Monday, March 11, 2002

Trust of staff pays off in tough times

The Success Coach

By Michael Crom
Gannett News Service

        Question: Due to recent economic troubles, my company has begun downsizing. The layoffs have caught everyone by surprise. Many employees are now worried about their job status and have lost focus. As the director of sales, I am particularly aware of my employees' uncertainties and wish to boost their confidence in themselves and this company. Can you provide me with some tips as to how I can motivate my team to continue their outstanding performance? — James

        Answer: At a time of renewed downsizing in companies around the world, we're all reminded of the important role of effective communication. The uncertainty caused by workplace change and disruption brings complex communication challenges to every manager.

        The biggest challenge — always — is to sustain the focus, commitment and enthusiasm of your entire team.

        To excel at this job, you have to redouble your efforts to communicate in ways that are persuasive, compelling and authentic. Take a look at the following principles of good communication — all practical and time-tested — and see for yourself if they don't help you keep your team fired up, even in stressful times.

        • Be honest: Don't ever try to mislead or spin your team. People recognize dishonesty and evasion when they hear and see it. If you have a reputation for genuineness, it's an invaluable asset you can always count on to help sustain the involvement of your people. When you or other decision-makers are wrong, say so. If you fail, acknowledge it. This type of honesty pays off big-time because you gain the trust of your team. In good times, the team will be there for you. And in tough times, their trust will make it much easier for you to be the bearer of bad news.

        • Believe what you say: You have to be convinced about what you're saying and what you're selling. If you aren't, listeners will know it. Your level of conviction and enthusiasm has a strong impact on your audience, creating — or not — the motivation you're seeking. Dale Carnegie once said, “Whatever success I had was due almost entirely to my enthusiasm.”

        • Connect to your listeners: Put your team — or any audience — at the center of your communication. Try to anticipate their concerns, fears and aspirations, particularly if you're addressing the possibility of major change. Keep in mind that a positive, big-picture approach to most issues helps make people feel more comfortable. You need to articulate all the options, assess the pros and cons of a specific action, and point out the best- and worst-case scenarios for everybody involved. Get listeners engaged in the conversation. Address their key questions and objections. Never lose sight of the need to be caring and, more important, the need to communicate your empathy.

        • Keep people in the loop: It's critical to communicate — and to communicate often. You need to reinforce your messages by repeating them. People want to feel engaged in what's going on. If you fail to involve your team fully and continually, you face the likelihood of losing their interest. Worse, their trust, motivation and performance can take a dive.

        Michael Crom is executive vice president, Dale Carnegie Training. For advice on work issues, visit or e-mail


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