Leading During Turbulent Times
by Bob Prosen


One of a leader's greatest challenges is being at the helm during turbulent times while keeping your employees at the top of their game. As more and more companies enter the global market place, competition, change and uncertainty increase. This is when leaders must lead with confidence, wisdom and courage. If not, your employees may not follow.

As a leader, I've found it's particularly important during times of uncertainty to simplify your plan and focus on execution. This means having a small set of quantifiable objectives and timelines to facilitate accountability throughout the organization. But that alone is not enough. You must also lead knowing that people are your most important asset and to that end, you want to always be certain employees know you are committed to their success and will do what it takes to help them win.

Most everyone agrees it's easier, and certainly a lot more fun, to lead during good times. Unfortunately too many leaders fail to recognize the perfect time to tighten up processes, eliminate waste, hire top talent and manage low performers out of the company is during times of plenty. Establish effective leadership practices and maintain them, and you will find the tough times are not as difficult on you or your employees.

One of the key factors in keeping top talent during both lean and good times is to be a strong and effective communicator. True leaders shine when it's tough sledding and employees want to work for strong leaders who have a plan and know where the company is headed. Frequent and effective communications is the glue that holds the organization together and helps to reduce fear and uncertainty.

As part of my training work with clients one of the things we address is how to successfully lead and empower your employees to achieve their objectives no matter what.

Here are some things you can do immediately to successfully lead your team through rough times.

  1. Establish no more than five clearly stated and measurable objectives.

  2. Identify and remove the roadblocks that hinder your team's performance.

  3. Reward your people for results not how hard they work.

  4. Don't cut back on rewards and recognition during leaner times. Now more than ever, you need your core team to feel appreciated and important.

  5. Be honest and tell your team what's needed to win.

  6. Keep your employees well informed to help mitigate fear.

  7. Be extremely hard on performance and easy on people.

  8. Acknowledge success and reinforce the positive.

  9. Maintain the proper balance between passion and optimism with realism and judgment.

Leaders must also be willing to feel an equal amount of pain as your team and demonstrate self-sacrifice so that employees understand "we're all in this together" is simply not just words, but rather a true representation that you're with your employees through thick and thin. Remember, you have to be as committed to them as you want them to be committed to the company.

Especially during lean times, leaders have to put the "must do's" first and have everyone on the team identify things they can personally stop doing in order to free up valuable resources to handle the "must do's". One of the secrets to addressing the "must do's" is to keep conversations focused on what has to get done to accomplish the organization's top objectives. Oftentimes leaders can spend too much time planning or spread themselves too thin that they lose sight of the day-to-day priorities. Challenge yourself to stay focused on the significant few things that will ultimately determine your success.

Finally, as a leader, you must treat employees with dignity and respect. If you're going to have to reduce your workforce, do it in the most honest and respectful manner possible. Tell your team what the company is facing, encourage them to ask questions and be frank about the issues. Then look internally and ask yourself what you could have done to reduce or even prevent the force reduction. Top leaders understand they are obligated to learn from the past.

In one of his last interviews with Forbes, Peter Drucker said, "Make sure the people with whom you work understand your priorities. Where organizations fall down is when they have to guess at what the boss is working at, and they invariably guess wrong. So the CEO needs to say, "This is what I am focusing on." Then the CEO needs to ask of his associates, "What are you focusing on?"

As Drucker notes, the key to leading is to ensure you and your team are on the same page in terms of goals and the actions needed to get them done. No matter what the challenges faced if you're willing as a leader to be accountable to your team and in turn, ensure they are accountable to you then you'll be way ahead when lean times occur.


The Author

Bob Prosen

Bob Prosen is President and CEO of The Prosen Center for Business Advancement (www.bobprosen.com). He has been delivering exceptional business results for more than a quarter-century, first as an successful agent of transformation at a variety of major and mid-sized U.S. corporations, and lately as a consultant, educator and speaker working with leaders of organizations in business, government and not-for-profit arenas. He is the best selling author of Kiss Theory Good Bye - Five Proven Ways to Get Extraordinary Results in Any Company.
Many more articles in Executive Performance in The CEO Refresher Archives

Copyright 2008 by
Bob Prosen. All rights reserved.

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