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Lead Effectively in Volatile Times

How to lead during a recession

Lead Effectively in Volatile Times

These are uncertain times, and in business, that translates to economic and market volatility. During such times, fear and frustration run rampant through an organization. Employees spread rumors, work less and jump ship, because they fear the unknown. Acquisitions, mergers, downsizing and unpredictable markets require dynamic leadership to maintain stability and productivity within an organization.

Do you have what it takes to lead your staff through an ocean of change? Incorporate the following ideas into your leadership style, and it will be much easier to maintain productivity levels and create stability.

Plan Your Strategy

As soon as possible, create a plan for your organization to get through the changes. No matter what the plan is, you need to get it down on paper.

Share Your Vision to Create a Unified Team

It doesn't matter whether you and your team develop the vision of your company, or you just build it with their buy in. When you share it with your team, you create a common ground on which you can operate. During times of uncertainty and change, your vision might become somewhat different than during stable periods. It is important that you, as a leader, fine-tune the vision as often as needed. Remember: Your vision becomes reality only when it is shared.

Rally the Troops to a Higher Calling

Some researchers say that leaders who navigate through change effectively are individuals who appeal to a higher sense of purpose. They do this by addressing basic rewards and higher emotional needs, like self-actualization, and by developing a sense of commitment in their followers. Don't just think in terms of your products and services; think in terms of how your products and services make your customers feel, and rally your employees to a higher level of service.

Model Behavior You Want From Employees

When the waves of change are all around you, it is time to set the stage for the behavior you want from your employees. Through actions, show employees that you intend to:

  • Continue working.
  • Dispel any and all negative rumors.
  • Practice stress management techniques.
  • Communicate with employees frequently.

When employees see your confidence and determination, they will follow suit and rise to the challenge.

Communicate and Clarify

During times of uncertainty, communication is key. During a spin-off of Honeywell's Solid State Electronics Center in Colorado Springs in the '90s, the division VP pulled all employees together regularly to communicate updates on buyers and any layoffs. He placed a "rumor board" outside his office door and instructed all employees to write down any rumors they heard. He then responded to every rumor openly and honestly.

Uncertainty is the most destructive emotion employees can feel. Communication and clarification are key to relieving employees' anxieties. When communicating bad news, Dr. Thomas Long, professor at Thomas Nelson Community College, instructs the following:

  • Tell the truth.
  • Do not blame or scapegoat.
  • Accept responsibility when appropriate.
  • Soften the blow.

Planning, sharing, rallying, modeling and communicating are key leadership steps in riding the wave of change. Practice them well.