Leading in Challenging Times

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In response to a LinkedIn question – As a manager, what do you do to build and sustain optimism in these challenging times?

I think this is a great and totally relevant question not just for times like this but really for all leaders to consider. I had the pleasure of working for one of the best leaders i’ve seen in managing through the recent crisis. Though he is sitting in a different country and i’ve not met him personally, the CEO really gave optimism to me and colleagues all across the world. Let me attempt to list down some things that stnad out for me:

1. Communicate more frequently than usual – The leader is excellent when it comes to this. He communicates through email, webcasts and townhalls. In challenging times, nothing beats a clear and consistent communication from the top. People wants to know that the leaders are taking the lead. However i’ve also seen leaders that overcommunicate, and it can become information overloading and after a while people just ignore them.

2. Communicate challenges and hope – Not just communicate, but the leader calls a spade a spade, openly sharing the challenges so that people are assured that the leaders are not oblivious to the difficulties or simply hiding in secrecy. At the same time, the leader always points to the light at the end of the tunnel but realistically lays out the timeline.

3. Celebrate successes no matter how small – There will always be success stories in the organization, it just depends on whether we choose to look for them. Closing deals, turnaround in some countries, new products, awards etc. Sharing these successes help everyone maintain drive and hope that we can continue to thrive despite the challenges.

4. Create a common “enemy” – Interestingly i realize one of the things that the leader do is to paint key competitors as the ones that are taking advantage of the situation to bring down our organization. What it does is that it creates a sense of camaraderie, us against you.

5. Defend against accusations/rumors aggressively – Through the crisis, there were much negative publicity and rumors. The leader was quick to address them, at times doing it on public media, in the process speaking up for the people who are continuously working hard to tunraround the company. I guess it makes people feel proud and appreciated.

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