Although it sounds paradoxical, with the economy improving now is a great time to prepare your company for the inevitable bumps (or worse) that it's bound to encounter at some point. By being positive, focused, and forward looking, you can inspire your employees (and yourself) in a way that makes your company more profitable and more competitive. To imbue your business with the invaluable quality of resiliency, take these five actions.
1. Renew Your Focus and Revise Your Goals
All performance starts with clear goals and expectations. In tough times, bosses need to prioritize and reevaluate company and employee goals--ideally, by working closely with those most responsible for them--to ensure that everyone is focused on the things that matter most. No doubt you've heard the truism that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. There's a business corollary: continuing to do the same things even though the environment you operate in has significantly changed. Doing things differently begins with reviewing and revising those goals and monitoring the company's progress against them.
2. Be Generous With Information
During difficult times, people want to know what's going on and how it affects their work--and their continued employment. Too often, however, leaders err on the side of becoming more tightlipped, maybe even secretive. Sometimes they don't want to alarm their employees, and sometimes they don't want to appear as if they are not in control of the situation. But you need to communicate more during hard times, not less. And this communication needs to be both strategic ("Here’s what the organization is confronting and here's what we're doing about it") and personal ("What questions or concerns do you have about the situation we are in, and your role in helping us deal with it?”).
3. Involve Your People
Once people know the full picture, channel their efforts in ways that will make an immediate and significant difference to the company’s focus and fortunes. This involvement goes far beyond the cursory invitation of “We need your ideas.” Instead, employee involvement requires a level of rigor that shows the company is serious about doing things differently and tapping into every employee's potential so that the entire company can do things differently: better, faster, cheaper, and smarter.
4. Encourage Autonomy and Flexibility
Instead of barking orders, remember that all employees need to have a say in how they do their work to make it more meaningful. That's how they become more engaged and effective, which is essential when things get rocky. Indeed, it's critical that they go beyond their job descriptions and do whatever they can to make a difference. Don't simply encourage them to offer ideas for improvements; encourage them to run with those ideas, taking responsibility for them and championing them through to completion.
5. Don't Forget to Say Thank You
You are, in essence, encouraging new behaviors, and to do that successfully you have to understand the importance of employee recognition. Positive consequences drive positive results. In difficult times, you may not have the budget to do lavish celebrations and rewards, but nothing should prevent you from recognizing the hard work of your employees in a timely, sincere, and specific way.
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