Crisis? What Crisis? – leading in tough times

22 10 2008

Apologies to Supertramp for borrowing the title of their brilliant 1974 album, see how old I am ! You cannot escape the news and it’ s at least 40% about the economic, banking, credit, recession and mortgage crisis.  If you think it’s all over and start to plan you life, bang, another broadside hits. So leadership in Crisis, what about it?

So reality is we’ve all been living on credit, low interest rates and rising house prices for too long – the grim reaper of fate has decided it’s time to pay the toll.  There are few, if any, sectors that will not be affected by the downturn,  globally and nationally.  So what has this got to do with this blog and my thinking?  Well we are talking here about the role of leaders in change and change is responsive as well as preplanned.  Here is an unprecedented learning opportunity for leaders – as the trite saying goes. However in reality it’s a time when leaders need to show their courage, their confidence and their competence even more openly.  When the going gets tough the tough get going or better put by Kipling

IF you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you

This really is the time for leaders to show some courage and take the initiative to share the why for their actions. Many business heads will be contemplating the need to restructure, reorganize and re size their operation. Take our advice and do this along with people and not in spite of them.  Your employees will be worried about their livelihoods,  their houses,  their family,  their pensions and their next pay cheque.  Do not add to their worries by not informing them frankly and first about any plans to change the organization. These are the people who have served you well through the boom, so be honest and deal with them as adults in the bust times.  As early as you know there are plans inform them – bad news, hope where there is some and just news about the organizations position.

Of course you will be held to some extent responsible, particularly is you display little in the way of pain yourself. However if the executives have taken a hit as well as the staff and you openly and honestly share with them the plans for the business though the tough times then you will gain their respect.  This is an investment in morale, engagement and loyalty that you cannot do any other time.  Employ adults, expect them to behave like adults and that means treating them as such, not being mis guided  and over protective or at worst dismissive of their contribution.

Crisis management is good man management – people matter more than the balance sheet