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Getting Through Adversity June 17, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
Tags: , , ,

The current recession has generated countless articles and blog postings on leadership during tough times.  I’ve been hit with surveys on the topic, as well as innumerable offers for seminars and courses to help me through these times. All of these offers, articles, and surveys have the same approach: how to cut back, do more with less, and still maintain productivity in spite of limited resources.

This is not another one of those articles.

Leading in difficult times is not about making your budget work.  It’s not about figuring out who to let go, or which project to cancel, or how to adjust ROI to reflect the new austerity.  Those things are important, but they are all part of managing during difficult times.  We’re supposed to know how to do these things.  If you can’t, what are you doing in charge?  Anyone can succeed in good times; if you can’t manage in bad times, what can you manage?

Leading in tough times is about getting your people through the tough times.  The tight budget, the reduced projects, the smaller staff all result in stressed, nervous people.  They worry about their jobs and their families.  They look for any small sign that something is wrong.  Even small things get blown out of proportion, resulting in rumors and distractions.

Our job is to keep that from happening.  Leaders make sure their people are secure, informed, and as comfortable as possible.  We need to project confidence and competence.  Our people need to know that a steady hand is on the tiller and that things are being managed correctly.

If we appear nervous or unsure in difficult times, our people will reflect that back to us.  If we are calm and collected, they’ll pick up on that as well. While our situation is often not our choice, our attitude is. We need to choose wisely every day.

The best way to keep our team calm and sure is to communicate with them, all the time, in things large and small.  Don’t mislead them.  Don’t sugar-coat bad news.  Offer your honest opinions on the situation and help them understand what you are doing and how they will be affected.  This isn’t easy, but every good leader needs to learn these skills.

The current downturn may not end for a while.  Your team’s ability to succeed in spite of the situation has nothing to do with how you manage in the current climate.  It’s all about how you lead them through it.  What are you doing to lead them to the better days ahead?


1. Wally Bock - June 17, 2009

Great post, Chuck. In the Marine Corps we were taught that “leaders eat last.” That seems to fit here.

2. Chuck Musciano - June 17, 2009

Why am I not surprised that you are a Marine?

Indeed, leaders eat last. If your people are not happy and taken care of first, how can you lead them?

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