How Leaders Respond When a Company is Not Doing Well

When a company is failing just like a sick body, symptoms begin to appear. Often, treatment is aimed at treating symptoms of the disease, while the disease itself is ignored. In due course, if the disease is not treated it will cause death. How a leader responds to a failing company, or even disaster, not only says a lot about their leadership skills, it can and often does save a sick company. Here are eleven thoughts that can help turn a company around.

  1. Change the internal culture. A good leader will know that when things go wrong in a company the first consideration is to change the internal culture. Stop people from saying, “this is the way we do things around here” and get the to ask, “Okay; we understand there is a problem. What needs to be done to bring about a solution?”
  2. Leadership as a tool for participatory approach. Use communication skills to temper the sense of urgency with that of hope and guide employees to seek solutions and face reality without aggravating the crisis. Continuing to focus on the problem is not useful.
  3. Neutralize the denial and resistance to change. One of the most challenging tasks which will control the decline of a company is to neutralize the internal denial about how bad things really are. Unless this is combated, employees would tend to look away rather than look out for solutions. Out of fear and anxiety they will avoid the reality and refuse efforts to ameliorate the situation.
  4. Help people gain a realistic assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. At times when the company is sliding, employees are afraid to submit to appraisal or self-appraisals. They likely will be afraid to accept they have any (professional) weaknesses. Great leaders encourage this self-assessment not as a fault finder, but as a tool for identifying areas where additional inputs would strengthen the company’s human resource assets.
  5. Highlight the positive but do not underplay the negative. Paint the correct picture for the employees and team members without causing panic and anxiety. This requires excellent communication skills to charge the employees to move towards positive change while at the same being aware of the weaknesses they have.
  6. Empowers and encourages the employees. A good leader would find ways to motivate his team and empower them to deliver to the best of their ability. It’s not simply words of encouragement or empty platitudes. You need to define your expectations clearly, encourage employees to take ownership and accountability, provide the resources necessary and celebrate when they are successful.
  7. Show empathy. Leaders do not demand change; they show empathy. This does not mean they would accept complacency, it means that they understand how difficult it is to face the challenge of change and help them to overcome their fears and shortcomings.
  8. Involve everyone. You can’t just involve the senior leadership or some of the people. Everyone has to be involved and rally together to turn things around.
  9. Be vulnerable. This is a painful time and pretending it isn’t is not only silly, its misleading. It’s okay to show vulnerability and let the team know how you are feeling. This doesn’t mean you let your emotions override tactical actions, but it does mean that you don’t have to pretend.
  10. Have a plan and share it. Have a plan to turn things around and share it with everyone in the company. Of course some details, such as financial considerations, are not for everyone to know, but having a plan and sharing it makes people feel like there is hope.
  11. Involve others in the plan. Ask others for their insights and ideas for turning things around. We can get myopic without the input of others. Good leaders ask for help.

All companies go through ups and downs. Some factors are outside the control of leaders (think the economy, natural disasters) and some are a result of poor planning, controls, or something else. Focusing on what went wrong is useful if there are lessons you can apply moving forward.

What helps turn around a company most is the leadership. How a leader responds and handles the situation is often the dividing line between the total collapse of the company and rebound. Good leadership skills do not mean only superlative communication skills, but also the ability of charting a new course while using the same crew to navigate the ship through it.

Being a leader can be challenging, even with the status quo. But that never happens, does it? Our e-book, Just Follow Our Tracks to Being a Great Leader: Leadership and Business gives you ideas on how to navigate through change. Grab a copy today.

©2017 Incedo Group, LLC