If you are in business, then it’s a guarantee that you will encounter difficulties or tough times. Stuff happens that is unplanned and unexpected. Some challenges are big. Some start out small, and quickly escalate. Some challenges can be of our own making, and some may be the result of external changes.
In many ways, success in business is about learning to manage through the difficult times. When tough times come along, we need to focus our energy on what we can directly impact, and learn to cope with the obstacles we can’t change. Many of our challenges relate to managing people. We must direct and lead our teams to overcome the obstacles we face.
Dealing With What Can Be Changed
How do we deal with the obstacles that get in the way of achieving our goals and ambitions? There are issues we can influence and impact, and those we can’t. It’s important that we learn to quickly distinguish between the two, and then confront the ones we can impact.
Performance issues may be improved through better training. Strategic issues may be solved by setting aside a day to examine your long-term strategy. Operating issues may be resolved through streamlining or upgrading current processes. When issues arise in areas that are within our control, they need our focus sooner than later. The longer we take to address problems, the bigger they become. Action is critical for the types of issues that we can resolve. Those actions need to be specific with a clear plan for accountability. Of course, not all issues are within our control.
Handling What Can’t Be Changed
There will always be external forces that impact our business results. Government regulations may change, financial markets may slide, and competitors may act in unpredictable ways. It doesn’t pay to waste time and energy on issues that you have no hope of influencing. There are times when we need to learn to cope with and manage through our circumstances. When your environment alters, you can choose your response. Changes may be necessary, but they may not. Evaluate each challenge carefully. Don’t be too quick to tear down what you have spent a long time building.
Leading Through Tough Times
When times get tough, leaders need to be out in front, helping to confront the challenges. When action is required to improve performance, it needs to be clearly communicated. You’ll never get where you need to be unless employees and managers are all pulling in the same direction. Invite them to participate in addressing performance issues as well as external challenges. Then, make sure to keep everyone informed of progress as changes are made.
Clear communication is critical, especially in times where fear is prevalent. Don’t be afraid to discuss what isn’t working and what needs to be done. Communication is also needed when there are challenges beyond your control, and the best decision is to NOT take action. Your people need to understand why. Your silence may lead them to believe that you are blind to the problems. Tough times can also create opportunities. Leaders can make a big difference by keeping the team focused on taking advantage of those opportunities./