As you find yourself preparing for and executing tough business decisions, remember these six important choices to make the best of the effects of VUCA:
- Execute With Values. Being values-based does not eliminate making tough WHAT decisions (what do we cut, eliminate, delay, out-source, change, etc.). But, it absolutely impacts HOW an organization accomplishes it (how will we help the fear, stress, indecision, transition, loss, etc.) Simple actions such as allowing sufficient time to prepare for changes, extending benefits short-term, and offering extra support resources (financial planning, counselors, resume writing, job fairs, etc.) reinforce dignity and respect.
- Increase Visibility and Access. It’s important to reassure employees through ‘straight talk’ and consistent messages about current challenges as well as future opportunities. It significantly influences confidence, trust, and hope. This is the time to encourage more frequent, high touch communication and two-way dialog. This is the time to practice CBWA (caring by walking around).
- Increase Formal and Informal Employee Opinion Measurement. Leaders may not want to hear the disappointment (even anger) generated by their tough decisions; but, deferring and/or eliminating feedback processes, like surveys, simply says “we really don’t care what you think or feel right now.” That’s disheartening, demoralizing, and disengaging. Remind decision-makers that they can gain valuable insights for continuous improvement through measuring perceptions & opinions – just like they do with lost sales, customer complaints and exit interviews.
- Proactively Manage Change. First, leaders must be accountable, manage, and model the daily behavior changes needed. Change management plans and delegating change to lower levels in the organization by themselves won’t get it done. Second, preparing for and managing “Survivor Syndrome” are critical. Increased workloads, decreased morale, and sense of anxiety of those left will naturally occur.
- Keep Alert for Institutional Body Language. Watch and listen for what an organization says and then does. Is there alignment or mixed messages? If an organization slashes jobs to lower costs then it needs to be equally prudent when, where, and how it spends money in the future. Walking the talk impacts commitment.
- Everyone must make sacrifices. Ideally, it starts at the top. There are successful organizations that have reduced top level leadership positions, frozen or significantly reduced leaders’ equity & bonuses, and had them personally participate in unpaid time off. They set an example and sent a strong message that – ‘we are all in this together.’
Every choice has a consequence. Leaders must choose wisely not just what to do but more importantly how to do it. Each of us can make things a little bit better when tough business decisions must be executed. Start with the six reminders above. Life changing business decisions are a test of character for ALL of us.