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We couldn't avoid blogging about Brexit today.
But, rather than wondering about the political and economic consequences of this enormous decision – which, let’s face it, are unclear to pretty much everyone at the moment – we’re focusing on something we do know about.
What do you do when your team is suddenly in turmoil? When key personnel resign – or worse, have to be asked to leave? When a significant organisational change takes place – and you know that half of your team wanted a different course of action?
These are important issues for all managers to consider, whether you are one of several line managers in charge of a team, or a business owner in charge of – well – absolutely everything. You’ll never be dealing with something on the scale of Brexit, but you may well have to steer a team through a complex restructuring, or explain to a workforce that you’re relocating, or help two companies merge smoothly together in the wake of a buyout.
Here are some of the key principles to think about:
COMMUNICATION AND CLARITY
This is your absolute first principle. You owe it to your staff to keep them informed, and in turbulent times, communication failures or misfires are often amplified quickly. You need crisp, clear and comprehensive lines of communication, implemented as soon as you have a clear story to tell (and not before – there’s nothing worse than saying something’s about to happen, you’re just not sure what).
What those communication channels look like will vary according to the size of your team or organisation. A face-to-face meeting might be most appropriate, or you might need to send out a mass email. But always remember to give your staff a resource to refer back to, whether a printed letter or a digital resource on the company intranet. This should include all the vital information they need, with no waffle. The aim is to answer all obvious questions and minimise unhelpful speculation and fear, without making promises you can’t keep.
Driving serious and significant change, especially in an atmosphere of apprehension, can’t be achieved by a single person. You need allies on side, and trusted partners to help with the legwork. Choose a team that you trust to help shoulder the responsibility – and be prepared to compensate them accordingly.
In a leadership position, it is vital that you shoulder the responsibility for bad outcomes as well as good. If there are risks of redundancies or relocation, you must be open and honest. If you have made a decision that you know will not be universally popular, you should still explain why you have made it.
IT’S GOOD TO TALK
In turbulent times, your staff need additional support and clear courses of action if they have additional questions or concerns. You may need to set up new systems or processes, such as an anonymous online tool for asking questions, or face-to-face meetings with an HR advisor. Ensure that every staff member knows first that they can ask anything they want, and second how they ask it.