Toughing it out: Tips for any manager or CEO

No doubt the first six months of 2009 were some of the toughest times that many of us have ever faced.

No doubt the first six months of 2009 were some of the toughest times that many of us have ever faced. Layoffs, salary cuts, lost revenue, delinquent clients, cash flow issues, canceled projects—the list goes on. And if managing your business in a recession or recovery isn't challenging enough, the very fundamentals of our industry are changing.

So how can you keep it together from a management standpoint? There is no time like this very moment for every leader, from department manager to CEO, to show strength. Here are a few tips on how the leaders in your company can muddle through.

1.  It doesn't have to be “lonely at the top.” It's vital to have someone you can talk to and seek advice from. It's important to find a mentor outside your company that can be a sounding board, who's been there before. In addition to potentially useful or creative advice, it's a relief to be able to talk about your concerns with someone who “gets it.” Reach out to a small and trusted group of advisers for support.

2.  Don't share your fears with staff. It won't do them, or you, any good. Good leaders present their fears as challenges within their own executive staff and brainstorm potential solutions or approaches; then invite larger groups to pitch in their ideas and thoughts. Soon you'll have a plan of action and a strategy.

3.  But over-communicate and be transparent. Effective leaders are very repetitive. Talk about your plan through multiple channels several times (in-person in team meetings, e-mail, on video, in blog posts). When people don't hear from you they will come to their own conclusions. Give frequent updates on progress, even if there isn't an update, and explain why.

4.  Planning is critical. When facing an uncertain business environment even a monthly or a weekly plan provides you and your team with a sense of order and stability amidst chaos.

5.  Be realistic. If you don't have the answer to a question, say you don't know. Take everyone's ideas and get back to them. Provide everyone with a sense of reality and what you require from your team. Let them know what it's going to take, and that you are in it with them.

6.  Make sure to maintain some semblance of a balanced life. Pursue hobbies, go out with friends, entertain, exercise, get a massage — your personal outlets are so important to keeping professional perspective.

7.  Trust your instincts. If there's something you think might become a problem, listen to your gut and pay attention. No one will call you a fool for surfacing something that may or may not be the next hurdle you have to face.

Sabrina Horn is the founder and president/CEO of the Horn Group.

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