Leaders, perhaps the most ambitious, will tell you that this is their mantra—but when you take a close look at what’s really going on, let’s face it: it is all about the numbers. It’s about hitting goals, frequently even at any cost. The urgent sprint becomes the norm—the new zero point. Actually, it’s now a condition of employment. “You want to work here—this is how you behave.”
Frequently though, organizations don’t recognize the damages of a long-term, “success at any cost,” strategy. Short-term gains may come at the cost of long-term emotional loss.
This may not be a big problem for a business in temporarily lean economic times, when there aren’t many alternatives for people on the payroll. The employees are inclined to stay right where they are. Actually, they may not have any other options. After all, other opportunities are few and far between.
But what about after things start improving? As the human marketplace emerges from contingency plans and belt-tightening, leaders need to be especially aware of what’s going on around them. Previously loyal employees may be hearing of, or actually getting, other opportunities, internal or external. Regardless of where they go, you’ve lost them. And by the way, who do you think gets the most offers, your average producers or the very best?
Here are three ways to reconnect with your people and move forward:
- Encourage feedback from associates, and then act on it, even if it hurts. Now more than ever, don’t assume everybody is a happy camper. The fact that you haven’t heard any complaints is not necessarily good news. What you don’t know can hurt you. A common leader reaction when good people leave is, “I had no idea he or she was floating resumes out there.” That’s tragic when you think about it.
- Open your eyes and ears to discouragement and resentment. Emotions like these eat at people’s hearts and poison relationships. If you ignore this condition, it multiplies. When people are uninformed, they accentuate the negative—and the reality is rarely as bad as the scenario they create in their minds.
- Don’t try to use the same skills that were appropriate in different times. Don’t act like the Lone Ranger. Don’t singlehandedly swoop in to give your people a quick fix. Share news now more than ever. Talk about issues. Problems won’t go away on their own—you must address them. Delaying will only compound the situation.
Finally, as a leader, it’s very possible that you may have been feeling the same stress as your people. You might have felt put-upon when a lot has happened that was out of your control. But whatever you do, don’t make excuses or offer evidence that you’ve been victimized like everybody else—even if it is true. Remember that you’re the one who chose to be a leader. Play the hand you’ve been dealt. Don’t blame others. After the crises, everybody must face a new reality. That reality starts with the person in charge. That’d be you.
About the author
Dr. Dick Ruhe is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies.