Everywhere you look, the heralds of economic doom are spreading their messages. And, like it or not, it’s affecting your team.
Many of our clients have noticed a recent drop in motivation and commitment amongst their staff and are asking us for our advice on how to maintain momentum and morale. Everyone’s afraid. Afraid of losing their jobs, afraid of not being able to make their payments. Afraid of taking risks. Afraid of making the wrong decisions at work. And when people are afraid, they tend to play defense instead of offense. They retreat to old, familiar ways of thinking and acting at precisely the moment when innovative, creative approaches are critical for your success.
Companies are finding that worrying is consuming a huge portion of their people’s time. And not only that, they’re probably contacting head hunters and scouring job boards, ready to take their expertise to the competition if they seem more secure. Your company may be healthy and may not even have any intention of layoffs, but the fear is in the air and it’s affecting everyone.
So what can you do?
We are advising our clients to follow the examples of enlightened organizations that are seeing this moment of crisis as an opportunity for a quantum leap forward in corporate effectiveness and results.
How are they doing it?
Times of crisis are times of change. That change can be good or bad. It’s up to you.
When times are booming, it’s difficult to make changes because everything is working fine. As they say, “When the wind blows hard enough even the turkeys fly.”
People become complacent and resistant to change. However, when a crisis hits, you can leverage the sense of urgency to “turn your supertanker on a dime” and make dramatic course changes. Crisis reduces resistance to change. Mediocrity is no longer an option and to survive you must unleash your people’s deeper pools of innovation and creativity.
All you need to do is overcome the natural human tendency to retreat to the familiar.
How can YOU do this?
1. Be Honest and Communicate Profusely. Your employees aren’t stupid. If your company’s overhead is too high for your revenue targets, they know it and worry about it. But they won’t talk about it with leadership for fear that their’s might be the job that’s cut. Give them a play-by-play of what’s happening and what your company is doing to thrive through the crisis. Provide them with all the alternatives and the information that you are using to determine which steps to take. The sense that “We’re all in this together, so now what are we going to do to make this work” is an immensely powerful cohesion-builder.
2. Actively Seek and Reward Input. . Once your people have all the information, you’ll be amazed by the depth and breadth of innovative and practical suggestions they will provide. One idea from a front line employee that intimately understands the needs of the marketplace can be the thing that saves your entire company.
3. Give Your People a Sense of Control. One of the greatest sources of anxiety is the feeling that you do not have control over your future. If you need to make budget cuts, let your people decide how to implement them. You might be amazed they are willing to share the pain and even take pay cuts instead of facing layoffs.
Of course, this may be a bit more difficult if your organization’s culture is already a “dog-eat-dog” environment and everyone’s positioning themselves to look good at the expense of their colleagues.
An added side effect was that many people used his example of enlightened leadership to tear into the failings of his competitors. (just see the comments, you’ll be amazed!)
4. Maintain or Increase your Motivation and Team Building Programs. Cuts in this area confirm to employees that they are not valued and things are on a downhill slide. It is a sign of worse things to come. Times of crisis and difficulty are the times when these programs are most critical in maintaining a healthy, motivated and focused culture. What message are you giving your employees?
5. Learn from Other Companies. There’s no sense in learning from your own expensive mistakes if you can learn what others have done successfully.
6. Engage an Expert. An impartial 3rd-party expert can provide you with powerful advice, direction and insight as well as programs, strategies and techniques that will accelerate your results. This person brings the best practices of other companies as well as their own expertise and talents.