It’s a challenging time to be a boss. You’re managing change and most likely doing so with a smaller budget and fewer people on your team. The workloads are heavier and the paychecks lighter. The demand for quality, innovation and productivity remains as high as ever — and it falls to you to lead the way.
You can do it. I don’t minimize the degree of difficulty for a moment. But I know from working with hundreds of managers that this tough economy is producing some great bosses. They are people who draw on the best skills of management and leadership as they deal with products and people. They’ve developed strategies that ensure their teams aren’t just surviving, but thriving.
What are some best practices for managing after cutbacks? Let me share eight things great bosses do in the face of diminished resources:
The idea of “doing more with less” may not be pure fantasy, but even reality has its limits. Managers need to take a triage approach to workloads — ranking tasks by importance, determining what’s critically important and what might be dropped. Help your downsized staff by making planning a priority so they’re not further strained by last-minute demands.
2. Scrutinize work flow
Take a good look at your production systems. Does the work flow still make sense? Imagine you’re an outsider with no bias in favor of “the way we do things around here.” What questions would you ask? What would you challenge?
3. Upgrade staff
The best thing you can do for your employees is help them build their skills. You’re the agent that can make them more valuable to your organization — or to wherever their career may take them. Cross-train. Even if you have no training budget, you have internal experts who can share knowledge. Yes, some staffers resist change, but I’ve heard from plenty of employees who value their new knowledge.
It doesn’t cost you a dime to keep people in the loop. The tougher times are, the more people are apt to be suspicious and fearful and the more your communication matters. Stay connected. Double your feedback. Think of information as currency. Share the wealth.
You are contagious. Your genuine optimism and energy set the tone for the team. If you need proof, consider this feedback written about a manager in one of my workshops: “Most of the people who work for her are old-timers, so the cement around our ankles hardened long ago. But as change happens, [her] grace and encouragement helps us to accept change and embrace it.”
This isn’t the time to hunker down with your team and see life as “us against the world.” You need every friend you can make in the organization. Be generous with favors so colleagues will help you out in return. Get creative about collaboration that helps you smooth over one another’s tough times.
7. Get business-savvy
Understand the big picture of your organization, not just your slice of it. Get smart about strategy, budgets, forecasts and metrics. It will help you make the best business case for ideas you want to promote and resources you hope to score.
8. Manage up
Smart managers know how to keep their team, its accomplishments and needs on their bosses’ radar. When they come to their bosses with problems, they’re armed with potential solutions — and the solutions aren’t simply self-serving. They are ideas steeped in tips six and seven — good for others and good for business.
When you succeed as a leader in times like this, you know you’ve earned the title of “great boss.” But there’s one more thing you’ll need to keep in mind — another area you must not neglect, even in the toughest of economic times. I’ll share that in today’s podcast, “What Great Bosses Know about Managing amid Cutbacks.”
Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information on leadership and management that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and all walks of life.