Here's a management challenge. During tough times, employees can be a little distracted - they might be sad, worried, stressed, angry, anxious. This is particularly so if your business is struggling and might need to make changes (to costs, to processes, to jobs, to product line).
And if your business is struggling, you need the engagement - connected hearts and minds - of your employees even more. You need each person to do his or her best work to help the company identify the changes that are needed, get innovative, solve problems, and pull results us.
What's a manager to do?
Yes, it is indeed a challenge. Oh, and let's not forget that managers are people, too, who might also be suffering from the tough-times-funk.
A couple of thoughts:
1. We need to be sure and never stop believing that people can make extraordinary things happen. Demonstrate your belief in people.
2. Connection is key - create connection and keep people informed and in conversation. We will be less distracted if we understand and can engage in the situation.
3. Give employees something TO DO. Let employees be active in helping make things better. If the only think tanks that are happening are between the top leaders in closed door meetings, this is a mistake. Engage everyone in meaningful ways that allow problems to be identified and solved. This is their company, too.
4. Substitute one caring gesture for another. If you cannot have the employee picnic. Share the situation and have a huge employee pot luck. If you cannot afford raises, show your affection for the dedication you receive every day in another way. Don't just cut - cut and replace.
5. Manage change - yours and theirs. All managers need to be great change agents and this includes helping people transition. Information is key here. Share the situation, the vision, the plan, and how they are impacted and can participate. Be cognizant of the ramifications of trickle change and of sudden change.
6. Increase flexibility. If you are asking people to help you out, consider being more flexible whenever possible. With schedules, hours, how you do things, meeting times and structures, tasks.
7. You cannot expect your employees to be any more engaged or connected to the vision than you are. So be the poster girl or boy for what it means to be focused and in action. Tough times are an opportunity to show ourselves and others our best work. Accept the challenge with vigor.
8. Share good news a lot. I hate the TV, and most news programs, because it cycles and recycles the same negative dribble all day long. We do this in organizations, too. Stop it! Be candid but also share FULLY. There are lots of great things happening and lots of extraordinary moments that you can share.
9. Take the challenge seriously, but don't sweat it. If you worry a lot, you will not do your best thinking. And you will cause others to worry. And they won't do their best thinking. And before you know it, the usable IQ of the office will drop 25 points.
10. Tend to your reputation. Engagement comes from relationship. Relationships are formed each and every day. Do people like to work with you? You need to know this and you want the answer to be yes. Managers who are not a pleasure to do business with will not survive for long. And they don't enliven the workplace.
It is normal to feel a bit worried. We all have the capacity to engage in spite of, or perhaps because of, the challenges we face.