Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Leadership In Turbulent Times

It’s getting harder and harder to motivate the troops.

That’s the one constant I hear from executives at companies across the industrial landscape.

Leading others is never an easy task, but it’s certainly simpler when the economic news is upbeat, budgets are flush and employees are engaged and well rewarded. Unfortunately, that’s not the case today.

With a global recession starting to feel like it’s teetering on depression, businesses of all kinds in deep trouble, so-called experts unable to agree on any kind of fix and 500,000+ monthly layoffs becoming the norm, many executives know they are facing the most difficult leadership challenge they have ever encountered.

What they don’t know is what to do about it.

Leadership being put to the test

Add in the spiraling decline in home values, dwindling personal wealth and a rampant feeling of insecurity among employees at all levels and you have the ingredients for a severely demoralized and increasingly hopeless workforce that need - now more than ever - candor, emotional stability and inspiration from their leaders.

Without any playbook, how does an executive lead effectively during a time of unprecedented economic crisis?

See the sea change

For starters, acknowledge the magnitude of the issue. Stay abreast of events and their effects at the global, national, local, industry and company levels. Neither you nor your team is working in a vacuum and it’s important that you all understand the impact uncontrolled and uncontrollable forces can have.

Next, take a hard look at the tangible results of these events, not only on your organization, its productivity and your staff, but on you personally. Being in a leadership position doesn't provide immunity from the effects of this economic crisis.

Then, become familiar with the indicators people display when circumstances grow ever more chaotic. The lack of predictability, control and trust they experience. The rise of secretive, unresponsive and inconsistent behaviors they demonstrate and the attitudes of denial and anxiety that become prevalent.

Rising levels of stress

Understand that just like one of Newton’s immutable laws of physics, the escalating amount of turbulence in the economy is met by an equally escalating level of stress in the individual.

And it is this extreme stress, at every level of the organization, that has created the toughest corporate leadership test of our generation.

It’s time to (a) squarely face the facts, (b) readjust attitudes and (c) develop innovative and progressive approaches to cope with unprecedented and highly unpleasant events.

Tough job and getting tougher every day.

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