Real leadership in tough times

© Smagal |

© Smagal |

In today’s turbulent economic market, even the strongest and most powerful corporate icons are challenged to find ways to improve their efficiencies. As they require more work from fewer numbers of people, their top priority is having effective leaders and managers who can propel their group to greatness. Unfortunately, many young managers and leaders have never seen a tight economy, or at a minimum, have only a faint memory of what it can be like. It’s during these times that leadership skills are put to the test.

The following three leadership qualities are extremely valuable during robust times, and absolutely essential during challenging times.

1. Lend an empathetic ear. Ignoring the emotions of your team members during tough times only causes greater challenges. Create a forum for people to share their feelings so that they can release them and move on. When people sense that someone doesn’t truly understand their emotions, they tend to stay charged and keep whining. If you don’t want to be listening to the same complaints over and over, then listen with emotion. If someone’s voice is loud and angry, say back in a loud voice, “This is terrible.”

Then continue the conversation by dropping your voice slowly to a normal range. Watch the magic as they defuse by simply knowing you “really got it.”

2. Don’t buy into the “ain’t it awful” story. Everything you hear could be true. Quarterly profits could be down, market share may be shrinking, and turnover could be high. These and other measurements are feedback that an organization isn’t doing what it should be doing.

Lead your team to the understanding that even during the darkest times, many do well, and you intend to be one of them. Your team needs to shift out of its doomsday view and into one with possibilities. When people say, “We can’t because,” the response should always be, “How can we?” With enough repetition, people will soon come to understand that results can be achieved no matter what the circumstances.

3. Acknowledge the steps along the way. Frustration runs high when things aren’t working well. Employees’ confidence is shaken. When confidence is low, performance weakens, thereby feeding into the cycle of lower motivation and performance. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Appreciate the little steps along the way during challenging times. Let your team know that you appreciate not only the things they do, but also who they are and the efforts they make. Build fun into your appreciation. Good organizations, departments and managers thrive during rough times because they learn to hone their skills like never before. They’ve discovered that it’s the bad times that make them so much better during the good times.

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