While Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships, it’s your face, as CEO, that’s capable of launching a thousand anxieties. Especially in times like these, your employees are looking to you for clues. In the absence of direction from you, they will piece together theories and those theories will always tend toward the negative.
I’m often asked about the advice I give to CEOs for leading in times of uncertainty. Whether the organization is large or just emerging, the advice I give is the same:
Communicate: In the Absence of Information, Theories & Conspiracies Abound
During times of uncertainty or turbulence, the CEO’s role is to minimize that uncertainty as much as possible. This means being as open and honest as possible about what you know and don’t know. And being equally transparent about what you can say and what you can’t. Nothing fuels anxiety as much as a multitude of closed door meetings and sudden changes in the ways things are done. But veiled information as well as information shared prematurely, damages trust. Once shaken, trust is not something a CEO can regain quickly or even completely.
Motivate: Make C-E-O Stand for Chief Energizing Officer
Have you noticed that the first word your employees think after you say “cost containment” is “layoffs?” Even the mere thought of layoffs kills morale and halts productivity to a point where layoffs may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Instead, encourage and motivate your team to find ways to make your organization stronger right now. Engage them in problem-solving on how best to insure your company’s ongoing competitive strength. Ask for good ideas to identify unnecessary costs and new ways to delight customers. Being an active part of the solution is a double win for you—you’ll strengthen the organization and keep employees thinking in a positive direction.
Don’t forget about your own motivation and demeanor as well. Our bodies are remarkable conduits of stress. If tension, anxiety, or angst emanate from you, it will be absorbed by your employees.
In this recession giving something away can be an incentive for your customers to do more business with you.
Some examples are:
Share your sales incentives that have brought in customers.