It’s been almost impossible to escape the sense of economic downturn, every news broadcast seems to bring more harbingers of doom, be it in the form of rising inflation and interest rates, a weakening pound and the likelihood of a prolonged recession. It’s hardly the stuff of cheer. It’s often at times like this that the most effective teams can prosper, by really pulling together and supporting one another in the achievement of common goals. Andy Acton of Frank Taylor & Associates discusses how to approach getting the best out of your team in difficult times.
“Turbulent economic times can be very testing when it comes to managing a team; there’ll likely be uncertainty and change in your business environment and quite possibly your team members will be experiencing similar pressures and worries in their personal lives. This is when really knowing your staff and how they react to change is so important. Some may welcome, and thrive on, the challenge, others may need more reassurance and coaching. More than likely you will have a range of different skillsets and experience in your team, and rightly so, as different roles will require different attributes. There was no ‘one size fits all’ approach to your recruitment, so there shouldn’t be to your management. Know your team as individuals, understand what they contribute, and you can get the best out of them.
Morale and motivation can drop alarmingly in challenging times, but with clear, calm and sensitive management a team can actually strengthen and proposer. Continuing to invest in training and development, celebrating even small successes and recognising everyone’s contribution as a team and reminding people of the business’ direction will invariably keep everyone focussed on the common goal. Communication is key here, it will eliminate uncertainty and stop the rumour mill which, in challenging times, can otherwise go into overdrive.
This communication should extend to setting objectives for the team and assessing progress against them. Ideally this direction should come from the top and cascaded down to ensure all are aligned with the overall strategy. Of course, there have been volumes written on the benefits, and the pitfalls, of having objectives. My own experience is that they provide a framework and direction for the organisation, but should not be restrictive, but rather sufficiently flexible such that they can be adjusted to reflect the circumstances in which the organisation finds itself. For example, I expect anyone setting objectives at, say, the end of 2019, would not have predicted the need to respond to a global pandemic, yet sure enough, that is what almost every business did! So, you need to keep your organisation agile.
Ideally your objectives should be measurable, and this is where KPIs (key performance indicators) come in. Often these can be in the form of a dashboard report showing the important measures in a clear, easy to understand way. This is often, though need not be, statistical, and will range across the whole business, for example from the number of new patients introduced to the number of days of staff absence. Dashboard reporting can then alert you to areas where performance may be lower than planned and therefore in need of investigative action and corrective action. For example, if the number of missed appointments increases, you may want to look at patterns underlying this, i.e., time of day, nature of treatment etc. An early warning system (like a warning light on the dashboard of your car) can alert you to the need for action which, if taken early, can nip a problem in the bud.
Overall, there is no magic wand for managing a team through turbulent times, but communication, flexibility, focus and a calm head should underpin almost everything you do. It’s worth also reminding yourself and your team that the experience you are getting now, navigating these difficult economic waters will stand you all in very good stead for future challenges and prepare you well for coming out of this difficult period not only intact, but ready to prosper.