I wrote this article in 2008 during the Great Recession. 12 years ago, and we’re still learning the same lesson today. While you can’t compare the loss of money to the loss of life, unfortunately, the longer it takes companies to get the lessons, the more costly the lessons become.
During a recent interview (2008), I was asked whether or not companies should be focused on promoting more work-life balance, especially during difficult times, or when companies, employees and the marketplace are struggling. Should companies offer a more flexible work schedule and an opportunity to work at home during a time of uncertainty and change? Here’s my take on it. Yes – but it depends…
After all, I’m sure if this isn’t something that’s already inherent in your company culture, that’s exactly what people want during questionable times; more change. (Sarcasm translating?) While the essence of the remote working is certainly well-founded, has been around for decades (centuries actually), and one I endorse, doing so NOW, at the epicenter of a massive global crisis, is a little to much, too late.
Too Much, Too Late
While having people work remotely can be a sound business decision, and what’s best for everyone, unfortunately, because companies had no contingency plan and were blinded by profit, they’re now in a mad state of over-reacting. Subsequently, companies are delivering the wrong message to their employees.
“We all know that it’s tough out there. There’s a lot of fear, doubt and uncertainty. We feel like we are on shaky ground because we don’t know what’s going to happen. Our sales and revenue are dropping and we need to make some immediate changes to start saving money. That’s why we will be moving many of you into a remote work environment, so you won’t be coming into the office. Instead, you’ll be handling all of your daily responsibilities working from home.”
How Much Evidence do Companies Need to Foster Proactive, Transformational Communication?
And here we are today; the year 2020. Seems the spirit of the message above can easily be relevant today. With messages like these, leaders then wonder why employee engagement is at a dismal 28%. According to the Harvard Business Review:
- 61% of senior executives acknowledge their organizations do a poor job communicating and bridging the gap between strategy formulation and day-to-day implementation.
- 85% of leadership teams spend less than one hour per month on strategy, and 50% spend no time at all on strategy, which makes it exceedingly difficult, or near impossible to then communicate a clear strategy and vision to their team.
- Only 5% of employees are aware of and/or understand their company’s short and long term strategy.
- A mere 27% of employees and 42% of managers have access to their company’s strategic plan.
An Overload of Processes But Too Few Many Communication Strategies?
Companies keep missing the mark. It’s painfully ironic that with companies complaining how may processes they have in place, yet they still don’t have the strategies needed that drive the process! #Insanity.
What employees really want is open, honest communication throughout their career, not only during a crisis, rather than being told what they need to change immediately, based on the company’s reaction. Employees want you to tell them how it really is, instead of trying to figure out what’s going on being closed doors during those ‘sneaky’ meetings with senior leadership. People want the real truth, even if it may sting a little, without pulling punches.
And as crazy as this may sound, they actually WANT to be a part of this process, collaboration, solution, and decision making as well! This builds trust and loyalty during times of fear and uncertainty.
Part of a manager’s job is to maintain the emotional health of their team.
To reduce fear, and build a solid, supportive team that’s clear about their objectives, have team support groups, schedule more discussion groups where people can share their concerns and support each other, rather than only focusing on the mundane business meetings on the phone. Build a stronger work community, especially with people now working remotely. Don’t leave your employees out there to survive on their own isolated island. If you do, then companies are sending the most caustic message imaginable:
“WE DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU.”
Life is tough right now. Don’t turn a blind eye to how this is impacting your people and their families because it’s at this time when their morale, confidence, stress and fear levels are peaking. As leaders, more than ever, you need to be more supportive and connected your people, as isolation just makes it worse, for you and for them.
The greater cost is, when this too, shall pass, as it will, be mindful of the collateral damage you’ve created in the wake of how you managed this situation.
Scars Run Deep
People don’t forget. Trust in the company and leadership is eroded. Fear becomes the dominant internal driver for your employees, as they don’t know what’s coming down the road or when another corporate crisis will occur. While happier, sunnier days may be ahead, compounded with more aggressive goals, trepidation will always follow. Your people now know how you’ll really treat them during tough times, and where the real priorities are for every company – Profit over People. Now, think of the culture and environment you’ve now created.
A Unique Opportunity?
While businesses are quickly shifting how they work, some are closing their doors forever. Yes, practically every company, in some way, is feeling their business come to an abrupt halt. And some things you just can’t control. Actually there are only three things you can control – Your attitude, actions and reactions! And that includes the way in which you engage, connect and communicate throughout your organization.
A Time to Grow through Another A.F.G.O.
What managers need to be doing now, more than ever is learning how to coach remotely, and, well, learn how to coach, period! Only then, will you have the right language of coaching, and the coaching skills needed to align your coaching strategy with the company’s strategy, as well as each person’s individual goals and values. This will ensure full alignment all the way around, while creating a safe, secure and trusting environment.
There’s a reason why they’re called “good” days and “bad” days. We don’t get tested on our good days. We get tested during our more challenging and uncertain days. Those tough days. Therein lies the test. That’s when the true essence of our character, strength and our resiliency emerges – in the face of adversity.
As a manager, if you expect your people to change, change starts with you. And that’s good news! Take a coaching course. Work with a professional coach. Schedule more one to one and group coaching sessions with your team, each individual and your peers to get a strong and accurate sense of where people are and what they, and you, really need that would give them the confidence, skill set, mindset and security that’s essential at this time in their career.
This way, your employees and peers can actually focus on doing their job and supporting each other, without spending their days making the costly and negative assumptions; the “What If’s” (what if nothing changes, what if I get laid off, what if my income drops, what if I can’t pay my mortgage, what if my workload doubles) and other costly distractions that create a fear-based mentality that’s only going to add to the complexity and longevity of a tragic situation.
The good news is, managers can help mitigate the pain of these external situations, while still building and sustaining a supportive and healthy company culture. This is YOUR test – or final exam, if you will.
And if you’re curious to know what an A.F.G.O. stands for, it’s – Another Freaking Growth Opportunity.
While you may not have control over the current situation, the good news is, you are always at choice regarding how you communicate and respond to them.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your comments. Any questions, feel free to reach out and connect anytime, as I want to be a resource for you, especially during these challenging times.