In today’s environment when our industry is being challenged and our people are being scrutinized, it is important as leaders that we provide optimism and strength to our people and community.
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Four Things Leaders Must Do When Times Are Tough
Chee Tung Leong , Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
The average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 was 67 years in the 1920s. Today, it’s under 15.
Companies have to adapt to new environments and situations faster than ever before, and the threat of macroeconomic turmoil and business model disruption is as high as it ever has been.
As a leader, what can you do in the midst of these challenges? In difficult times, research shows that the key is to instill trust, compassion, stability and hope.
1. Build trust
Good advice bears repeating. Trust-building is a particularly old golden nugget that has withstood the test of time. Here are some ways to do it:
Pull together: 86% of leaders concur that the biggest scapegoat for failure at the workplace is a lack of collaboration and poor communication, according to Salesforce in 2012.
Relationships need to be nurtured, and a downturn is the worst possible time to slash team-building budgets. It is self-sabotage right when togetherness and team effort are needed the most.
Ask specific questions: DBS Bank is one of Asia’s largest banks, and CEO Piyush Gupta found that once he took on the role, he ceased to know his company. The organization did not change, but his team’s relationship with him changed tremendously.
Forget boilerplate questions like, “How are things going?” in favor of something more specific like, “I noticed that X is happening. Do you need any additional support?” This will elicit a sliver of truth that can be an early warning system for people challenges.
2. Show compassion
With trust as the bedrock of your relationship with your team, compassion is the humanizing attribute for your leadership. When times are bad, your team knows to expect bad news. Here’s how to deliver it effectively:
Seek to understand: Stephen Covey, author of the famed book “7 Habits Of Highly Effective People,” says that we “seek first to understand.” The best way to do so in the heat of the moment is to practice “active listening.” Say less, ask more, and if you are able to paraphrase your conversation partner’s words back to them and get their acknowledgement that you have understood, you are already succeeding.
Show appreciation: Some engagement research claims that every nugget of criticism ought to be counter-balanced with five instances of praise. This is a clunky generalization, but what is beyond dispute is the directionality of the argument. All things being equal, praise will elicit a positive response from its recipient.
3. Introduce stability
Author Mike Wyatt opines that “stability is something we don’t often think about as a leadership quality — that is until it is absent.” In order to be the stable leader that your team needs, moor yourself to these ideals:
Have a true north: Stable leaders have a strong set of convictions while being capable of keeping an open mind. Bill George and Peter Sims wrote extensively on the subject.
Conducting your actions and thoughts thereafter in accordance with the same purpose and values builds stability both for and within your team.
Psychological safety: The corollary to cultivating a workplace where people have the courage to innovate towards success, is to nurture a workplace culture where people have the freedom to fail. Psychological safety is the top factor for team success according to Google’s internal study with over 180 active teams internally. A team that feels safe from embarrassment and insecurity is a team that is willing to take risks to achieve more.
4. Positivity through hope