How to Lead Your Staff
Through Difficult Times
By Anne Houlihan
Challenges are a normal part of business—that’s a fact. And every
company, whether it’s a start-up, a business in a high-growth phase,
or even a long-standing established organization, will face both
small and large hurdles every year. But no matter what your company
faces—a slow economy, industry shifts, a merger, or even the death
of a key executive—if you move through the challenge in a specific
way, you will find opportunity in the adversity and come out
a challenge as any type of “difference” in the way you do business
or in your company structure that has an impact on your
organization. Unfortunately, when some sort of “difference” occurs,
typically company leaders and their staff grind to a halt and refuse
to move forward. Why? Because they fear making a wrong move and
further worsening the problem. And while most company leaders do
eventually see the challenge through, they waste time in the process
and make the journey harder than it needs to be.
your next company challenge becomes apparent (or if you are in the
midst of a challenge right now), take note of the following four
guidelines. Following them during any crisis will shave precious
moments off your reaction period and will enable your company to
move forward in record speed.
Recognize and allow for the natural reaction of the staff.
Regardless of the challenge, you need to allow your staff to share
their feelings. During this process, realize that everyone has
different feelings and has a unique process for dealing with the
situation at hand. For example, some people may be sad at the sudden
adversity, some angry, and some will feel more driven than ever
before. All of these feelings are normal, and no one right way to
leader, you need to listen to all these different feelings and
acknowledge each person. Also, this is a time for “no pressure.”
Therefore, embrace the fact that productivity will drop, at least
for the immediate moment. Take the time to talk to people
individually or in groups and create a space where people can be
open. If you don’t create this space, people will feel unimportant
and won’t want to move past this initial phase. Once you allow
people to get their feelings out about the current challenge,
they’ll start to move forward.
don’t forget about yourself during this time. Even leaders need an
outlet to vent and express their feelings. So make sure you have
some sort of support system where you can air your concerns, such as
family, friends, or peers. For a leader to be strong during these
times, he or she needs to be emotionally fit.
Have open lines of communication. Communication is the key to
making a difficult process more effective. During a challenge,
you’ll have a lot of important information you need to relay to
people. Look at the culture of your company and determine what is
the best medium to disperse news. For some companies, town hall
style meetings work well; others do better with smaller group
meetings. Depending on your company, written communication may be in
order, too, such as relaying news via a company newsletter or
communication from the leader needs to be positive, proactive, and
motivating, and it needs to be authentic. Your staff will know when
you’re merely giving lip service. Also, reiterate the company’s
vision and mission and get everyone on board with the necessary
course of action.
you do, do not deny what is happening, and do not downplay the
severity of the situation. People will be more willing to go the
extra mile and do “whatever it takes” when they know the leader is
being honest and straightforward.
Allow yourself to receive support from you staff. The hardest
thing for most leaders to do is to receive support from their
employees. Realize, though, that you’ll often see your staff at
their best during a challenge. They’ll step up to the plate and take
on more responsibility. So rather than think you need to do
everything yourself and keep your feelings bottled up, delegate
tasks and share your feelings with employees. As long as you’ve been
honest with them, they’ll willingly and enthusiastically want to
help any way they can. In fact, the more you allow them to “step up
to the plate,” the more empowered they’ll be and the faster your
company will move through the challenge.
Lead your organization beyond the challenge. If you’ve allowed
people to express their feelings, communicated authentically, and
relied on your staff for support, then you have no choice but to
move forward quickly. In fact, stagnating in the challenge is
virtually impossible now, because everyone, from the mail room
clerks to the most senior executives, will feel that they’re
important and that they have the power to make some serious change.
this point you need to identify the opportunities that are apparent.
If you’ve listened to your staff, chances are they will have pointed
out new ideas you may never have thought of. Use the company’s
vision to guide your intended new path or plan, and continue to
share the next steps with your entire team. No matter how limited
you may feel your options are at this point, stay positive and
proactive. You will push through to better times.
Path to Success: Unfortunately, many companies neglect these
four steps. But when people don’t get a chance to air their feelings
and don’t feel a strong sense of communication, they shut down and
become paralyzed by fear. When this happens, everyone is in denial
of the problem, and water cooler gossip takes center stage. Your
company never has to be stuck in that scenario again!
there’s a lot of vulnerability when it comes to leading during
difficult times; but in that vulnerability there is also a lot of
growth. Your company can come out the other side of the challenge
stronger and smarter than ever before. So follow these four steps
during any challenge, big or small. When you do, you’re guaranteed
to forge a new direction for your company—one that leads to newfound
avenues of success and prosperity for all.
Read other articles and learn more
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and