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Question of the Week

How Are You Keeping Yourself and Others From Despairing?

Posted Mar 25, 2009 4:59 PM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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Even with encouraging news from the Dow early this week, there is economic bad news all around.

And the long and the short of it is, workers are scared. Maybe that's why our attention was drawn to an e-mail this week promoting ways to look forward and to keep morale from tanking.

According to Bill Treasurer, a management expert and author of Courage Goes to Work: How to Build Backbones, Boost Performance, and Get Results, managers can do six things to be a good boss in bad times:

  1. Be ubiquitous. Now is the time to be visible—not invisible. Instead of holing up in your office—a real temptation in tough times—be "out there" for your employees. They need your guidance and direction more than ever, so be fully present and offer it to them.

  2. Be steady. As pressures mount in your own work, take a deep breath and try to be a little more cool, calm, and collected yourself. It may be easier said than done, but it's a fact that people choose to follow level-headed, even-handed leaders.

  3. Be straight. In good times and bad, workers want—and deserve—the truth. Avoid tiptoeing around tough issues and give it to them straight—no spinning or sugarcoating. And to reign in the predictable and pernicious gossip, hold regular "rumor hunts"—ongoing meetings where employees can air the latest rumors and hear the facts directly from you.

  4. Be focused. Right now it's easy to give in to distractions—taking your eyes off the ball and letting people and projects fall by the wayside. Don't. Keep people laser-focused on what needs to be done—key priorities for the foreseeable future—and, at least for now, have daily status calls or check-ins.

  5. Be gutsy. Fear can play to your base nature. Commit to rising above it and elevating yourself and your team. Stop talking to employees about what keeps you awake at night, and start acting on what gets you up in the morning—the results you can make happen together.

  6. Be hopeful. If there was ever a need for a can-do spirit, it is now. No downplaying the economy or giving false reassurances, but choosing optimism over pessimism, encouragement over discouragement. Start by walking the talk—making it clear, with words and actions, that as difficult as things are right now, the team is better off dealing with what "is" and facing the challenges head-on with hope and determination.

Treasurer's tips and this piece from Patrick McKenna, "Keeping Morale Up in a Downturn," (PDF) got us wondering what you or your boss is doing to improve morale and help you look forward.

So tell us in the comments ... How are you keeping yourself from despair and staying positive?

There were not enough answers to last week's question, "Are You Lost in March Madness?" to pick an answer of the week.

Last updated March 26 to add the Patrick McKenna link.

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