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When the going gets tough, great managers (and ship captains) shine!



September 4th, 1832 was not a great day for Nathaniel Jenkins. He was the captain of the cargo ship Homer which was found off the coast of South Carolina floating listlessly with a limited number of its crew. According to the survivors, a storm swell sent the ship reeling and the Captain ordered his men to abandoned ship. Most of them jumped into the water with no lifeboats around and promptly drowned, captain included. Not his finest day to say the least. A captain should know how to handle some rough water.


Veteran managers know that they are going to have to navigate through periods with poor results or production. During these times, work can be stressful and downright unpleasant, especially if managers let the situation control them as opposed to controlling the situation.


How to handle challenging times at work? 1. Stay positive and upbeat. It sounds simple and obvious, and yet, so many managers fail at it. As soon as things take a turn for the worse, they get negative and start presenting a defeatist attitude in the office. Your employees feed off your energy so make sure it’s a good one!


2. Manage your team closely. When things aren’t going according to plan, some employees become demotivated and slow down their work. Others will try and improvise and go off-script, thinking they have all the answers. Another type wanders around the office, going from ear to ear whispering words of dissension and negativity. Either way, it’s your job as a manager to be on top of things as much as possible, especially during challenging times.


3. Don’t micromanage. What about point #2!? Managing closely and micro-managing are two completely different things. Nitpicking every detail in everyone’s job or feeling the need to be involved in every single decision at every level probably won’t help with the results. It will add to the negativity, toxicity and all-around unpleasant environment. Your choice…


4. Look for bright spots and celebrate little wins. Perhaps your market share is down for a second straight quarter, or your LTV has nosedived, usually imbedded in your results are some glimmers of hope. A market segment that overperformed, a campaign that exceeded expectations, etc. It doesn’t mean you bury your head in the sand about everything, but it never hurts to highlights some positive as well.


5. Stay focused and don’t panic. This is a tricky area in which a lot of managers have a hard time grasping. They watch their competitors do something and immediately stop everything to try and copy them. They see a cool feature that they want to implement because they think it’s going to “save” them. If you have a plan which you believe in, stick with it. And if you decide to throw it out, then throw it out. Where most people go wrong is that they try and stick with their original plan AND try implementing 23 additional things which leaves their resources stretched far too thin. The message this sends to the troops is “I literally have no idea what to do, so I am just going to try everything”.


Work is always more enjoyable when the results are strong, and things are going well. But that doesn’t mean it’s everyone overboard when things get tough. Be prepared for the bad times by knowing how to manage properly when they come.

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