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While in any crisis situation in business, cost cutting and saving cash are essential, the people within the entity cannot be ignored. It is impossible for a turnaround to be achieved if those remaining employees are not willing to strain their every fibre to support management's efforts to right the ship.
There is little margin for error, and tasks must be carried out with higher levels of efficiency than were previously the norm, despite the fact that those who are charged with doing this cannot be guaranteed a future. To continue the metaphor, instinct may very well tell them to jump ship. This seemingly impossible objective of ensuring the maximum in a situation where even the future can no longer be taken for granted, demands the fostering of an environment where people understand, believe and are willing to support management's actions - i.e. a triumph of faith over expectation.
Managers must recognise that in the current set of circumstances they are being scrutinised under a microscope by everyone. The leadership must therefore step up and out and show its ability to function under intense and sometimes conflicting pressure. It must recognise that there are many challenges within and outside the organisation that must be dealt with. Management must be prepared to confront these with attitudes that inspire the confidence of those around, be they customers or employees.
For any measure of success to be achieved, enduring relationships must be built that will help to move the company into a stronger position. These relationships must be fostered with employees, customers, suppliers and everyone on whom the survival of the organisation depends.
This brings us to the question of trust, which in the current environment is justifiably not a word that is readily associated with corporate life. While employees are called upon to be reasonable in their demands, sometimes agreeing to cuts in wages and benefits, they must be convinced that top management is doing at least its proportionate share and that it has not acted without integrity in the past. Trust and confidence are not obtained overnight, and can be destroyed very quickly. It is a safe bet that in addition to incompetent management, there will have been some actions on the part of the management of any entity in trouble that served to erode the trust which may have taken years to cultivate. The question is, how do the leaders focus on rebuilding confidence with all the chaos and problems swirling around?
The people at the top of organisations must be prepared to show that they have always been committed to the entity, its customers and employees, and have displayed the highest levels of integrity. When the stakes are high as is the case when the survival of the company is at risk, honesty and forthrightness are even more necessary. While candour is not always the easiest thing in the world, its absence can be damaging when trust has been eroded. Customers must be made aware of what can be delivered and what cannot, and managers must understand that once a commitment is made it must be met or all efforts at regaining confidence will be wasted.
Competence is another ingredient that is required because if any sign of incompetence is evident trust goes out the window. This can be seen in all organisational relationships since customers have little patience with incompetence, superiors have little faith in employees who cannot function, and employees do not respect and support managers who do not have the requisite skills. Of course any good leader must recognise where weaknesses exist and ensure that while perfection is desirable everyone including himself will have areas where support is needed. The leader must then ensure that the required support is provided quickly in the area where it is most needed.
It may seem trite, but an organisation is successful if it works on certain fundamental principles and tries to stay the course without significant departures from these. It must comprise people working towards the same goal with a high level of skill, integrity and commitment to its raison d'etre, whatever that may be. While this is not the magic potion that is expected from the legion of esteemed consultants out there, it usually works.