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How to Fly Safely Through Turbulence
by Jim Sirbasku

CEOs these days must feel as if they are piloting a plane upside down and backwards through the perfect storm, where all things that can go wrong, do.   Following the storm, comes a brief period of misleading calm before the chaos begins again.  Everyone on board gets a wild, somersaulting ride and fears what lies ahead.  For some organizations, holding on for dear life is all they can do to survive.

In today’s economy, surviving the storm has become an organization’s main priority.  The uncertainty that makes quick changes necessary means organizations must rely on their well-trained employees to carry them through.  Strong workers who come to work each day with enthusiasm, focus and creativity make for trusty copilots during times of economic turbulence.  They can help navigate above, below or around obstacles while offering solutions that no one else has thought of to help calm everyone aboard. 

But, as leaders prevail upon key players to do more with less manpower and fewer resources, we cannot just distribute assignments and walk away hoping they will figure out what to do.  Keeping the company steady through tough times requires commitment from the top to stay on course.  Now is not the time to abandon goals, ignore the problems, or adopt an “every person for himself” attitude. 

Remember, nothing is more crucial than hiring competent people and helping them develop the skills necessary to help pilot the plane. Making sure your employees have the talent, skill and knowledge to make it through the storm is more important than ever.  Here are some key things to do– in good times and bad. 

  • If you are not operating under a hiring freeze, count your blessings.

    Then treat every new hire as if he or she might be your last.  Be sure managers take the important steps of recruiting potential candidates that fit the position and your company.  Insist on tools that help recruiters ask the right questions during the job interview and help them make decisions based on science instead of guesswork.

  • Train new workers well, and do not neglect the old guard – the stalwarts who choose to stay with you even when the going gets rough. 

    Even in a good economy, everyone needs training.  Specific training and everyday coaching helps retain workers and makes sure they are ready for current and future challenges.  In a down economy, some might covet the training budget with an eye toward making the bottom line look healthier.  Repeat this mantra:  short-term pain, long-term gain.
  • Do not assume anything about your employees. 

    Know them better than they know themselves.  New tools are available to tell you exactly who is working for you – their competencies, their weaknesses and their goals.  Do not decide that you can apply the same management style to everyone and get the same results.  A multitude of different faces greet you when you walk into the department.  They are likely to include four different generations, both genders, and different races and ethnicities.  In the global marketplace, you will find variations even within identifiable groups.  It is imperative that you learn what skills your employees have, the skills they are capable of acquiring and what it takes to keep them motivated.

  • Check the pulse of your key leaders. 

    Are they engaged? A recent study reveals that more than half of senior executives possess “less than ideal emotional connection and alignment” to their organizations.  Are any of these your co-pilots?  If so, re-coaching, and moving around employees is likely in your future, if you want to be assured of a future.

  • Have a plan and use it. 

    Do not fear adjusting it as necessary.  Traveling through turbulence is much smoother and less alarming if you carefully map out your flight plan before you proceed, tweak the course as needed, and make sure you have a team of willing and able employees to make the necessary in-flight changes. 

Now, buckle your seatbelts and prepare for takeoff.  We may have a bumpy ride ahead.


The Author

Jim Sirbasku

Jim Sirbasku is co-founder and CEO of Profiles International Inc., the leading provider of human resource management solutions and employment assessments for businesses worldwide.  Sirbasku founded Profiles in 1991 and has worked to make Profiles International the industry leader in providing business, government and other organizations modern occupational evaluation tools that optimize human resources.   As Profiles’ CEO, Sirbasku expanded the company’s marketing efforts and introduced innovative new products designed to give information that will help companies maximize human potential. 

Profiles International is the world’s leader in selecting and developing high-performance workforces through innovative human resource management solutions and a comprehensive suite of employment assessments that help companies gain a competitive advantage by selecting, hiring, retaining and developing great talent. Continually validating and updating its assessment products, Profiles International serves many of the largest companies in 118 countries around the globe. For more information about Profiles International’s suite of human resource management solutions, visit
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Copyright 2008 by Jim Sirbasku. All rights reserved.

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