I realize this is a break in format for the Carving Freshies blog. But, this has been weighing on me. Maybe it is cathartic, maybe it is a catalyst for my own reality check. At least, I have enough thoughts that I believe will provide value. This entry is about leadership. There are many resources on leadership available. There are classes, courses, workshops, seminars, books and people make careers out of the study of leadership. For example, I found a list of 15 traits of great leaders and I can only add to the list. I don’t consider myself an expert in the study of leadership, but I am first-hand witnessing a leadership crisis in an organization on the brink.
Today, I want to offer action steps for any leader that is facing a crisis in their organization.
Reality check – This starts at the top. The organization’s leader must set aside their ego and recognize their role in creating the problems. Owning fault and taking corrective action is crucial to moving the organization forward. This is the time to be open, vulnerable and transparent. Call a meeting with your team with the express purpose of identifying problems and forging plans for long-term fixes. Addressing the symptoms rather than the root cause ensures the crisis will linger and drain resources.
You haven’t hit rock bottom – It seems that no matter how bad the situation, something worse is always around the corner. The head of a vital department loses confidence in the organization and departs with their rolodex of prospects. The most senior member of another department announces she is pregnant. One client is 90 days past due on invoices which means the organization will miss another payroll.
When it doesn’t seem like it can get worse, a client shares that their funding fell through. Although the organization has more than $50,000 committed in expenses incurred and contractual obligations, the client says there is no money coming. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
The point is the corrective actions in the reality check must be strong enough to end the downward spiral.
Cash is king – When in crisis, a leader cannot be speculative about their time spent. Working for barter, a percentage of the company, stock options, spec work today with the promise of a big payday in the future are all fools gold. Now is the time to find alternative ways to infuse the bottom line. Can the organization give a seminar that people will pay to attend? Consider calling a dormant client to see if they have smaller, quick-turn projects.
All revenue generating opportunities must meet only one criterion, will the organization make a profit. Stockpile cash, it is the best insulation a company can have in a crisis.
Suck it up, Buttercup – An organization in crisis will have to make sacrifices. The leader must make the deepest sacrifices. Focusing on the parts of the job they like, the tasks they enjoy must be sidelined. Everyone else is looking to the leader to set the example. Will they stay true to their values? Will they do what is right for the client or provide a recommendation that will not be in the client’s best interest, but means more revenue for the company? If a leader has a flexible moral, ethical compass bad decisions will follow.
Also, this is not the time to be a lone wolf. If the organization is in crisis, ask for assistance. Instead of going to the cave and trying to solve problems in isolation, leaders should garner the help of all their people to develop and implement solutions. This means confiding in people, asking them for advice, cultivating ideas for action, and gaining commitment to solve problems.
Secrecy builds distrust – Great leaders are candid, forthright and transparent. These qualities engender trust and loyalty. When in crisis, the best leaders are present and accountable. As soon as there are closed door meetings, disappearances for hours or simply being absent (under the disguise of working from home) distrust builds. It is not just staff that distrusts, vendors and clients are not immune. An organization in crisis should view this as an opportunity to sharpen the saw. Leaders should leverage the platform to have their team accomplish tasks with a sense of urgency. It can’t be accomplished unless the leader is totally transparent.
Windshields vs. Rear-view Mirrors – An organization in crisis provides an unrivaled opening to move forward. Lead the organization looking through the windshield not monitoring what is in the rear-view mirror. If the leader just wants to get through the rough patch and get back to business as usual, they are in for another reality check: Business as usual no longer exists for their organization. If they wait for business as usual to return, the organization becomes reactive to the changes in the marketplace…the irrevocable changes that occurred while dealing with the crisis.
Everyone loves a growth strategy rather than a retraction strategy, so take the time in crisis as the opportunity to change the game in your favor. This is the time to launch new products/services, try different lead generation tactics, make bold moves to gain market share.
Now, for those of us who are witnessing the demise of an organization, how can you get through to leadership? Have this list handy, find common ground about the organizational crisis and then ask them, don’t you want to have no regrets about your team’s effort? This is the time to take massive action. Otherwise, how will you be able to look at yourself in the mirror if you haven’t given it your best shot? How will you tell your kids you’ve given up? How will you tell them to keep going when you aren’t modeling that behavior? The pain you are feeling is temporary, quitting is forever. I’m invested, you’re definitely invested. Let’s round up the troops and put together a plan that will get us on the right path.