This post originally came out in May 2009 and is a good reminder for the holiday season when we all have multiple priorities and stress added to our already hectic lives.

When working with business owners and leaders, I am constantly being reminded of the stress they are currently enduring in this difficult economy. Most have had to make difficult decisions for the long term health of their company and more importantly the employees of the company.

More often than not the decisions made include the release of good employees, and cutbacks in salaries, wages and benefits. The people remaining are faced with more work than before and often less compensation for their efforts.
Leaders are well aware of the impact this has on morale and productivity. And if they are a business owner, the impact on them is mammouth. As a business owner, their personal finances are severely impacted by the financial health of the business. They also feel personally responsible for their employees who they have had to let go as well as those who remain.

Recently, I was meeting with a business owner who shared with me a recent conversation he had with some of his employees. Although he had not had to release any employees, business had started to become tight and he had made some cutbacks in overhead expenses. He decided to take some key employees out to lunch as a way of expressing his gratitude for their contributions. During lunch the employees shared their observations of him over the last several months. He was shocked to hear that he had been demonstrating a number of behaviors that lead the employees to believe that he was stressed out.

The good thing was that the employees felt comfortable enough to share their concerns with him. He had obviously created a safe environment for his employees. I then asked him “what was the message he got from this conversation?” His immediate response, I need to be a better leader!

We then explored what being a better leader would look like and how he could start to move towards his ultimate goal. He identified options and resources available to him and committed to some next steps with a specific time line.
This story is just one of many about leaders who are having difficulty handling the stress today. Many don’t realize how they are presenting themselves to their employees and the impact that their transparent emotions and negative behaviors have on their employees.

Here are some reminders to maintain a persona of strength with your employees and team members during these very extremely challenging times:

  • Take care of yourself. Exercise, good nutrition, 7-8 hours of sleep, and time for yourself are important to keep your energy up and emotions in check.
  • Focus on the recovery plan and communicate the details of the plan in a positive and encouraging tone.
  • When communicating bad news, again focus on the plan to turn the situation around.
  • Practice with a trusted advisor before important communications.
  • Encourage others around you to be part of the plan and success, don’t take it all on yourself!
  • Celebrate success! Visibly recognize employees who contributed to the success and this doesn’t have to cost money.

Remember that your employees and team members take their cues from you. The behavior your model will be picked up and replicated. Positive cues and behaviors can be contagious and important to navigate your company through these rough times.

Image provided be The Stock Exchange (