Steve Kaplan's Blog

May 18, 2011

Excel During Adversity

Filed under: Tips — stevekaplan @ 11:36 am

This is my fifth of my five keys to leadership.

Excel during adversity. It’s easy to be a strong leader when everything’s growing according to plan, but what do you do when the business environment hands you a lemon? Do you head for the door? Scream at your employees? Or do you roll up your sleeves? When handled properly, adversity can bring your team together in ways that winning never could.

For instance, suppose you’ve just learned than an employee stole from you or your biggest client took a walk. Here’s how you should handle it:

Remain calm. The entire company is watching you and will take its cues from your initial reaction. Keep a cool head.

Stall. Whatever the bad news , you need time to craft an appropriate response. Make clear that you’re troubled by the news and intend to make the matter your top priority. Then act.

Dig. In all crises I’ve faced, the bearer of the bad news rarely knew the whole story. If a client is bailing on your company, for example, find out exactly why. Perhaps the client is merely flexing his muscles over a disagreement with one of your employees and can still be saved. If not, you’ll still need to explain the situation to your employees.

Analyze. After you have all the facts, consider them from as many angles as possible. Put yourself in the shoes of whoever is unhappy or causing your trouble.

Plan. Now develop a plan of action. Is the client truly thinking of leaving? Suppose you learn that this client ran roughshod over your employees. If you still need the business, then find a way for the client to save face without disciplining employees who may have done nothing wrong.

Execute. After choosing a course of action, implement your plan.  When you call the client back, be deferential.  Let her know that you looked into the problem and removed the employee in question from the account.  That will make the client feel valued.

Communicate. Once you’ve decided what you’re going to do, inform everyone who needs to know.


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