Fortune magazine recently had an article on Leadership in a down turned economy. The article was by “Geoff Colvin” in case you want to look it up. The three headings in this article are: My Leader Won’t Lead, Our Culture Won’t Let Me Adapt and We Can’t Get Rid of C-Players. As a Leadership Coach I could relate to this article because what I read is what I have heard from clients.
When a company is going through tough times employees want to see their “fearless” leaders. Yet, for the most part they are not available and are hidden behind closed doors. I know that their job is to protect the company and staff and there are big decisions that need to be made. However, an effective Leader will take the time to walk the floors and be seen. I don’t suggest simply walking the floor, but stopping and talking to the people who are doing the day-to-day work. The Leader that feels that standing up in front of the masses once a month to give an update is missing the point. Where this meeting is important it is seen as a directive from the Ivory Tower. Employees want to feel included in the decisions in terms of knowing that their concerns are being addressed, their ideas are being listened to and they are working towards a solution together. Leaders that don’t allow themselves this insight could be causing more harm than good.
Facing a culture that won’t adapt is like hoping people will turn off their cell phones in a meeting. This won’t happen! Sure they may turn them to vibrate of mute, but they won’t turn them off. Have you heard the saying that everything changes in time? Then why would a company try to maintain the same culture in a down time as when times were good? Adaptability is what will help the company move quicker to stable ground. Sure things won’t be the same as the “good old days”, but the future can still be bright and really, is anything the same as the “good old days?
Finally, getting rid of the lower performers. As the article stated, when performance reviews were analyzed 74% of managers had been given the highest ratings and only 3% had received the lowest. Wow, with ratings like these the company should be doing stellar with their stellar employees. However, feedback is a tough pill to swallow so many evaluations are not an accurate picture of the work that is actually being done by the employee. Leaders need to be honest with people. It is their job to foster and grow talent. It is their responsibility to make sure that they have staffed to the highest degree possible. With the number of great workers left without jobs due to layoffs employers have a perfect opportunity to bring on the talent that is needed to weather the storm.
The key… courage!