The country is going through some tough times. Employees are affected. What should management do? Over the weekend, while eating at my regular breakfast place near White Rock lake, I ran across a couple of interesting pieces. The Monday issue of "Investors Business Daily" published "Channel Worker Worries Into Constructive Action," Morey Stettner's interview of Bill Treasurer, author of "Courage Goes to Work." His advice:
- Employees watch how the bosses act, especially when business is bad. Boss conduct is just not watched but amplified. So, bosses need to project positive emotions, not negative ones;
- Be transparent. Share plans for dealing with business issues. Explain why the company will pull through;
- Set incentives to get workers to pay attention to the job at hand; and
- Be honest about the pickle you are all in together, but assert a story with a good outcome, not a bad one. People will, I think, conform their conduct to a compelling story. It's up to a company to frame the story.
On this last point on storytelling, I suggest "The Storytelling Factor," Annette Simmons' excellent book. By the way, the most interesting advice I ever read on taking a company and its employees though bad times was in "Good to Great," the Jim Collins work on why some companies survive, and others don't. He quotes Admiral James Stockdale, an American hero who was the highest ranking POW in North Vietnam. He asked him how he survived and why others either did not or were broken when they came out of their horrible captivity. Stockdale said that the ones who did not make it thought they'd be out by Christmas, and freedom did not come, or by Easter, and it did not come. Stockdale said he got through it by embracing what Collins came to call the Stockdale Paradox: taking a raw and unfiltered look at the world of pain you are in but, at the same time, always believing that something will break your way and you will see a turn around. I hope we as a country don't have to test out the viability of the Stockdale Paradox.