Recent news items:
-Monthly car sales down again.
-Homes sales continue to plummet.
-Financial markets tank in all sectors today.
-US Dollar at lowest levels in 40 years.
-Inflation continues growing, and the Federal Reserve Bank can't tame it.
Recently, every report we see indicates that things are getting worse in the US. And they're probably true. Compared to where we've been, the outlook is bleak. According to some pundits, it's highly likely that the worst is yet to come.
If you're a business manager with budgetary responsibility, what's the best course of action?
When a company's revenues are down from plan, is it prudent to continue spending like your original budget called for? Or, with a "real world" mentality, is this the time to start hacking away at the budget's lines in an attempt to maintain some semblance of a profit by the time year-end rolls around?
These are tough decisions. It's during times like this when we can really see how people act in a crisis. Great leaders seem to know - inherently - what's right. The rest of them seem to make the wrong decision every time. Here's what I am discussing with my clients:1. Resist issuing a universal decree affecting everyone, and all departments. I realize this may seem like a "fairness" issue. After all, isn't it more "fair" to tell everyone to cut back equally? But this environment - especially one that is changing more quickly every year - just isn't fair. As a decision maker, you are paid to make good decisions for the company. This is where you show your leadership skills and your value to the organization. Don't use a one-size-fits-all approach which will hurt the organization later. 2. Use this time as a training opportunity. Whether or not you've been through similarly tough times yourself, this is a great time to help your subordinates learn how to become quicker on their feet. Don't simply accept your team members' statements that they can't do what was asked of them because of crappy "market conditions"." Challenge them to become more creative. Ask what they'd do, for example, if this was their own company -where would they look to save small amounts of money while at the same time trying out new ways of doing things with existing tools? 3. Fund the winners. As bad as things are, in most companies there are still good opportunities and sound business decisions. Build your business wherever and however you can by putting limited resources (financial or human) into those pockets of potential. This economy is going to hit bottom at some point and then it's going to move ahead with vigor. When it does, make sure your organization is in a position to capitalize on the best opportunities versus just playing catch-up. 4. Two ears and one mouth. I find it both scary and sad that so many managers think they know all the answers in difficult times. Perhaps it's some attempt to show "leadership," by going around telling their folks to stay the course, or offering platitudes such as, "Don't worry, we'll make it through all this."
Most western countries are now witnessing more company failures and acquisitions than at any time in the last 50 years. Everyone is reading about companies that are laying off individuals in greater numbers with each month. Playing prognostic isn't going to instill confidence - but it may make you look like a huge BS'er. Communicate with everyone. Frequently. Ask for ideas. At the very least, allow people tell you their concerns. If you have a plan or some good strong ideas - share them. Let others know that you care, and are focused on getting past this temporary setback.5. Celebrate the victories. At some point, some person or team is going to do something newsworthy. Make a lot of noise about it! When people are feeling down, it's very motivational to see their counterparts winning; so share the news widely each time you have some. Use these wins to celebrate your people and their successes in a manner as fun and big as you can afford. That doesn't mean being lavish - it can be a great e-mail message, a coffee break "party," or a funny sign outside someone's cube. The fact that you - personally - are aware, and celebrating, with your team will make a big difference to the overall attitude and morale.
Great leaders bond their teams during good times and bad times. Well-bonded teams perform better in all economies. And the people who make up those teams are more satisfied with their jobs and life in general. Great stuff during a slumping market.
John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion dollar organizations and launching start-ups in both the U.S. and Canada. The author of two published books, he is frequently seen providing advice on TV, in magazines, and newspapers.