When the Going Gets Tough: What Do Good Leaders Do to Get Going?

Thursday, November 7, 2013 - 11:46

Guest post by Miles Jakeman

When economic conditions are challenging, people feel the pressures of work and they fear about job security. These worries and fears present a major challenge for leaders who want to keep their teams on target.

Controlling costs and conserving resources is important for survival in an economic downturn, but it is also just as important to have leaders who:

  • See opportunity and work to seize it, despite all the negativity
  • Remain committed to their people
  • Can transfer their own positive outlook to those around them
  • Have the foresight to position the business to benefit where competitors falter, and be ready for when the economy recovers.

An economy in decline is an opportunity to regroup, rethink, and renew. So as a leader, how can you seize the day take advantage of these new opportunities?

Confront reality. As the environment changes around you consider which objectives are you meeting? Which need more emphasis? Which you should be reconsidered or dropped? Feedback from customers/clients is a great reality check; it can help you find innovative ways to add value without adding costs.

Be visionary. Leaders with vision, passion, energy, positivity and who really engage with their staff, are the key drivers of economic growth. In hard times, people need to hear more frequently what the plan is and be reassured of how they fit in with the overriding objectives, so work out your key messages and say them often.

Lead by example. Lead from the front by setting the right example. Show that you’re willing to make extra effort to commit to the organisation’s success.

Expect great things from your people. Within reason, having great expectations gives people a greater opportunity to perform which can in turn be highly motivating. Staying connected with your staff builds relationships and trust. The more they know you care, the more likely they are to respond to your call for action.

Take the opportunity to trim costs. Encourage cost-consciousness within your team. Staff at any level can consider changed approaches, negotiate keener rates or look for bargains across different areas that will improve your company’s future competitive position.

Implement a continuous improvement plan. Look at your systems and processes to find efficiency opportunities. Lead the way in building a culture of continuous improvement.

Be transparent. If you can’t avoid layoffs, talk honestly about what’s happening and how cutbacks will affect the team. If you’re cutting people, try to cut the volume and scope of the work you do so that you don’t overload those who are left.

Take care of yourself. Don’t forget to look after you! Get enough rest and stay fresh. Be aware of your own feelings and emotions during difficult times; if you’re constantly worried or stressed, others will sense this.

As a former Army Captain, I’m particularly wedded to comments made by Lieutenant General (Ret.) Hal Moore and reporter Joseph L. Galloway in their book We Were Soldiers Once that I would like to share with you:

  • Three strikes and you’re not out. You’re never out unless you quit.
  • The team will take it if the leaders take it. Lead by example, stay cool, and don’t show negativity in front of the team. They look to you to be strong and positive.
  • Trust your instincts. They are the product of your experiences, education and personality. When seconds count, this is all you have. Learn to trust them and act on them.

Miles Jakeman is a Director of Jakeman Business Solutions which is a member of the Citadel Group. He has advised senior business leaders and government officials on a number of occasions across cultures, including representing countries in ministerial level forums.