31 Aug Getting through tough times
As you may have noticed, things are a bit different. Some might even use words like “tough” “difficult” “hard.” Those would be accurate words to describe the world right now.
What advice would you give to a company to get through this successfully — full of brilliant professionals— with loved ones and families?
What advice would you give to executives — whose job it is to ensure everyone keeps their jobs?
I get a lot of advice on this topic, articles sent to me, specific information for me as a CEO, and other information to help get through this tough, difficult, and hard time.
There is some good news. Many of our executives, myself included, have been through challenging times before. They are all different, just like this one.
We have made it to where we are today because we studied what others did right. We copied what they did that worked and avoided what they did that didn’t work. We’ve watched the companies that did well.
We’ve also watched the companies that had layoffs or went out of business. We have a very good understanding of what will make our company successful and what won’t.
When studying the companies that not only made it through previous crises, but actually grew or did better, there is very specific advice for executives (and companies) to follow. That advice is listed below.
It comes from various sources from over the years, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Company.com, Emails from other executives, Entrepreneur.com, interviews with CEOs, etc.
Remember this is advice for executives. None of this is really all that “new.” Sometimes though, it helps to read it just one more time or hear it in a different voice. Some of it is hard hitting (tough love, kick in the pants stuff) — but remember that the purpose is to save jobs, help families, improve lives.
That is serious stuff.
Do something now. The worst thing you can do is nothing. No matter what is happening or how bad things look down the road, ignoring the situation or acting as though this is “business as usual” is only going to make things worse. It is easy to ignore problems, both personally and professionally, and hope they will go away. They won’t. Get off your butt and do something now.
Focus on what you can do and stop wasting time worrying. Worrying never got anything done. Focus on what you can get done. Organize. Plan. Focus on what you can do and stop worrying. Worry is paralyzing — you sit in your head while your organization and the people around you feel lost. They need your leadership — now more than ever. You’ve heard the phrase “monkey see, monkey do.” When others see you worry — what do you expect? They will worry too. Pull yourself together and focus on what you can do.
Positive vs. Negative. You have to find a way to stay positive. You need to focus on where you spend your time and who you spend it with. When you only spend your time with people who are negative, you’ll soon find yourself feeling the same way. When you spend hours listening to or watching negative news, you’ll soon find yourself feeling the same way. Look for people who are positive and upbeat. Look for ways to do things that increase positivity — comedies, comedians, things that you enjoy or are fun for you — do those. Moods and energies are contagious. If you surround yourself with people or news that are negative, you’re not doing yourself or anyone in your company any favors.
Invest in your people. Make sure your people have what they need. Find out what they want. Find out what they need. Remember that many of them may sit silent and not tell you. You may have to follow up with them 100 times. It is worth it. Make sure your people have what they need — no matter how long it takes. When your people have what they need, they can get their job done. When they don’t have what they need, less will get done. During tough financial times — less work and less done means layoffs.
Invest in your office. Now is the time to invest in your office space. Paint the walls, finish renovations, hang new signs, breath new live into your work space.
You’ve got to work more. You may already work long hours, weekends too. You may feel frustrated over the sacrifices you have already made for years. Remember that your company’s survival and the jobs of everyone in the company rely on how much your company gets done during a crisis. Every company that has done well during a crisis has one — objective — fact — in common — they worked harder and got more done. It is the one certain way to weather the storm. If your company gets more products released, provides more services, gets more done — it will survive — better yet, it will do well during the crisis. It starts with you. If you are not willing to do more and work more — how will your people feel if you ask them to. Lead by example, work harder and get more done.
New products — faster. Amazon, Intel, Lego, and the list goes on — all of these companies have thrived during crisis because they focused on creating products — faster. They worked longer hours to accomplish this. That may not be popular with your staff. You didn’t take this job to be popular or liked. You took this job because you were willing to put your people and company first. It is what it is — they may end up hating you — but they will still have a job. Your job is to save their jobs. You have to be willing to ask them to work longer hours. You have to find ways to increase the demand for meeting deadlines or find ways to speed up releases. Now is the time to get your products and services to market — faster than ever. Companies and customers are watching. They want to work with companies that are moving fast and can meet the demand placed on them as well. If your organization is releasing products and getting things done faster — it will do well — all of the other major companies that avoided layoffs or downsizing did just that.
Great customer service — internal and external. When things get stressful — you have to find a way to keep a smile on your face for the benefit of your customers and the people you work with. Treat everyone like a customer — make them right. Make them feel like they are the most important person on the planet. People want to work with people that treat them well — so do just that. It starts at home with your own company and people inside of it. Treat your people well and they will be more likely to treat each other well also.
Stay connected — talk about what is going on — be transparent. Nothing is worse than not knowing — this leads to worry and concern and that leads to nothing getting done. Stay connected. Talk more to your company and those in it. Let them know what is going on. Let them know what is being done and why you are doing it. Don’t let them sit out there wondering. If you are having a bad day — sometimes it is good for others to see you are human too.
Focus on your purpose. Whatever your company purpose may be — focus on that. Make sure you rally the team behind that purpose and stay focused on it.
Share good news. Celebrate wins. When things are tough or hard — you have to celebrate the good news even more. Cheer, clap, laugh, smile — make sure that the company shares in good news. Make sure the company celebrates success and wins. Winning and good news is the only way your company knows it is doing well. Had a good month or quarter financially? Tell your company. Had great customer feedback? Tell your company.
Focus on what is right. It is easy to get frustrated by what is not being done right (what is being done wrong). Remember that what you focus on is what you will get more of! Focus on what is right — disregard the negative every chance you get. Encourage through positive reinforcement of things done right — not through punishment of things done wrong. Let people know you are proud of them — this motivates teams to reach new heights. Don’t let people know that you are disappointed in them — this leaves them feeling like they are in despair or at risk of losing their job.
Personnel Issues: gather all information and then act fast. You don’t always have the luxury of time during crisis as it relates to personnel issues. You have to act and fast. Make sure you have all the information before making important decisions about personnel. If there are performance issues with team members — gather all the information and then act fast. Waiting or taking too long hurts the organization and all the other professionals that are working hard to keep their jobs. Don’t look for ways to get rid of people — that creates a toxic environment and makes things scary. But remember that it is your responsibility to protect the company and people in it — if there is a person harming the company — they are making too many mistakes, not showing up for work, not doing their job — they may have to go — there is no room for people that harm a company during a crisis. People’s jobs and families are depending on you. No pressure.
Things go wrong? Don’t make excuses — make things simple. Things will go wrong. Too often people make excuses for why things didn’t go well. When you are in charge — you are the one that was responsible for making sure things went well. It is no one else’s fault. It is on you. Making excuses or listing all the reasons why something didn’t get done right, didn’t get done on time, or didn’t get done at all… waste of time. Getting upset about it — also a waste of time. Focus on finding the exact reason why and then help others around you. Focus on what you need to do to change things for the better. Training and understanding is almost always at the root of why things don’t go right and ended up wrong. Rarely is it a situation where someone is purposely out to get the company. You have to make things simple, break things down in an easy to understand format. Only then will you find the cause of confusion that led to something not getting done right. Do this with patience and your people will really appreciate the way you handled things.