Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tough Economic Times Calls For Strong Leadership

Strong Leadership Needed in

Challenging Economic Times

by Hugh Ballou

“When times get tough, the tough get going.” - Anon.

"Nothing else in the world... not all the armies... is so powerful as an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo

- Economic News Headlines -

“GMAC posts $2.5 billion loss in 2nd quarter”

“Auto parts supplier Dana to cut 2,500 more jobs”

“Sara Lee swings to loss based on wheat costs”

Each day in the news we hear of the problems and/or failures in companies, such as mentioned in the headlines above. These companies are having a hard time in this difficult economy. How can you protect your company from these same kinds of problems? I don't claim to know what the problems were at these companies, but here are some examples and suggestions to help you protect your company during these difficult economic times.

In the challenging state of the economy, good leaders shine and poor leaders are exposed as ineffective. In many situations, the fate of organizations could rest on the skill of the leader. The way decisions are made and the attitude of the organization is key to success in tough economic times.

Symptoms of Poor Leadership

In the stress caused by a down economy, weak leaders and those they lead can be paralyzed by seeing only problems and challenges. This brings out negative actions by leaders. Here’s a list of behaviors that negatively influence employees and team members:

· Control: Asking for too many reports (sales calls, activity logs, etc.) that take time and send a message of mistrust.

· Micromanagement: Setting activities and schedules to tell employees not only what to do, but also how to do it. This sends a message of lack of confidence.

· Blaming: The leader blames others for situations beyond their control, or worse yet, blames others for situations they have created through poor leadership. This sends a message in incompetence.

· Silos: Departments or divisions draw into their ‘”own space” and do not effectively communicate or relate to the others. This sends a message of a hidden agenda.

· Attitude: A negative attitude not only makes hard work more difficult, but it instigates other negative attitudes. This sends a message that failure in ahead.

· Obstacles: False evidence appears to be real. A poor leader sees only obstacles and is bound by the restrictions implied by these obstacles. This sends a message of fear.

Solutions Provided by Strong Leadership

As some organizations cut back and build trenches for hibernation fearing loss, visionary leaders choose to put resources into building systems, strategies, skills and relationships to address the existing market. Here are some actions that strong leaders take:

· Training: Put resources into building skills of leaders and team members. This results in improved skills for addressing the future.

· Planning: Build action plans to address obstacles. This results in a culture that reframes barriers into opportunities.

· Coaching: The effective leader always has a coach and learns to coach team members. This results in improved relationships.

· Empowering: Allow team members to utilize their skills and talents and mentor them with information and strategies as well as budget. This results in new paradigms. This results in greater synergy in the team.

· Envisioning: Brainstorming and planning the future with team members creates trust and new ideas for action plans. This results in increased trust.

· Affirming: Along with allowing team members to utilize their skills, affirm good work. This results in the refocus of apathy into enthusiasm.

· Reframing: Be the model of what you expect from your team. Look at possibilities, not limitations. Be honest about the facts while looking at the options. This results in improved attitude.

· Reorganizing: Consider realignment of tasks and duties. Some team members many have become stale in their area of responsibility and the reassignment of duties might spark some interest. This results in greater ownership of the whole vision as well as individual areas of responsibility.

· Collaborating: Build cross-disciplinary project teams. People from different departments or divisions can team with others creating new visions for success. This results in greater effectiveness since tasks can be swapped and combined.

In challenging times the effective leader and a leader in training can demonstrate their worth to the organization. It’s a time to concentrate to building resources, strengthening relationships, fine-tuning systems and structures and working to improve personal skills. The great leader always articulates and shares goals and stays focused on the vision for the future.

As a final note, be sure to celebrate. Each success can be a celebration that brings momentum to the next accomplishment.

Hugh Ballou

Hugh Ballou is president of SynerVision International, Inc., an international consulting, coaching, and training practice in Blacksburg, Virginia. His unique insights for leadership training and teamwork come from his 40-years of experience as choral and orchestral conductor bringing harmony and synergy to group process. Hugh’s specialty is working with business owners as process coach and business strategist with clients in many countries.

His skill in teaching the collaborative leadership model is practical and proven in the trenches with his work in mega churches, non-profit organizations and businesses of all types.

He has published five books on Transformational Leadership: Moving Spirits, Building Lives: Church Musician as Transformational Leader, Moving Spirits, Building Lives A Workbook for Transformational Leaders, Building High Performance Teams: Systems and Structures for Leading Teams and Empowering Transformation, Leaders Transform: A Transformational Leadership Resource (Fall 2008), and his newest book: Transforming Power: Stories from Transformational Leaders to Inspire and Encourage and numerous articles on Transformational Leadership.

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Hugh Ballou said...

Thanks for posting my article. It really looks good.

Hugh Ballou

Nikki Leigh - Author said...

Good morning Hugh Ballou

The content looks good and the message is very current - the perfect fit for this blog :)

Nikki Leigh

Anonymous said...

The article and advice are right on track.

One very important piece I'd like to suggest adding however is an emphasis on communication by the leader during tough economic times.

People are concerned about their jobs and the future of the company. They're wondering, are we getting bought out by a larger company? What happens if the company does get bought - will there still be jobs - benefits?

The rumor mill gets going and out of control in a hurry. This generally results in low productivity, poor morale and in many cases product quality problems.

My experience and guidance to others is to be proactive with a communication strategy to stay ahead of the rumor mill.

Communication can take many forms, but the most important and effective is for the leader to perfect their "stump speeches".