Managing People in Tough Times – A Checklist for Managers


By:  Dale Mask

So how is business? Is your organization experiencing market uncertainty and change? Are you and your employees concerned about the near and long-term future? In today’s economy, the answer for most managers is yes. 

Organizations can no longer afford to be content with mediocre management and leadership skills. They need to develop new manager skills and ensure all managers have the ability to handle uncertainties and can cope with rapidly changing business realities.  

Mediocre leaders and managers are no longer acceptable.

Times of uncertainty require strong management and leadership skills. The checklist below identifies critical skills required for success in these difficult economic times. 

Checklist for Managers to Lead in Tough Times:

  • Keep an eye on the market: Yes, know what is happening within the organization, but also keep in tune to what is happening outside the organization. Interpret business news as to how it can impact your organization and your department, allowing you to manage your department budget and make adjustments as necessary. Do not overlook how the economy is impacting your employees. Understand their concerns. Be prepared to effectively address their feelings of job insecurity and personal financial concerns.

  • Be a change leader: Recent economic changes are effecting all of us. The business as usual model will no long apply in most organizations. Managers who succeed will be those who have the ability to rally their staff for rapid change.  Understanding the principles of leading through change and dealing with resistance to change will be essential skills for the future.  

  • Develop strong team building skills: Companies can no longer ‘make do’ with mediocre team efforts. Successful managers must have the team building skills to lead and motivate their team through times of staff reductions and team reorganizations. Individual team members will often be faced with outside stressors and financial pressures. Without effective teambuilding skills, managers may face poor employee engagement, and ultimately disenfranchised teams, which spell disaster in the current business climate. 

  • Set a clear short-term direction: Long-term vision is important, but short-term direction is critical. Managers must set short-term goals and know how to clearly communicate performance expectations. While longer term strategic plans may very well remain in tact, the focus must be on what needs to be achieved now, (this month, this quarter), not on long term. 

  • Communicate, communicate, communicateManagement communication skills are essential. Communicate frequently and honestly about where the organization is headed and how it is doing. Employees may be feeling anxious about job security, their roles and responsibilities and what may be circulating through the rumor mill. Effective managers know the importance of face-to-face contact. Managers should make the effort to get out of their offices and speak one-on-one with employees. Hiding behind closed doors serves only to increase anxiety and fuel the rumor mill. To lead effectively in difficult times, the manager must understand what their employees are thinking. 

  • Be an effective decision maker: Using critical thinking skills and applying effective decision-making techniques will be the key to meeting challenges effectively. Effective managers must take a leader role by engaging employees in strategy discussions. They will work at making employees feel more invested and involved in developing business solutions.     

  • Maintain a positive attitude: In times of crisis, people look to their leader for reassurance. Managers must maintain a positive attitude about achieving the organization’s direction and goals to inspire confidence in their employees. Taking time to recognize even small accomplishments can help maintain the confidence and positive attitude within the team.  Managers must also be quick to recognize the need for a change in direction and alter plans as needed. Keeping a positive attitude in the midst of crisis is the key to success in difficult situations.    

  • Retain the right people: When downsizing is a potential, focus on keeping the right people. This may not always be the people with the most experience. Managers must recognize that keeping the best and brightest people can give the organization a competitive advantage in a down economy. This means managers must be able to evaluate performance appropriately to identify talent effectively. They will also want to mentor top talent with challenging goals and access to developmental opportunities. Job training, supported by coaching and mentoring, can ensure these great employees stay motivated and engaged. Top talent has the most opportunity to jump ship in a business downturn.  The manager needs to do what he or she can to keep the really good employees, or they will be left with the mediocre and poor performers.   

  • Be firm with poor performers: Managers cannot tolerate underperformance in an economic downturn. When cost control and maximizing efficiency is high on the organization agenda, managers need to be tough on low performance. To do so, managers must have the skills to tackle poor performance and effectively handle employees with bad attitudes. Training managers on performance management, and developing their coaching and counseling skills, will be essential to success.     

In summary, in these challenging times, organizations need to have highly trained managers with strong management and leadership skills. Mediocre managers and leaders are no longer acceptable. Having highly capable and engaged leaders who are able to deliver against the increased pressures brought on by difficult economic factors is critical to ensuring success.

By:  Dale Mask

© 2015 Alliance Training and Consulting, Inc.



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