January 21 2009 - Even Joe the Pipefitter must look askance at some of the moves
made in corporate America when faced with a string of bad news.
(Sorry... I just can't use "Joe the Plumber", a guy who didn't
pay his taxes, isn't certified as a plumber, and has tried to
cash in on his 15 seconds of fame which - amazingly McGraw Hill
has turned into a book while making great authors wait for a
Mistake #1: Become reactive and reactionary
There is truth in the old saying "Respond in haste. Regret in
sorrow." This is also known as the "ready, fire, aim" approach
of leadership. When leaders fail to gather the information and
critically assess the long-term impact of decisions, severe
errors are made. Consider the Big Three auto executives who
knee-jerked their way on private planes to ask for a handout
without ever having a plan. Now that's a bonehead mistake.
First, stop any action and breathe. Think long-term strategy. Be
cautious. Be proactive. Test out the decisions by saying, "If
this... then this..." so you can try it on for size.
Mistake #2: Huddle with only the corporate folks
First, answers are often found at the floor level, not at the
ceiling. Involve everyone in the search for efficiencies and
innovations. Engage everyone in a common vision and mission.
Besides, if managers tell employees what to do, you've taken
away all sense of responsibility and ownership. How refreshing to
have the Obama team now posting discussions on the internet and
seeking input from a variety of people with differing
viewpoints. Building transparency goes a long way for building
trust and making us all feel we are part of the solution.
Mistake #3: Cut. Cut. Cut.
No one EVER downsized their way to greatness. Wholesale
termination of employees without thinking about the cost of
underserved customers and too much work done by too few people
or canceling the meeting without realizing that this is the time
TO GATHER and candidly talk are just two examples of cuts that
could have been done with a scalpel instead of a hacksaw.
Substitute Jello for Jamoca Fudge and Two Buck Chuck for Dom
Perignon but bring people together.
As for layoffs, if your organization or department can handle
this-bring everyone together and spread out the facts. One very
smart leader found that employees were willing to reduce work
schedules, work half-time, and job share rather than have
members of their team terminated. For more ideas, read
Responsible Restructuring: Creative and Profitable Alternatives
to Layoffs by Wayne Cascio, professor of management at the
University of Colorado-Denver Business School.
Mistake #4: Go after new clients and customers
Unless your current customers have vanished because of poor
quality or service, these can be your best source of new
revenue. Ask how you can turn them into champions of what you
provide. Make them feel special and valuable. I've noticed that
my bank is now making every effort to thank me for my business,
to call me by name, to answer any request with a "no problem"
attitude. Sure, they should have been doing that all along
but-better late than never. Besides, they've already got all my
money in the safe. I think they'd like to keep it.
Mistake #5: Do more with less
We've been hearing this for years. In my consulting practice, I
have often found that much of the "more" is work that provides
no value at the end of the day. Scrutinize every process; get rid
of the sacred cows and the egos. Translate every action into a
dollar value. In one organization, we found that senior
executives were tripping over each other to put their two cents
into every PowerPoint presentation that was made. It was a waste
of executive talent, made each project longer than necessary,
disempowered the employee creating the presentation, and
actually used up some $15,000 worth of senior management time!
BONUS Mistake: Buy into pessimism
It's a huge mistake we ALL make when we let the news of the day
finds us hiding under the covers, chopping up the furniture for
kindling and searching for recipes made with bread and water.
What we have here is an opportunity to really consider what is
most important, to spend time at work that is meaningful, and to
nurture relationships that matter. We have an opportunity to
reclaim our reputation, our integrity, and our future. Not to do
this would be our biggest mistake.
To condense the wisdom of a Hopi Elder, "This is the Eleventh
Hour...and we are the ones we've been waiting for."
© 2009, McDargh Communications. Publication rights granted to
all venues so long as article and by-line are reprinted intact
and all links are made live.
Known as a powerful presenter and facilitator, Eileen McDargh,
CSP, CPAE has been creating conversations that matter and
connections that count since 1980. Executive Excellence ranks
her among the top 100 thought-leaders in leadership development.
Her newest book, Gifts from the Mountain, received the 2008 Ben
Franklin book award. To hire Eileen as a speaker, coach or
retreat leader visit .