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How to get going again after downsizing

Coach's Corner--June 8, 2009

The Client
Name: Max
Age: 45
Title: Owner
Industry: Construction company
Issue: Improving morale after downsizing
Q. Our company has done some downsizing, which we hope is behind us. However, morale is low right when we need to get going. How can I help the survivors adjust to our “new normal”?

A. Use honesty and inspiration to help your company move forward.

The inner game
To start, know how you’d like the mood at your company to feel. Picture the ideal employee-customer relationship, dynamics among people, and management style of your leadership team. Focus less on what you’d like people to be doing, and more on how you’d like them to be thinking and feeling. Recall times when you’ve seen deeply engaged groups, and analyze the elements that created that flow.

You’ll also have to confront your own doubts. As head of the company, you have a profound impact on your employees’ attitudes. If you don’t really believe that you can create an engaged and energized workforce, it won’t happen. If you’re fearful about the future, that’ll carry over as well. You may need some help with this by seeking out a friend, family member, business mentor, or coach. It’s a learning process, so be ready to stay the course.

The outer game
Big changes, such as downsizing and workforce restructuring, create a new beginning for a company — but it can be a traumatic start. To get a good start, bring your employees into the loop. If you’ve made decisions behind closed doors, open up a bit. Don’t hide mistakes, and also share your insights. Help employees understand the decisions you’ve made and why you’ve made them, and let them know how you and other management have shared in the sacrifices. Share your strategies for the future so they are more invested in your subsequent decisions. And recognize that anger and grief are part of the aftermath, providing safe ways to express it.

Change also brings the opportunity to transform your workplace in ways that’ll make everyone happier and get better business results. Try looking for models that have worked for other businesses, such as the approach outlined in “Thank God It’s Monday” by Roxanne Emmerich. Talk to people you know at companies that have a work environment that you admire. Build on others’ work rather than starting from scratch with your strategy.

Once you’ve chosen a path, commit to it. Lip service will only cause problems. Not only does your commitment need to be solid, you’ll also need to have your entire leadership team on board. Invite them to be partners in the new approach; your ability to sell your vision to your managers will help with rolling it out to all your employees. Involve others in refining your vision, and also be ready to hold firm if people resist. This is the testing ground for your commitment to your vision of success, and you’ll need to put your company first.

The last word
Address the impact of hard times honestly and openly, and move forward with commitment to an inspiring vision for your company. It’s not easy, but it can be done, and it’ll help you during challenging economic times.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted June 7, 2009
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