Tough times present great opportunities to grow our leadership and shape our legacy. The current recession is no exception. The problem is that many leaders I have spoken with have grown weary of trying to keep things moving forward with fewer resources.
In times like these, it is tempting for us to stay in our offices and become introspective. But we absolutely must not do that. It’s time to suck it up and lead. Our leadership will make a difference—for us, for them, and for our organization’s mission.
Specifically, in tough times, our people need four things:
- Acknowledgment. People need to know that we “get it.” They need to know that their work is not going unnoticed—that we see their commitment, hard work, and scant resources. We may be tempted not to acknowledge these facts because we don’t want to give them an excuse. We must resist that temptation and speak up. Our empathy will go along way toward boosting morale.
- Appreciation. People need to be thanked. We may not be in a position to give raises, bonuses, or other perks, but we can be grateful. It doesn’t cost us anything, other than the time it takes to write a note or drop by someone’s desk and say, “thank you.” Our appreciation needs to be personal, frequent, and specific to what was accomplished. We need to celebrate the small wins.
- Affirmation. People need to be told they are doing a good job. In fact, we can’t say this too often. When times are tough, people become fearful and uncertain. They need to know that their work matters. They need our reassurance that their efforts are not in vain. They are doing the right things and eventually it will pay off.
- Vision. People need to be reminded of the vision. This is often the first thing to go in challenging times. Leaders aren’t sure the vision is still possible, so they stop talking about it. This is a mistake. The only thing that gives the vision life is our articulation of it. In order to stay focused and on-task, people need to see where their hard work and sacrifice is going. They need to be reminded of what they are really building. They need perspective.
Hopefully, we are getting these things from our boss or board. That certainly makes it easier to pass it along to your team. But if not, that can’t be an excuse. Regardless of what level we are in the organization, we must be proactive and reach out to our own team members. They need our leadership now more than ever.