These are troubling times for companies and for employees. This is the time for leaders to rise to the challenge and ensure their employees that all is well.
Leadership is the special quality which enables people to stand up and pull the rest of us over the horizon. -James L. Fisher
As managers part of our job is to keep our departments running as smoothly as possible. We all know that employees who are under stress are less productive and more prone to make errors. From a business prospective it is sound management to ensure a productive environment continues in the workplace.
This is why during these tough times managers need to be strong leaders. To ensure the stability and productivity of our departments, we must stand up to the challenges we face and lead. These are tough times to lead in, but I feel at this time more than ever that strong leadership will bring us through these tough times.
How to Lead During Tough Times
Everyone experiences tough times, it is a measure of your determination and dedication how you deal with them and how you can come through them.
– Lakshmi Mittal
Now more than ever employees will look to management for leadership. They want to be reassured their job is safe and that their company is safe. While none of us can predict the future, each of us has the responsibility to try and ease those fears.
Hold a meeting with employees to go over these issues. Explain honestly how your company is doing. Ask for feedback, in particular to root out any rumors that can be laid to rest. When employees do not hear from leadership, this lays fertile ground for every type of rumor to flourish. Rumors left unchecked can destroy morale during a time when it is needed the most.
The thing most employees are worried about in relation to your company is how safe their job is. If your company is being hit hard, this will be a tough sell. While you may not be able to disclose everything, you can help by ensuring them that every effort is being made to maintain current employment levels.
Use as an example how your company or department has been through tough times in the past. Let them know that despite how bad it seems now, things will get better. Share stories that project a positive future. This will give your employees hope and help build morale.
How NOT to Lead During Tough Times
Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself. – Thomas Watson
These are also the times that separate true leaders for pretenders. If employees are looking to management for leadership and what they see is more uncertainty this will feed their fears.
Do not go around talking about how tough things are. They assume, whether rightfully so or not that you know more than they do. If you show a lack of confidence in the future, they will assume the worst is still to come.
Keep your own concerns about your job security and financial future to yourself. Remember your job is to paint a positive picture, not spread your own brand of negativity among your employees.
Lead by Example
Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.
– Albert Schweitzer
Leaders often lead by actions and attitude more than words. Carry on with work as usual. Find positive things that are going on in the company and highlight them. You want to show employees that the company is moving forward, not grinding to a halt.
Leaders need to be visionaries. This is a good time to share how you envision improvements in your department and your company. You want to show how the future will fulfill their needs, wants and goals.
Leaders must be committed to action. Become more engaged in the day to day operations. Show that you are working to improve not only the department or the company, but the employees as well.
Lead With Compassion
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. – Leo Buscaglia
We are reminded now more than ever that we are all human. You need to connect with your employees on a personal level. Perhaps some one on one sessions will be helpful if you notice poor performance or high levels of stress.
This is a good time for coaching employees for improvement, not just as employees, but on a more personal level. Sympathize with their concerns, but do not feed their fears. As managers we all have techniques for dealing with stress. Share these with employees or contact HR for assistance.
Think of team building exercises that will give employees something else to think about other than troubled times. Take them out or bring in lunch. Pick an activity outside of the company. Ever consider a bowling league? It is really a teamwork exercise that takes place outside of the confines of the office and allows employees and management to interact in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Acknowledge your employees, in particular their accomplishments. Take time to ask how their day is going, to spend a few minutes to see if there is a problem you can help them with. Walking around with a frown and troubled look projects fear. A smile and projecting a positive attitude will go a long ways towards alleviating stress.
During these hard times we must step up and lead. While your initial goal is to maintain productivity and relieve stress, ultimately showing leadership in times of trouble will pay dividends down the road.
Employees will remember when the times were tough that management and the company stuck by them. This will build trust in leadership and loyalty among employees.
I’m sure there are some of you who are facing far more serious situations than I am. Regardless of how hard times are for your company, strong leadership in times like these is desperately needed.
“Tough times never last, Tough people do.” – Robert Schuller