As a manager, turbulent times can be unsettling. On one hand, employees want to be upbeat, positive, and encouraged about the future. On the other hand, news about the economy, conversations with some customers, and input from others in the organization can often leave them feeling uncomfortable and unsure. So how do you balance these conflicting ideas, maintain a positive environment, and keep employees focused on a positive future?
Focus on Vision and Mission
While it is important for the you to clarify your organization's overriding vision and mission during times of uncertainty, it is vitally important that you consider how your team contributes to that overall vision and mission. The economic downturn is an opportune time for you to explain to your team how vital their role is in the department. Managers must create an exciting picture of the future look of the department and team. You must share this vision with the team by explaining how each team member contributes to making the vision a reality. As each employee understands their vital role in the organization, in their department, and in their team, their sense of engagement will be bolstered.
The key role of any leader is to create supportive, loyal, and talented employees. This cannot be accomplished from a distance. Times of turbulence and change increase the need for you to be visible and approachable. Employees want a manager who knows them (personally and professionally), who is willing to listen to them, and who is caring enough to take time to address their individual concerns. This is a critical time to walk around the office, make extra phone calls to off-site employees, and keep up to date on email. Employees who feel connected to you are more likely to feel engaged in the organization. Be sure to schedule time for keeping employees connected.
Create Ongoing Dialogue
A key to building followership is to maintain open communication with all employees. You can do this with general conversation, by sharing organization level communications, and by spending time focusing employees on the work at hand. It is important that you spend time discussing expectations, the value of an employee’s role, and key measurements of success within the role of each employee. This will help employees stay on task (a critical factor in not allowing the current uncertainty to become overly distracting) and open up meaningful discussion about how the role may change as new plans unfold. Employees who are excited about what the future may hold, or how their role may change and evolve in the future, are more likely to stay engaged during this period of uncertainty.
Employees typically like to believe that their efforts contribute to something bigger than themselves. To help employees be empowered, contributing members of the team, take time to help them focus for results in support of mission achievement. grow their skills and abilities so they can continue to contribute in the future, and challenge them to find innovative ways of performing their role. This process will help them be productive today, plan for ways to continue being productive in the future, and help the organization as a whole find ways to improve effectiveness and efficiency—two things every organization needs to focus on to stay competitive.
While there are rarely easy answers to the unique issues that arise during times of turbulence, managers cannot retreat to their office and hope the situation will simply cure itself. Difficult times call for consistent leadership. Helping your team stay focused on the organizations direction, their individual role in achieving that direction, and encouraging them to be part of developing new approaches for helping the organization succeed in these difficult times, are just a few ways that managers can help create an environment that allows employees to stay engaged even in uncertain times.