Managing Effectively In Challenging Times

Space Shuttle Atlantis

We all know the saying…’when the going gets tough the tough gets going’. Well, what does that actually mean in ways that are practical and relevant in today’s difficult economy?

1. Focus on the fundamentals. As a manager that means applying your time to the most value adding activities wherever possible. Sitting in long meetings with no tangible outcome would not rate highly, nor would spending hours checking others work or looking at Teams statuses to see who is on line when. Managers achieve results through other people, so engage with those people in ways that make them perform more effectively.

2. That would include coaching. Focused, guided practice will enable somebody else to perform better, making people consciously competent means they reduce the actions that impair performance and increase the ones that create additional levels of effective output.

3. A manager needs to create the environment for people to give their best. That means being interested in behaviour. The single biggest reason why managers don’t talk about behaviour is because they aren’t able to articulate wrong and right behaviour clearly enough, which perhaps says something about their own? Having a clear behavioural framework linked to organisational values creates a platform to build sustainable high performance upon..

4. Make sure you have a clear performance management system (that connects with all performers, not just the poor ones), including a consequences model. In difficult times you want people to be accountable, that means there must be differentiated outcomes for people, depending on how they perform and behave.

5. Stress and worry drive out creativity and innovation. Challenging times call for new approaches, flexible working and original thinking. However, for people to ‘switch on’ those thought patterns they need to feel involved and emotionally committed to the task in hand. That means the organisation (and manager) they work for has got to stimulate enough motivation in them to want to make a difference. A manager who can help people find meaning in their work will create higher levels of morale and performance.

6. Managers  lead by example. This doesn’t mean they do others peoples’ jobs or can do everybody elses role. What it does mean is through the quality on their work and the effort they put in other people are prepared to follow them. As the world class US fabrics company WL Gore (where hierarchy is minimal and ‘tell management’ doesn’t work at all) puts it, if you call a meeting amongst your peers and they repeatedly turn up, you are a leader.