Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tough Times

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like I’ve been here before. Hard economic times, financial institutions in turmoil, mergers and bankruptcies in every newscast. Many of you have probably lost your job in the past, or had to tell others they had lost theirs. Layoffs are no fun regardless of which side of the table you’re sitting on. As one who has experienced tough times like this before, I have learned through practice and observation that there are ways to overcome. More importantly, there are ways to increase the odds that you are not the one getting bad news.

Do not get depressed. I know, it sounds simplistic and you might ask yourself how you can’t. But attitude is everything. Make sure you keep yours ‘up.’ Enthusiasm and optimism that is genuine and reality-based will benefit the entire organization, not just you.

Recognize what is happening, and deal with it. When tough times come to a company there are those who try to ignore it in hopes it will take care of itself, those who let others do the hard work to help the company, and those who roll up their sleeves and jump in with a can-do attitude, energy, and perseverance. Guess which group is more highly valued, finds ways to succeed in the midst of difficulty, and gets rewarded?

Increase your customer focus. If you’re going through hard times they probably are as well. By serving them better, staying connected to them, and demonstrating that you have their best interests in mind you can increase loyalty and retain them when they have to make hard decisions about where they spend their resources. You help them, you help your company, and you help you.

Be flexible. Don’t expect that you aren’t going to have new demands placed upon you. Instead, embrace them. Recognize these challenges as opportunities to show all that hidden talent that your bosses were unaware of. I have known a couple of people, in fact, who used downturns to recreate their roles, coming out on the other side with new jobs, new respect, and higher value.

Understand that it’s hard for everyone. If you’ve ever had to lay off friends whom you respected as skilled and dedicated workers, then you know that it’s not easy for anyone. One way to separate yourself from the crowd is to recognize what decision makers are going through, emphasize with them, and find ways to help them. They will remember.

Here’s the bottom line in times like this. It is easy to feel that you are not in control, and maybe you aren’t in control of the big picture. But you are in control of your attitude. Changes will be required and resisting them simply adds to your stress and places you in the ‘problem’ category. Instead, embrace the changes as an opportunity to correct old problems and improve the company. Be energized by the changes and the opportunity to participate in them, and look for new ways to showcase your value.

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