By Elaine B. Greaves-¨
July 26, 2012
As the U.S. unemployment rate remains virtually unchanged at just over 8 percent and various employers continue to slash jobs, some economists fear that the small recovery seen earlier in the year may already be waning.
It is therefore no surprise that those who work in particular industries continue to feel the pressure from sluggish sales, lack of interest in their products or services and, inevitably, business downsizing and continued job layoffs. In difficult economic times, effective leadership becomes the lynchpin of business achievement. How its leaders lead will determine, to a great extent, the company’s longevity and ultimate viability.
How can a leader or manager, in the face of economic difficulties, business setbacks and employee reduction keep his/her staff on an even keel so as to serve the best interests of the employer as well as the employee? The leader does so by implementing an engagement strategy that drives employee satisfaction and productivity thereby achieving corporate goals, and that ought to include the following:
Set a positive and self-confident tone. A positive attitude is the cornerstone of leadership and is one of the most important roles a leader has. Where a leader fails to set the right emotional tone in the office, chaos may yet rule. As the leader, manager or key executive, setting the correct tone is therefore essential. As you hone this important skill and manage your reaction to external and economic events, the office culture around you cannot help but shift into the direction you lead.
A leader’s equanimity not only helps him/her achieve more, it also makes others want to be associated with such positive energy. People are drawn to those who have an optimistic outlook and a can-do attitude. Employees already know and understand the economic realities. Uncertainty about their job future is already reflected in their attitudes, performance and conversations. It is up to the leader to exude the persona that failure is not an option. It’s the same confidence that a successful coach or a star athlete projects in the locker room and on the field.
Interrupt the negative energy sequence. Negative energy is like an out of control wildfire. Team members who feel vulnerable about their performance or job security serve as a negative catalyst that infects the entire group. Continual negative attitudes will pull the group down and with it the team’s goals and objectives. So stop the spiraling downward shift! Break up the routine and do something that lifts you and your team out of the doldrums. When a team member appears to be unproductive or engages in unprofessional behavior, deal with it expeditiously. Don’t let it fester.
As an effective leader who has developed the art of active listening, pay attention to your team and recognize their concerns. Often just being heard and understood allows the team member to feel valued, vindicated and appreciated. This may be enough to bring about a positive turnaround in an ‘infectious’ team member. If that doesn’t work on a long-term basis, continue to focus on the majority of your team who will run with your vision and strategy without allowing the negative interloper to poison the group. The members who are committed to the company’s vision of growth and success will be part of that majority. Those who don’t or won’t commit will find their joy elsewhere.
Celebrate the victories. If you’re in an industry where victories are few and far between, never fail to celebrate even the smallest triumphs. Include the entire team in recognizing and celebrating those small flickers of positive growth and employee accomplishments. Develop various ways to recognize a job well done including verbal recognition in front of the entire team and acknowledgement of milestones on the job or in the team member’s personal life like a birthday or anniversary. Let humor and positive energy be part of the office culture. Even when things aren’t going as planned, keep things in perspective and relax. Your team wants to go where you’re leading them.
Elaine B Greaves, president and CEO of Season to Success Inc., is a sought after speaker on leadership and success principles. As an attorney and leadership expert, she works with lawyers, corporate clients and business owners on how to master effective leadership skills, overcome self-imposed roadblocks and take decisive actions that greatly enhance professional and personal success. Contact her at elainebgreaves.com.