Difficult economic conditions are a great test of the strength of a professional services firm. A firm’s ability to weather the storm and come out on top depends on the speed at which they move from worry and fear to generating solutions and engaging as a team. Unfortunately, we see that a lot of firms, when faced with adversity, tend to stay in the “panic and blame stage” for too long and the entire entity suffers as a result. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help your team move more quickly into the “collaborating and solutions” stage. Here are seven strategies for establishing a team that can stand in the face of uncertainty and difficulty and not only survive but come out stronger:
- Acknowledge Your Fears – Sometimes all we need to do to release ourselves from the hold of our fears and doubts is to acknowledge them or admit that they exist, especially if we’re in some sort of denial. When you bring your fears out from the dark and into the light, they are much less scary. Doing this requires a willingness to be vulnerable with your team members and also the willingness to provide a safe space where others can demonstrate their vulnerability. You will develop deeper relationships, trust and feelings of camaraderie when you do so.
- Choose An Alternative Interpretation – Make conscious efforts to counter negative thoughts with more positive and hopeful ones. Challenge negative thoughts and question whether or not there is validity to them. Many times, most of fears live in our minds and we begin to operate as if our worst fears will come true. Mark Twain portrayed this well when he said, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” When we begin the practice of deliberately creating more positive and hopeful interpretations, more positive outcomes will begin to materialize.
- Take Responsibility – Anytime we can identify places where we are personally responsible for the current set of conditions, we have more control over how to turn it around. We can even take responsibility for our firm’s current situation, even though it would be easy to not take responsibility and blame it on the country’s current economic climate. However, if we really get honest, we can find where we took our eye off the ball in our practices. Did we let up on our business development practices, become too lenient in our fiscal responsibility or not address performance issues as they arose? If you can see how you could have prevented something, you have the power to improve it. And if you can make your acceptance of responsibility transparent to the rest of your team, you will create the kind of environment where they will follow suit.
- Revisit Your Mission and Vision Statements – It is easy to lose sight of the longer-range big picture when we are faced with short-term challenges and set-backs. Refocusing your group on “why you do what you do” can breathe new life into your attitudes and your effort. Remember what kind of difference you make in the lives of your clients. When you have a clear objective and a sense of purpose, it makes it much easier to gather the drive, passion and determination to fulfill on your mission and on your vision for the future.
- Shift Behaviors –To survive in the long-run, team members may have to be willing to “take one for the team” and make some sacrifices in the short-run. This may look like foregoing a bonus or putting in more hours engaging in business development activities to bring new business to the firm. While the behaviors require an immediate change or investment of time, the results of these behaviors will pay dividends in the future.
- Get Into Action – Feelings of fear, blame, doubt and uncertainty can leave many people feeling paralyzed. One of the single most important things that any team member can do to move their team to a better place is to get into action, even if that means taking baby steps to get there. The worst thing that we can do is nothing. Start brainstorming about strategies and opportunities and then identify clear actions with an assigned owner for each action to help ensure accountability. Momentum is a powerful thing – keep the ball rolling.
- Realize That You Stand a Much Greater Chance of Success If You Stick Together - In the movie Gladiator, Russell Crowe’s character Maximus turns to a fellow gladiator who had served under his command and says “You can help me. Whatever comes out of these gates, we've got a better chance of survival if we work together. Do you understand? If we stay together, we survive.” Unity is one of the key things that strong and resilient firms have in common. These are the same firms that understand that teamwork is a must if they are to not only survive this time of economic uncertainty, but to thrive and grow well into the future.
When you’re feeling challenged and maybe even feeling scared and alone, think of your friends at ConvergeneCoaching. The word ‘convergence’ is defined as “the occurrence of two or more things coming together” and you can find a way to come together with your team in order to move forward.
I like the point about reviewing the vision of the organization. From what I've seen, that's really the key. It's rare that an organization is already hopelessly lost the moment you realize it's in trouble. It may be unsalvageable later one, but typically people see the trouble before it's too late to do anything. So, it's just a matter of being willing to not give up and to pay the cost of turning things around. A passion for the vision is the best way to create that willingness to do what it takes.