Managing in Down Times

Question: How can managers motivate employees in down times?

Goldsmith:  Well, managing in down times can be a big challenge and I think the first thing is be honest with people. The employees are not stupid. When things are going bad don’t pretend they’re good. If you try to do that, you’re just demeaning people and they just don’t like it at all. The second thing is involve people and say, “Here is the situation we face. We can change what we can change. We cannot change what we cannot change. How can we make the best of where we are?  How can we move forward best?” and get them involved so you’re not just sitting there telling them what to do and how to do it. You’re involving them as a team and you’re working together to make the biggest positive change you can, realistically facing the market that exists.

Question: If there have been layoffs, how does a business executive successfully lead those that remain?

Goldsmith:  That’s what I would just do. I would talk with the people who have stayed and the first thing is recognize the fact that if two thirds of the people have been fired that may stay, well, that’s kind of a message that they must be seen as pretty valuable people. They’re there and by the way you can express sympathy for the people that aren’t there and say, “Look. We’re in hard times. We can’t keep everybody. You have been selected as one of the top one third people in the- of all the people in the company at your level. We need you. We think we can turn this around. Let’s talk about how. Here’s my ideas. What are your ideas?  How can we work together and do the best we can?”  Be very honest with people and by the way when people get upset and say, “Well, didn’t the company make this mistake or that mistake?” the answer is yeah, we can’t change that. See, the reality is--  You mentioned Lehman Brothers. I work in another bank and they have lost about oh, 30, 40 billion dollars of write-offs. Thirty-six of 38 parts of the bank had great years. A couple parts didn’t. Well, you know what?  Make peace with what is. Life isn’t always fair. Sometimes bad things happen. You just have to face the reality that exists and say, “How can I make the best of it?”

In down times, Goldsmith says that it is important to continue to make what remains of your team feel valued.

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