Sunday, May 31, 2009

Great Leaders Develop Good People - Even in Bad Times

Whenever the economy turns bad, and that seems to happen on a regular basis, many companies start looking for ways to cut their costs. One of the very first things that some companies cut are any costs associated with human development. Coaching, training classes, and even brown-bag lunches are viewed as a “soft cost” that have no direct impact on the bottom line.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

On the surface, wringing out any excess costs seems to make a lot of sense. But great leaders know that wringing out all the costs might also mean wringing out all of the energy, excitement and creativity from a company as well. And, when things are tough, you need your team to crank up the energy and creativity, not bury it under a blanket.

Imagine a scenario where one of your top customers places a big order that is going to require the very best from your team to complete the delivery. Your team, suffering the blahs after having their overtime cut, all of the plants removed from the office, the coffee service removed from the office, and all personal development eliminated, can’t figure out how to deliver this order on time with the correct content.

Of course, Jack could have led his team to get this done, but Jack left 6 weeks ago to join a competitor. Sally was another manager who could probably have pulled it off as well, but she left about 3 months ago and changed careers entirely. Their replacements came from in house and, while they are excellent technically, they lack the skills to lead the team on a project of this size.

You meant to develop more managers with the appropriate team leadership skills, but with times being tight, you cut back on hiring, stopped training both your technicians and your managers and hunkered down to wait out the downturn.

Now that downturn may last much longer than expected. And you may lose your best client for screwing up this order. But that’s ok because you were able to wring out all of those excess costs that don’t really add to the bottom line.

Great leaders understand the difference between unnecessary costs and the costs of keeping your managers and staff excited, motivated, and most importantly, on your team. Great leaders understand that developing people is not an unnecessary cost, but an investment in the business itself. Staff development can have the very same payoff and ROI that an investment in new equipment can have. And an investment in your staff has the added incentive of making your team more valuable over time.

And that can get you through a lot of tough times.

Until next time....

ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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