I had lunch with one of the most naturally positive CEOs I know yesterday, and he was anything but. I had a similar experience about a week ago with another normally optimistic CEO. 2009 has presented leaders with a host of tall challenges from falling sales and written-off receivables to lack of credit and cash flow. These two conversations highlighted another challenge: most CEOs are tired and discouraged and expecting economic progress to remain slow for months to come. That makes it hard for them to provide the kind of energizing leadership and positive outlook their organizations want and need from them.
The earlier days of the recession involved the kind of call to action most companies know how to respond to – “our environment has changed and we have to change with it.” Employees may not like the reasons or the remedy, but they know how to summon the energy in the expectation that it will add up to improvement. For a lot of firms that’s given way to waiting for a tailwind and persistent worrying about further pain. Those organizations need positive, hopeful leadership.
What’s a CEO to do (or what advice can you give your CEO)?
• Do more of what you love to keep up your own energy.
• Spend time with co-workers who are doing the most exciting, energizing work.
• Remind yourself and your team of the proud things they’ve accomplished in spite of the financial challenges. At a time like this, financial metrics get more attention but they tell an incomplete and distorted story that has to be counterbalanced.
• Celebrate successes. Most companies have fewer people working harder; accomplishments in the face of adversity deserve recognition more than ever.
• Share stories that remind people of the reasons they’re attracted to your culture and the ways their company is distinctive.
• Keep refreshing the longer-term picture for your staffs. You may not know when it will get easier, but all of them want to be reminded of why they’re working so hard.