It has been interesting, if not disheartening, to watch businesses close, thousands of people losing jobs, and bailouts to keep some companies upright. As a survivor of one such company, I can relate to the frustration, fear, and fury many of these people are feeling. At the time I experienced this, I was with a company that had been in business for over 80 years. I really thought that if I did my job well, my position was secure. Nevertheless, the company went through some tough times and finally was forced to file bankruptcy. It was devastating to the 30,000 employees nationwide who were terminated and worst yet those who put all of their 401k monies into the stock of that company.
Reminiscing, I can think of five areas, other than financial ethical practices, I feel had a major effect on this company’s failure. Consider these points, as they might help salvage your department, team, or organization.
1. View all employees as having a stake in the future of the company. This seems elementary, but you would be surprised at how many managers look at their people as simply a resource, commodity if you will. However, a successful leader knows that each team member can contribute greatly to the success of the team. When a team is working at 100%, processes are streamlined, costs are reduced, and creative solutions are the norm.
2. Keep the communication lines open. I don’t know how many times a boss has told me, “I have an open door policy” and then been surprised later by something that affects my tasks or position. People will be more receptive to change and will respond more positively if they know of an impending opportunity or crises. Realize that most people already have an acute sense of the organization climate and will know when you are keeping things from them. This creates fear.
3. Hold yourself and others on your team accountable for their commitments. You will accomplish two things by sticking to this concept. First by being an example, your team will know they can count on you and in return you will be able to count on them to be committed to the task or goal. Second, it sets the parameters for excellence. The title of the book by Dr. Steven Stowell and Stephanie Mead says it all, With Teamwork Anything is Possible.
4. Set policies that everyone adheres to – not just certain groups. For example, if a policy is that no one accepts gifts from vendors, the President or Chief Financial Officer should also adhere to that rule. Simply put, leadership should walk the talk.
5. Finally, be open to the other people’s opinions and accept that they may not carry-out the task the way you would do it. If you do allow others to take the ball, don’t undermine their efforts. Give them room to excel. People are going to make mistakes, but don’t bully them or attack their character. Coach, rather than chastise. People become defensive when they feel attacked, creating resentment and lower performance. Coaching more often creates a willingness to change for the betterment of the group. General George Patton was correct when he said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
These may seem basic and you may be committed to practicing these already. Just remember, under the increasing pressures of daily tasks, and especially in a crisis, it is very easy to forget these areas. Unfortunately your employees won’t and some may become hurt or even angry. Either way, productivity will go down.
Luckily, I have discovered that when these points are followed, people will support you and your organization in ways you would never imagine.