How to Manage People During Difficult Challenges

In Management by Jamie TurnerLeave a Comment

If you’re like most executives reading this, you’ll agree that all business go through difficult challenges. Oh, sure, there are sunny skies on the other side of the storm, but the first thing you need to do is to navigate through the current choppy waters.

What follows are several things you can do to make sure you meet the challenges and have a successful journey on the other side of the storm.

Practice Radical Honesty, but Not Radical Transparency

There’s a difference between being 100% honest and being 100% transparent. When you’re 100% transparent, it means you share exactly where the company is at that moment and where it is headed in the short- and long-term future.

There are plenty of CEOs and management consultants who encourage team leaders to practice radical transparency. Practitioners of this theory believe that it’s an employee’s right to understand exactly what plans the company has for the future.

But that’s actually a mistake. The problem with radical transparency is that it creates unnecessary drama and chaos in the work environment which can negatively impact productivity, employee satisfaction, and attrition. A much better approach is to practice radical honesty.

Radical honesty means you’re being entirely forthright about the situation, but that you’re not sharing 100% of the information at your disposal. As an example, let’s say an employee asks you if there are going to be layoffs. If you’re practicing radical transparency, you have to say, “Yes, we’re almost certainly going to lay off members of our staff.” You can imagine the impact that would have on the team members who get that news. You can also imagine that the first thing those team members are going to do is to start looking for other jobs.

But a manager who is practicing radical honesty would answer the same question by saying, “I don’t have an answer for you at this moment.” That statement is true – after all, you’re simply saying that you aren’t prepared to answer that question at that time – but it also avoids creating unnecessary chaos and drama in an environment that’s already tense.

Get Perspectives from Outside the Tornado

As mentioned, there’s a lot of chaos going on in your business right now and the employees you work with are feeling the stress as much as you are.

You’ve probably done a pretty good job opening up channels of communication within your company. After all, the #1 way to reduce stress and chaos in an organization is to increase the levels of communication throughout all the departments. Studies show that when communication goes up, employee dissatisfaction goes down, so it’s almost always a good idea to have conversations with managers and staff members in order to keep the communication flowing.

If you’re going to increase your levels of communication with team members inside the tornado, then it’s also a good idea to increase levels of communication with advisors outside the tornado. People who are not swept up in the day-to-day struggles of a business are particularly adept at spotting where the troubles lay. In other words, they can see things you can’t because they don’t have the emotional attachment to the business, the employees, or even the competitive landscape.

So, be sure you increase your communication with people inside the tornado and be sure you increase your communication with people outside the tornado. By doing the one-two punch of increasing communication across the board, you’ll be able to make better, more effective decisions.

Remember That Your Choices Are More Important Than Your Circumstances

At one time or another, we’ve all found ourselves in circumstances that we don’t enjoy. It might be that sales numbers are off, or that several key employees departed at the same time, or that our profit margins are getting squeezed. No matter what the details, there are times when things just stink.

It’s okay to grieve or get frustrated about your circumstances – in fact, the grieving part of the equation is an important step on the path to recovery. But once you’ve had your moment (or two), then it’s a good idea to accept the situation and to begin making choices about how to move through it. The important thing is to make a choice, and then to take action on that choice. In other words, choose a path forward that’s the best path you know of, and then take action on that decision with energy and enthusiasm.

It’s much better to move forward with confidence and energy than it is to move forward with fear and caution. If the choice you made turns out to be the wrong one, you can make course corrections. But you don’t want to be the person who wallows in indecision while the world around you moves on.

Reduce Stress by Stimulating the Vagus Nerve

Your vagus nerve is a nerve that runs from your brain down to your abdomen. For thousands of years, yogis have been stimulating the vagus nerve through simple breathing exercises as a way to reduce stress and anxiety. Recent scientific studies have shown that these breathing exercises aren’t just woo woo stuff – they actually work.

An article from PsychologyToday.com highlights the benefits of this practice. Here are some excerpts from that article:

“Diaphragmatic breathing (also referred to as slow abdominal breathing) is something you can do anytime and anywhere to instantly stimulate your vagus nerve and lower stress responses associated with “fight-or-flight” mechanisms. Deep breathing also improves heart rate variability (HRV), which is the measurement of variations within beat-to-beat intervals.

In 2010, an international study reaffirmed this timeless wisdom by showing that slow abdominal breathing reduced the “fight-or-flight” response of the sympathetic nervous system and could enhance vagal activity. These findings were published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

In 2016, another study reported that slow abdominal breathing improved the autonomic sympathovagal modulation (which minimizes the “fight-or-flight” response) and was highly effective at reducing the stress-related cardiovascular response in prehypertensive “stressed out” college students.”

I practice a breathing methodology called 2-3-4 breathing. It’s super simple and easy to do – just breath in quickly and deeply for 2 seconds, hold it for 3 seconds, then release it for 4 seconds.

I do this 2-3-4 exercise three times in a row and the results are nuanced but instantaneous. Very quickly, I feel myself having a greater sense of peace, perspective, and gratitude.

You’ll Get Through This

When you were in your early 20s, you probably thought that every event, every decision, and every outcome would have a bigger impact on your life and your career than it actually did. As time went on, you probably realized that your career was a marathon, not a sprint. That idea – that you’re in it for the long run – is a very liberating idea because you come to view each event in your life as a pothole, not as the end of the road.

So, keep this in mind as you move forward — it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and this, too, shall pass.

Would You Like to Learn More?

If you’re interested in improving your leadership techniques, I would encourage you to watch the short, video below which includes several helpful tips and techniques on how you can become a better team leader and manager.

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