Rough Times – Leaders Needed More Than Ever

What are rough times? For me, those were the times when in the corporate world everything was taking a downward spiral. Layoffs, cost cutting, restructuring and pretty much an upheaval of what was known as the norm. Are these times extremely difficult? Of course. Are there some positives to look at as well? Yes. Difficult and rough times are the times that leaders need to step up and really do some work. Turning those bad times into times that set a foundation for the future. This post is one that I want to focus my energy on that foundation… Give some tips and experience from what I have learned going into rough times…

How do you keep your folks motivated and working on what needs to be done? There have been many studies out there that say during rough times about 1/3 of the employees are engaged, 1/3 are looking for that next opportunity and the last 1/3 are not engaged. When you look at it from that standpoint, the simple facts are the engaged folks are staying for what they are doing, the disengaged folks are staying for what they get. Bottomline: when times do really turn around employees will be moving. We all know that the ones that you will probably lose will not be the ones you want to leave.

So, what should you do to really get everyone engaged in rough times? Keeping them motivated is definitely a challenge. Keeping them focused with all the uncertainty around them is difficult. Here are some of the things that I have experienced and shared over my time in those rough periods.

  • Communication – is definitely more important that ever. Maybe a better term would be to over-communicate. Being upfront and honest with your employees is critical. Think of the rumor mill or grapevine – during rough times it seems there is something need added every hour. You as the leader, need to address the fear! How do you do that – with open, honest and transparent communication.
  • Building relationship – taking that time to sit down with each employee and ask them what is on their mind. Find out where they are in the engaged, looking or disengaged category. Setting up regular 1:1 communications to address work, fears and concerns. Keeping them focused on the bigger picture, but not losing sight on their individual small pieces that make up the big picture.
  • Decision-making – insure that you, as the leader, are including everyone on the team in the decisions. Even to the point, of insuring that the lowest level are making those decisions that they should make. Rough times make it easy to have the decisions move up the ladder. Make a point, not to do that. Keep decisions where they should be.
  • Recognition – for the work that is getting done, especially in rough times. Many of the cuts and layoffs have passed the work of many to just a few… Take the time to come up with low cost “new” recognition for your team. People like to be rewarded for their hard work and efforts.
  • Check yourself – anyway you look at it, rough times can bring out the best and worst in people. Even yourself. Listen to yourself when in a critical or difficult situation. Are you acting yourself? If you are not right, you definitely will be demonstrating that to your employees.

Simple Reminder: For rough times (or not) – LISTENING, EMPATHIZE and CARING – you really can’t go wrong.