It’s ugly out there. Today’s business news stories continue to be all about the tough stuff.

The housing crisis, war, gas prices, inflation prospects, the unemployment outlook, and newly broken families. Each very difficult to weather, but when they combine, they can create a very significant personal crisis for anyone.

What’s the best advice a manager can give a team member to help them make it through a crisis? After all, not many organizations have a “user guide” that covers the subject. But, invariably, as a leader, you’ll hear about how your people are doing. How you react or respond can make a genuine difference.

Here are some time-tested action steps:

1. Recognize that there is no way to stop personal issues from affecting performance. All that stuff about people “leaving personal things at home or keeping job issues at the office” is crap in a crisis. As a management theory, it always craters. This is Maslow’s Law in action.

2. Remember that keeping things bottled-up is counterproductive. When someone is stewing about a personal situation, he’s not likely focused on doing his job.

3. Listen. Take the time to let the person share her/his story. Often, just being able to get it out there is helpful for someone who’s having trouble.

4. Sympathize. Women are naturally more inclined to do this than men who are more likely to try to offer suggestions to “fix” a problem. (Although I work with women managers who are also “fixers.”) Telling someone that you’re sorry to hear about a tough situation is comforting. Plus, in most cases, your team member has no expectations that you’ll have a solution for him or her.

5. Thank the person for sharing. This isn’t New Age theory; it’s a way to say to the other person that you know it may have been hard for them to let you in on this personal situation. It allows them to leave with more dignity, without worrying if they should have told you.

6. EAP’s – If your company has any employee assistance programs that may help them deal with their crisis (many offer therapists or counselors benefits) tell them. And it’s always a good idea to advise them to talk with the HR group in case you don’t know what other benefits are available.

Leader Learning:

Here’s what you can take away from such a discussion. Ask yourself this – Do you work to live? Or Live to work?

Recognize that every generation believes that things are different for them. Usually, that means harder.

I don’t think so, but:

– The unemployed are convinced that it’s much harder to get a job now than before.

– Singles will tell you that meeting the right person is simply not as easy as it was.

– Anyone trying to get ahead financially can point to lot of reasons why, now, it’s nearly impossible.

So, if all of those comments are true – you – as a career professional need to ask yourself – “Is it still possible to successful life, with solid career, and great personal relationships? Or is that simply out of reach now?”

Here’s the answer to all of the above: It’s tough out there. But it always has been.

I work with clients, and speak to audiences comprised of baby boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials. Each generation can tell you about the very hard odds they face(d), and the “extra” things they have or had to do to get ahead. There is nothing about the confluence of events today that hasn’t faced other generations, to a greater or lesser extent. Likewise, as hard as someone may have had to scratch and claw to get ahead in earlier times – it’s no easier for today’s careerist.

Next month I am addressing a group at The Project Management Institute Orange County Chapter’s Annual Convention on July 8. This subject will be one of the presentation items and I know it’s of great importance to anyone who is sincere about his or her career and personal life.

One question I will ask that group: “Are you prepared to do what it takes to succeed in your life? If so, do you have a plan? If not – why? If so – is it working?”

Research shows that only about 14% of the population consider themselves to be satisfied with life overall. And of that group, the vast majority have a plan for their life. The rest of the population will tell you that life didn’t work out the way they hoped or expected. And that they don’t have a plan.

The crises in which many people now find themselves is not a coincidence. They didn’t understand that just as in business, having a plan forces ensures you will thrive when others are failing.


Leadership Coach