Downsizing – it’s a word on most everyone’s lips and can fill the mind with visions of mayhem. It’s a sure bet that many reading this have experienced a RIF that was filled with chaos and mess.
And, downsizing can be a time of powerful, empowering change for both a company and its employees. It can be a great opportunity to refocus, try new approaches and get your company moving in a profitable direction. It’s all in how you choose to lead.
By following three simple strategies, you can lead your company through transition successfully and avoid creating an overabundance of confusion and stress.
First, Check Your Perspective
As the person in a leadership role, your perspective and attitude will have a HUGE influence on the rest of your company. How you show up every day will determine how everyone else will function and react.
Yes, lay-offs and reorganizations can suck – and they will if you walk through the door with that point of view. Fortunately, you get to choose the perspective you want to be in at any moment. Which one of these powerful perspectives will be more empowering to you and your staff: “This is an opportunity for everyone in this organization to discover their strengths – let’s do this well…”; or, “This just really blows, I can’t face anybody and I just want this to be over…”
Second, Determine Your Outcomes
What are the outcomes you want from this reorganization? What do you want for the company, the employees? What do you want it too look like on the day that the downsizing is “done”? Imagine that it’s the last day and a news crew is interviewing your current and past employees – what do you want to hear them say about you and the company? You want to have a very clear picture of what it all looks like at the end – that is what will steer you from now until that time.
For instance, some of your outcomes might be:
- Our company is highly regarded by both the staff that is staying and those that are leaving. Our company is viewed positively.
- Everyone is being treated respectfully and with dignity.
- Our costs are down by 50%.
- The remaining staff members are working as a cohesive team.
- Employee morale and engagement are high, and we did some fun stuff through the transition.
By getting clear on your outcomes, you will then do things (both consciously and unconsciously) during this time to make these outcomes happen. Keep in mind that any of the people affected by this transition could, at a future date, be someone you may want as a client or end up at the decision end of a business deal you really want.
Third, Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Set up a clear communication strategy. Communication to the entire company about what is going on is extremely important. It helps each person feel more in control since they can make decisions – both for the company and themselves – based on true and current information. By communicating effectively, you will gain the trust of your employees during this time and you will increase your trust in them.
When setting up your communication procedure, it’s advisable to make sure that everyone in the company hears/says the same thing. It’s not cool to have one manager say one thing and another manager give a different answer. Let your managers know that it’s OK to not have an answer – have them tell their staff they don’t know and they will get the answer for them. And, make sure that everyone who has questions gets an answer. Even if your answer is “At this time, we can’t disclose that information. If/when we can disclose it, you’ll hear it first” – that’s better than not giving an answer. People want to be heard and have their concerns acknowledged.
In the beginning of implementing a communication strategy, it can seem a bit overwhelming. And, after a few weeks, the kinks will be worked out, the questions will be fewer, and the trust you have developed with your employees will rise significantly.
Bonus Tip – Keep Your Sense Of Humor
When you have open communication and transparency, it’s easier for you and your staff to keep your senses of humor and add fun – yes, fun – to this process. Plan some silly, crazy activities (you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have fun). Adding any level of lightness to the situation will keep you and everyone else from feeling overwhelmed.
Having closed four companies and transitioned two others, I had the opportunity to learn what works – and what doesn’t! All of these areas were crucial in making change happen successfully. And, by implementing these strategies, it is easier to keep employee morale up and retain key people.
When your team trusts and respects you, because you trust and respect them, many good people will stay and do the transition well. By choosing to be in a winning perspective, having a clear vision of your outcomes, implementing a great communication strategy and keeping your sense of humor, you will succeed in avoiding many downsizing disasters.
Have you gone through a downsizing, closing or transition? What are some tips that you have on making this transition successful? What worked or didn’t work?