Guest Post

OK, You’ve Found Your Nerve. So What?

by Jay Steinfeld
10/14/2009

Sure you've found your nerve. You're in charge, and you wouldn't have gotten to the top without emotional intelligence, desire, and intestinal fortitude. Keeping calm in stormy situations, such as a recession, is a trait you've learned to cultivate — but probably only within yourself. During tough times, you cannot do this alone. You need the help of all your stakeholders. Now you must convince your employees, investors, bankers, vendors, and other partners to be as steadfast as you. That's not easy, but here are a couple of ways that have worked for me.

Candor
There's nothing more important than trust, and no one can or will trust you without your brutal but sensitive candor. With a shrinking economy and shrinking job market, most around you will have heightened insecurity and emotions. The moment you start shading the truth, people sense it. Then they start questioning not only the facts, but your integrity. You must be objective and honest to all stakeholders, so they will follow you. If you're getting short on cash, how short? What specifically must happen to avoid insolvency? Without clear goals and a defined action plan, everyone will be focused only on their own department or worse, their own job, rather than executing an initiative that will benefit everyone.

If jobs need to be cut, tell folks how the decision was made, how it affects the company and its customers, and the ramifications for the remaining employees. What other actions were taken prior to resorting to layoffs? Think about what you'd ask if you were in their shoes and just offer the information before it's asked. Now's especially the time to highlight achievement, no matter how incrementally small it might be.

Communication
Everyone needs to be aware of your plan. Everyone. Communicate mainly face-to-face, so you can judge the reactions, and be able to answer questions and unintentional implications. Follow-up individually first with those whose support you must have and those who are seen by others as influential. Then follow-up with as many other people as possible. Do not tell people everything will be fine. Tell them instead you'd be worried too if you were in their shoes. But a verbal hug and a big, genuine smile will go a long way.

The key is to remember that not everyone thinks like you, and that their emotional needs will be best served with honesty, a direct approach, and constant two-way dialogues.

Jay Steinfeld is the founder and CEO of Blinds.com, the world's #1 online retailer of window blinds, and among the top 200 of all U.S. ecommerce sites.

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