Last week I spent four days working with a department within a large organization that is and has been in crisis for the past six months. They have had lay-offs, positions have been eliminated, all staff were mandated to take 4 unpaid furlough days, and personnel changes made at higher levels in the organization are circling around the department wondering how much more can be cut. Needless to say, leadership is stressed out; under incredible pressure to produce results with fewer and fewer resources. I am there to develop the leadership team so that they can stay focused on their priorities and build and grow the department and its staff. Below are my reflections on this time working with these incredibly courageous and inspirational leaders.

- During these tough and stressful times it takes courage to get out of bed and show up everyday to a work place where employees expect you, as their manager, to keep them motivated and keep telling them everything is going to be okay. I salute all of you leaders who are leading the way for your staff during these tough times!

- Taking care of yourself first is crucial. Not sleeping, working too many hours, not getting enough physical exercise and not eating healthy food results in a cranky, unhealthy person who can not be there for his/her people let alone him/herself. The leaders who make self care a priority are the ones who have the best resilience and capacity for leading during stressful times.

- Fix the person first, then the problem. As leaders we tend to be looked to to solve problems and so when employees bring problems to us we automatically go in to fix-it mode. The next time an employee comes in with a problem, take a moment to acknowledge the person before you and let him/her know you appreciate them being on your team. It's amazing the length to which employees will go for their leaders when they feel appreciated and valued.

- Being a leader often puts you in a position where you have information that can not always be shared with your employees. This presents a particular challenge and can become a credibility issue for a leader if not handled with care. Back in November, the leader of this department knew lay-offs were coming and didn't want her staff to hear about them from the press or any one else so she gather her whole staff and told them what she knew -- which was the truth - and promised to keep them informed along the way. She stuck to her word and so when an employee last week asked her about a rumor that the department was going to move to another floor in the building, she said "there have been talks going on but I promise you when I know, you will know." This is an example of a leader who has earned credibility through her actions not her words!

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes.
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Author's Bio: 

Theresa Gale is a recognized key note speaker, co-author of the book, Wake Up and SELL, and co-owner of Transform, Inc., a business consulting and training firm specializing in leadership, sales and client experience management.