Maintaining Success During an Economic Downturn

Resources – Talent Management Articles

Leadership during an economic downturn is especially difficult and requires a whole different set of skills and capabilities. While leaders may continue to demonstrate passion for their products or services, the challenge is ensuring there is a good number of followers and some strong front line leaders.


While change is happening at lightning speed, if you don’t offer a clear and better picture of where you want to be, and if employees can’t see direction and purpose for the company, they will not understand how they can contribute or collaborate to make things work. Start by reviewing the company vision and make the necessary adjustments to address your external environmental forces. Involve employees as much as possible; you’ll be surprised how creative and innovative front line workers really are. Finally, share and communicate this vision as broadly as possible. Help everyone understand, as creating that clear picture will ensure employee commitment and retention.


The next big challenge in an economic downturn is actually making things work; implementing the vision through operational strategy and tactics. To do this, you must concentrate on improving the quality of your internal leadership. Take time to put a plan in place to identify and develop your next generation of leaders. It is this group that will provide the front line leadership and innovation required as you move ahead. So what should be included in a training program for this new group of leaders?


The following leadership program elements should be considered:


1. Company leadership philosophy – leaders can no longer work in isolation, nor can they be successful with an autocratic leadership style. Instead, leaders need to have a win/win approach and work collaboratively with employees to solve common problems. Start your program by exploring how this philosophy will apply in your workplace.


2. Self assessment is key – leaders must be very self aware. In other words, they must understand where their strengths and challenges lie and recognize how to build employee strength around them. They must set personal and professional goals that lead to continued personal improvement.


3. Goal setting skills – it doesn’t matter what the vision is, if you don’t set specific goals to accomplish the vision, it will soon fall by the wayside. Good leaders set good goals, meaning they are specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic within determined timeframes. This is often a very difficult task for leaders and must be taught at an early stage in development. It needs to become a habit. It needs to be ingrained in everything you do.


4. Employee motivation – the new leadership style requires employee involvement in setting win/win goals. Leaders must coach for success instead of policing for failure. In order to do this, leaders need to understand what motivates their employees and to assign tasks that are motivating and challenging.


5. How to be a good coach – supervisors need to transform into good coaches for their employees. This new way of interacting helps give people the opportunity to influence their work and creates a collaborative environment where everyone succeeds. Good coaching serves to remove the traditional barriers between supervisor/employee, instead fostering a valuable partnership.


6. Communication skills – whereas influence will be the backbone of employee motivation, communication is now an essential skill for all new leaders. Training in planful communication, such as asking questions effectively, dealing with conflict, giving and receiving feedback, presenting ideas with confidence and being assertive are important topics.


7. Effective Team building – good team leadership is all about giving clear direction, providing appropriate resources and removing roadblocks so that teams can do their work. Team members must be taught to think independently, to problem solve and to recommend solutions that have an impact on the whole organization.


8. Good personal time management – if you could improve productivity by just one hour per day for every employee, what impact would this make on your organization? Time is money and, more than likely, increased efficiency will increase your bottom line. Therefore leaders will need to know how to manage their time wisely and to free up time by delegating to employees.


9. Skills in leading change – one of the true corollaries of life and work is that we are always changing and adapting. We never stay the same. This means that leaders need to be skilled not only in personally adapting to change, but in helping employees adapt to change to maintain their productivity. They need to understand the cycle of change, the stages their employees will go through and how to provide support on an ongoing basis.


Today’s volatile economic environment, and the daily challenges this creates, calls out for effective leadership throughout the organization. The phrase, “doing more with less” is no longer someone else’s problem; it is now reality for most leaders. Thus strengthening and building your frontline leadership team is a powerful technique for ensuring the culture of your organization continues to focus on productivity, quality and success.


Credit: Results Centered Leadership Program, the Achievement Centre.