Where Have all the Leaders Gone?

This is it, leaders—the chance you have been waiting for! The perfect opportunity to be a guiding light in the darkness. The time to step up and inspire your people, to take away their fear, to offer them hope. Well? Where the hell are you?

If you are in a leadership position, you need to ask yourself some questions: Have I spoken to my people? Not sent out an e-mail—addressed them in person—face-to-face. If you have not done so this year, you should be ashamed. They need to hear from you—live and in person. They need YOU. LEAD THEM!

Do they know what your plan is? I saw a great leader address his people. He outlined the current economic situation for his industry (construction). He told his employees what phase one of cuts would be. He gave them his thoughts on what phase two might be. He reassured them the company had a plan and the first priority was to try to keep everyone employed. He was honest about what he didn’t know and he promised to keep them posted. He did a great job—and everyone in the room felt like part of a team. Your people need to know your plan. (And if you don’t have a plan, you better get one.)

Too many people are not hearing from their leaders and it is scaring them to death. One friend of mine thought her leaders might be afraid that any pronouncements would hurt the stock value, so they were being cautious. That is just pathetic. So the plan is – what? Hide in your office while your people operate in terror? What do you think that will do to the true worth of your company?

Here’s what you need to do and keeping doing:

Step One – If you don’t have a plan for the next six months, put one together immediately. You may have to revise this frequently as we are facing changes at a rapid pace. Writing a five year plan is no longer a viable option, things are too volatile right now (and probably hereafter). Revise whatever you have or develop new plans regularly.

Step Two – Communicate, communicate, communicate. Stop kidding yourself that that e-mail (or blog posting or update to the corporate website – whatever!) you sent out when the trouble started was effective. Do you know how many assumptions are involved in electronic communication? You assume the intended recipients got it, that they accessed it, that they understood it (meaning they took the time to get all the nuances without seeing your facial expressions or hearing your tone of voice), and that they still remember it! At a minimum, triple your regular communication efforts – this is a time of fear. The more communication, the better. Reassurance right now is a great thing.

Step Three – Listen more than ever. Your front line people have great intel. Are you really listening? Are you paying attention to why you might be losing customers or what ideas they might have for gaining customers? Are you really using your front line people effectively? One great example – what the heck has happened to suggestive selling? Very few retailers, restaurants, and other businesses I do business with ever suggest options or upgrades. I think this is because front line people are not trained to do this AND are not rewarded for doing this. Go ahead – keep letting that money walk right out of your business. Send some e-mail – that will save you.

Step Four – Reward and recognize the performers. Be visible. Pat the fighters on the back. Think of yourself as a general on the beach at Normandy. You have to keep your troops fighting as all around them their friends are falling. If you’ve had layoffs, this is crucial. Even if you haven’t, chances are good your people know someone who lost his job, and they are afraid they are going to be next. Restore their faith in your vision – give them hope. Keep them storming the beach!

Stand up leaders! Rally your people! Tell them you plan to fight and how you are going to do it. Tell them what they need to do to be part of the solution. Some companies will be left standing and they will be stronger than ever. Tell them you plan to be one of them. Americans are strong, your people are tough—but they have to know what to do. Are you going to leave them unable to sleep at night—afraid and cowering – or are you going to make them warriors? Step up leaders—the day is yours to seize.



P.O. Box 31692
Raleigh, NC 27622
Phone 919.788.0291
info@firestarspeaking.com


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