. Spring for pizza in the break room. Hand out tickets to sports or arts events. Talk up the good things that the team has accomplished.
A note of caution: No one likes a smiling fool. Spreading good cheer when people are being laid off is not only stupid, it is callous. Pick your moments. Since the economy is likely to get worse before it gets better, leaders will have more opportunities to spread confidence. How people perform in tough times is a measure of how well they can perform any time. Getting people to do the job when everything is going smoothly is less of a challenge than it is when the business is facing uncertainty. But problems occur in good times as well as bad. Identifying performers now will help you grow the business when the economic climate improves. Putting those people into leadership positions now or very soon will help you not only weather the choppy waves now but also set you up to catch the winds when they shift your company’s way.
How are you leading through this downturn?
Go to the Complete Downturn Survival Guide
John Baldoni is a leadership consultant/coach and speaker as well as the author of six books on the topic.