We are currently living in difficult economic times. Organisations, we have all grown up with and thought of as invincible, appear to be struggling. The media constantly speculate on the next expected casualty and when a difficulty is confirmed they drive themselves into a reporting frenzy. Unless you live in a locked and darkened room with no contact with the outside world it is impossible not to be affected by the Worlds economic down turn.

It is easy to lead your team, department or organisation when everything is going well but difficult times call for great leaders. Leaders who can engender a sense of certainty and possibility for their people will minimise stress and maximise creativity. Paradoxically we need our greatest sense of certainty and control when we feel under the greatest threat.

As with most things, creating a sense of certainty can be done well or badly. When done positively it offers everyone involved the opportunity to look for and find solutions. When it is done in a negative way, everyone is left with a false sense of security; it is the business version of holding on like grim death to a sinking ship.

Why is certainty so important? At its most basic level it is the need every one of us has to know that we are safe from threat, that we will have a roof over our head and food to eat. In modern times our job has come to represent these elements. Of course there are times when organisations have to thin their work force but even then the way it is done will make every difference to the way the person being made redundant feels about the situation and fundamentally how they feel about themselves.

Every one of us is motivated by different things. Certainty, uncertainty, significance, love and connection, learning and contribution are the different strands used in a model created by Tony Robbins. It is the balance between our need for certainty (routine, safety and control) and our need for uncertainty (variety, challenge, difference) which determine our ability to manage change. These also impact on our facility for managing stress when faced with circumstances which are out of our control.

Here are my top ten tips for managing change whilst minimising stress within your work force:

1) Be professionally honest
Your professional honesty and integrity are vital if organisations are to thrive. We have many lessons to learn from the difficulties many banks, politicians and organisations who have hit the news in recent months.

The rule of thumb is that you would be proud to see any of your words or actions reported in the national press. If you wouldn’t like to see yourself saying or doing something on the 6 o’clock news, think again.

2) Fairness
Fairness is cited as one of the most important attributes of great leaders. People will accommodate really difficult things when they feel they have been treated fairly. Criteria for redeployment or redundancy must be transparent and fair and the way they are implemented must be open and administered even handedly.

3) Use skills of anticipation
Many issues facing businesses today could have been anticipated. Organisations often fail to plan for economic down times in times of plenty. Nurturing existing clients and maximising the opportunities to sell them other services is vital as when things are tough relationships and trust become as important as cost.

Anticipating and planning help smooth out demands and help organisations make the most cost effective use of people and resources.

4) Involve staff – ensure ownership
Many Leadership Teams fail to harness the creativity and experience of their teams and in doing so miss out on the rich source of solutions their staff would offer. Creating an open culture of involvement has other benefits too. Where staff feel ownership they bring their commitment and enthusiasms to bear in their endeavours.

One of the greatest causes of stress cited by staff is that of feeling outside the loop, believing that they have no control or involvement in the decision making process. Involving staff in a structured meaningful way can minimise stress in even the most challenging circumstances.

5) Actively listen to staff and clients
One off the most important skills for any leader is the ability to listen. Creating opportunities to gather information, opinions, and ideas and to hear challenges is a powerful approach to leadership. The ultimate decision making is the job of the leader but actively listening gives a deeper understanding of the issues and ensures that staff feel valued and involved.

6) Use positive leadership language
The language we use had the potential to underpin success or build in failure. Seemingly simple differences like using “when” rather than “if” will make staff feel more certain. Framing requests in the positive rather than the negative actually programme the listener’s brains for success. “Don’t” is an ideal example. If I said “Don’t think of blue elephants”, your immediate response has to be to think about the elephants before the brain tries in vain not to think of them. It is always better to frame things in terms of exactly what you do want rather than what you don’t.

Understanding the use of language gives you a competitive advantage in motivating and influencing your staff and your clients. (To find out more email info@graduatesolutions.com )

7) Make the most of the talents available to you
People are your greatest resource; they are the life blood of your organisation. Identifying, developing their skills and expertise and valuing their contribution are vital for long term success.

How well do you know your staff? How often do you buy in expertise that you actually have on your staff already? How often do you use the strength of teams to develop creative solutions to your organisations challenges? Do you have a mechanism for identifying the individual and collective strengths of your staff? If you do identify their talents and use them have you a system of rewarding talent in place. How do you ensure those staff stay in house?

8) Manage waste effectively
Making the best use of resources includes how time is used. You can only use your time once, yet many organizations have a habit of wasting time on activities which have much to do with keeping everyone busy rather than being productive. Meetings are a prime example; all too often attendance at meeting after meetings does nothing to ensure staff meet their targets but is designed to cover backs and to stroke certain egos.

Look for duplication of effort or times when things are done because they have always been done rather than because they need to be done. In every organisation I have visited where we have looked at effective use of resources we have identified lots of ways to make better use of time and resources.

Planning across the year can often help make the most of quiet times and spread the load.

9) Think outside the box
If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got. Times of change and challenge necessitate different ideas and approaches. It is important not to throw the baby out with the bath water but we should take a lesson from history and learn the lessons that experience teaches.

Thinking outside the box comes much more easily when it is not done in isolation. Bouncing ideas off in a group where everyone is trusted and everyone has a vested interest in making things work is a great starting point.

10) Celebrate your success
In times of trouble it is even more important to recognise and celebrate each small success and at the same time to constantly ask the questions, “What can we learn from this? How can we make things EVEN better?

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Author's Bio: 

Gina Gardiner is one of the UK's leading Leadership Coaches.
Gina supports people at individual or organizational level to develop confidence, leadership and people skills. Gina is the author of two books “Kick Start Your Career” and “How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively and is also a Neuro Linguistic Master Practitioner and a qualified coach.
To download her free management ecourse...graduatesolutions.co.uk