March 2018
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Hard Times Define Leaders. How Will They Define You?


Talking to Your Staff About Bad News


Hard times take the measure of a leader, and right now, not all leaders are measuring up. Being a leader and being a manager is not the same thing. Managing in good times is a very different task than dealing with bad times. What leaders say matters, how they say it matters and both matter even more when times are tough.


Most leaders know how infectious fear can be and are aware of the importance of keeping up morale. Knowing what not to do is not enough, however, and John Baldoni has some tips on how to approach the difficult task of talking about hard times.


His advice to be open and to tell truth is straight forward, but it bears repeating. After years of spreading good news, many leaders try to sugarcoat the bad. Take the opportunity to explain the big picture to everyone, so they can see beyond their silos – and explain the solutions being planned or executed. Staff want to know that something is being done to improve the situation.


This may seem like an unnecessary distraction from important business. Most leaders are working long hours to manage key customers, financing, and any number of other challenges, but this problem is so essential that it cannot be ignored. Nor can it be managed with half measures.


This is not the time for leaders to tell their employees to trust them and just do their jobs. Staff talk and worried staff talk even more. Speculation can cause big problems. Employees start looking for jobs elsewhere, “just in case”. Valuable office time gets diverted to brushing up CVs and updating online professional profiles.


Management teams that ignore the concerns of their employees run several risks beyond lost efficiency. Sales staff perform better when they believe in their firm and their products. The best staff may move to jobs with stronger competitors. Product and process improvements often get delayed – or never get started.


New times demand new solutions and your staff may be the best positioned to provide these new answers. Asking worried employees to “work harder” is not as effective as asking for their help. Most organizations have been asking their employees to work harder for years. The last thing management needs to do is increase workplace stress.


Baldoni suggests that this may be the best time to listen to them. After years of talking about “empowering” employees, now might actually be the time to hear what they are saying. Cut some of that red tape and let them be more efficient. Are all of those meetings necessary? Do all of those written reports generate more cash flow or merely over-document what your organization does to create the cash-flow?


How you communicate matters, he says, and he could not be more right. Your organization needs to know what is going on and what the future may hold.


Hard times define leaders. How will they define you?



How to Talk to Your Employees About the Recession – by John Baldoni

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