Leading during layoffs…

Citigroup just announced job cuts of 53,000, on top of a prior 23K+

Pepsico 3K; Xerox 4K; Chrysler 17.5K; Sun 6K; DHL 9k.

Even e-Bay and NASCAR are facing layoffs. NASCAR!!

As leaders, what do we do? First, some context:

If we layoff staff, and can continue reasonably unfazed with general levels of productivity, we likely had too many people to begin with. that’s a leadership issue.

If we could have forseeably determined a significant change in demand, and did nothing, that’s at least partially a leadership issue.

If the market, or supporting industry, tanked without notice, perhaps we aren’t entirely culpable. But it’s still our responsibility. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Whether we are laying off staff ourselves, or merely reeling from the constant news barrage of others doing so our responses as leaders are largely the same: we must — simply must — demonstrate Responsibility, Vision, and Trust.

Responsibility, so employees know clearly who is in charge, that we hold ourselves personally accountable (quit blaming ‘the economy’ and acting like this is an equal-pain scenario).

Vision, since in good times and bad, people follow leaders. And leaders, to be successful, must have a vision that others can see, touch, and feel. It needn’t be a plaque on the wall, or even stated specifically; people must know, however, that following us is a good thing, that we are taking them somewhere successful, and that — to a large extent — we know where we’re going.

Finally, never forget that Trust is the currency of leadership. People charge hills, not because the general has silver stars, but because they believe the general knows that it’s the right thing to do. And they trust that judgment. Employees share concerns, ideas, revelations… not because they have to, or because that suggestion box just looks so inviting, but because they trust that leaders will do the right thing(s) with that information, and because leaders have openly shared with them.

Stay focused. I’ve always said that leading is easy “as long as it’s easy;” when it gets a little difficult, it becomes the purview of the skilled and learned.

Layoffs suck. They are hard on those directly effected, those who think they may be next, those who feel guilty to still be “alive,’ and those who must make the really hard decisions.

Be a purposeful leader, and realize that others are watching.

But that’s just me…


Kevin Berchelmann

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