Being a great leader in difficult economic times is certainly no small task. Whether it is the rising cost of fuel, the uncertainty of natural disasters or the turbulent stock market, it’s likely your industry will feel an impact regardless of the field you may be in. Lately, we have all been inundated with countless webinars, seminars and articles on how to survive in these tough times. However, the basics of truly great leadership and management should be the same whether the economy is going well or is struggling. Yes, certain actions may need more immediate attention and focus as they become visible. Conversely, if you stick to the basics and continue to do the right things, you can flourish during tough times as well as good times.
This is precisely why in my book, More Than a Minute, I outline critical aspects for setting the stage to go exactly where you want to go regardless of what’s going on. Tough economic conditions may mean that you’ll need to reevaluate some of your destination points (where you are going) in light of changing conditions, but it does not mean you should abandon your focus on achieving those clearly defined goals and objectives.
Now is not the time for hysteria because during tough times, focus is critical for the success of both the individual leader and their organization. I often see clients begin to panic when they do not achieve anticipated revenue or margin goals. They begin fixating on missed opportunities, scattering attention and thus diluting their efforts to make any substantial progress.
As difficult as it is, leaders must stay focused.Adhering to tactical procedures will allow the overall strategy to be realized. Leaders and mangers must stay the course and align all their actions to make progress on it. This does not mean you ignore re-evaluating the conditions around you. Generally in business and more specifically during turbulent times, many situations will arise that you could not have imagined and issues pop up that you don’t see coming. Life comes at us fast these days and often things are happening in this world of “hyper-everything” that alter the landscapes beyond our wildest imaginations. Everything from technology to real estate is subject to these innovations. If you had taken a global survey 6 months ago, it’s likely the vast majority would never have suspected Lehman Brothers would declare bankruptcy or that AIG would get an $85 billion dollar bail out from the federal government.
I suggest that you take a little time to pause and incorporate these changes into your own strategies, refine your destination points and reevaluate your operations plan. I know that it may feel like you are slowing down when you desperately want to run – but taking the time to do it right will get you there faster and will get you to where you want to go efficiently. Remember the mantra “here is never time to do it right, but always time to do it over is not the one winners use!”
As stretched as your schedule becomes, it’s an important time to make sure you communicate these changes and the “why” of any new goals and objectives. Slow down to do this or you will be astounded by how the energies become diffused and your employees work on what they believe is most critical whether it aligns to the organization’s new objectives or not. Communication is key!
Keeping employees focused during tough times provides a lot more comfort than leaving everyone wondering: “Is leadership clued in to what is going on? Is the company responding quickly enough or will we be the next one to fall apart? Is my project still important? Am I still important?” The connections between the organization and employees can actually strengthen as you weather the tough times together as long as you are clear on what is happening, what is changing, what is staying the same and why.
Feedback, both positive and constructive, is even more critical now as well.Employees need to know if they are doing the right things in the right way.Any voids that present themselves during turmoil, leaves employees the space to fill in the blanks with negative thoughts of their own- so leaders and mangers must provide as much feedback as they can. Otherwise, people will be forced to make up stories of demise and thus create self fulfilling failure.It is also vital to have your best workers engaged so that their energies are not spent looking elsewhere for future employment because they are unclear or uncertain how the organization is responding.
This focus on the basics is a strong one for me because I have seen this approach work for my clients time and time again. You can thrive during both the good times and the difficult ones! And itâ€™s never too late to get started!