These are truly tough times for people and businesses alike. A raging pandemic and the global economic slowdown that has inevitably followed it has left many wondering what the future holds for them. In such a climate of fear and uncertainty, managing a business becomes even more challenging. You need to ensure people stay focused but also deal constructively with their anxieties.
The best strategy is to have a business plan that you and your employees follow. In developing a business plan, everyone on your team will know your company’s goals and can work in unison towards achieving them. Below are several issues to keep in mind.
Acknowledgement and Empathy
If you find your employees are worried about the future of their jobs and the organization, take a moment to acknowledge these very natural responses to the chaotic times we are currently in. There is no need to pretend things are fine and proceed with business as usual. In fact, this would be counterproductive as people will begin repressing their feelings leading to even more stress and distraction. This can start a vicious cycle with anxiety resulting in distracting behaviors which begets even more anxiety as productivity decreases and deadlines are missed.
On the other hand, acknowledgment allows people to understand and manage their emotions in a healthy manner. However, this needs to also be followed up by discussions on how the organization should best move forward considering everything. Talk to your employees directly and often about how the organization can help them in tackling the additional stress and distractions. Sum up these talks in a company business plan. Importantly, distribute your plan and explain to employees the purpose of the plan and it’s goal of acknowledging current circumstances.
In addition to your business plan, respecting and supporting your employees and their legitimate feelings about the surrounding ambiguity will lead to constructive conversations around how to maintain and enhance productivity even during such frightening times.
Identify Your Most Crucial Priorities
When forced to operate in an environment rife with ambiguity, it is always advisable to use your organizational resources as judiciously as possible. Identify and work on some select few significant priorities that are instrumental to your organization’s success. Ensure that the importance of these priorities is disseminated amongst all your employees. They must also be clear regarding how their individual/team projects will support these priorities. Fostering such a shared sense of purpose helps organizations stay productive even in the most troubling times.
Eliminate Organizational Drag
Identifying high priority work is not enough. You also need to identify and eliminate organizational drag – processes that waste employees’ time and sap their energy with nothing to show for. Time spent on navigating organizational bureaucracy is time not spent on innovating and problem solving. Uncertain times coupled with organizational drag is a deadly concoction that hampers productivity and employee well- being. It distracts employees from true value creation activities. Change organizational drag to positive organizational change.
Lack of trust amongst an organization’s employees means less collaboration, more scapegoating, more costs and lower productivity. It decreases an organization’s ability to find and execute creative ways to tackle external uncertainty. If you aim to manage productivity you first need to identify areas of low trust amongst your organization’s different divisions and teams.
Considering recent events there has been a huge surge in people working from home. For many managers this is new terrain- managing remote teams and ensuring their productivity levels do not dip. There might be a temptation to micromanage simply because the manager does not trust an employees’ professionalism and dedication to their work. This exhibition of lack of trust can unduly stress employees and sour work relations. As a remote team leader, you need to foster an environment of trust coupled with clearly articulated work expectations. This will enhance productivity while creating a climate of mutual respect and honesty.
As a manager facing uncertain times you can either freeze or adapt. Freezing would mean not acknowledging the very real reality and consequences of uncertain times. This lack of engagement would sooner or later start negatively affecting your workforce and their productivity. Instead, seek to adapt to these trying times by encouraging empathy, trust and focused problem solving.