At a time when the economy is faced with instability and many are worried about their futures, there are things a leader can do to keep the team focused, reduce anxiety and keep corporate goals on track. In fact, tough times are when good business leadership becomes crucial. Not only are there opportunities in challenging environments from a business perspective, successfully leading in a stressful environment can actually increase your leadership credibility. People look more to leaders during downturns than when times are good, making any stressful period an opportunity to improve your leadership capacity.
From a business management perspective, your ability to clearly set goals, organize and direct activity, introduce accountability and provide corrective feedback can make the difference between disastrous results and reaching financial targets.
There are a number of business minefields leaders often step into when pressures mount. Three of the most common traps are falling victim to short-term cost-cutting tactics that lose sight of medium and long-term growth strategies, focusing too much on risk and not enough on opportunity, and adopting a bunker mentality that ignores what’s happening in your own industry.
From a people management perspective, open communication, motivation through praise, empowerment and even a sense of humour can set a positive emotional tone that ripples through the workplace at every level. Steer clear of the tendency to micro-manage, instead make goals clear, address challenges head-on and hold people accountable to specific targets. Measure results and communicate — communicate — communicate.
On an individual level, taking circumstances personally, getting defensive or emotional are some of the ways you can lose your grip on leadership during challenging times. Composure is critical, for yourself and for the team that is depending on you for inspiration and as someone they can rally around with confidence.
Finally, a supportive network, both for your people and for yourself is something that may seem like a “perk” for the good times, but is actually critical in times of uncertainty. Sharing experiences, challenges and solutions collectively is proven to increase productivity, break down barriers and lead to improved teamwork and results. Bring your team together regularly to share their collective wisdom, and consider a peer mentoring environment for yourself. It will provide a much-needed outlet and valuable, experienced advice from like-minded leaders who have been through similar challenges. After all, it’s far more likely that you’ll have the ability to inspire others if you are inspired too.