Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Guest Blogger - Debra Helwig: "Running Scared"

I asked for volunteers on Twitter to be guest bloggers on The Some Assembly Required Blog. Wow, some great people stepped forward to share their thoughts, ideas and pontifications.

Today's Guest Blogger is Debra Helwig. Debra Helwig is the marketing communications manager for IGAF Worldwide, an international trade association serving mid-sized accounting firms in over 60 countries. Her favorite part of the job is sharing ideas and connecting people -- helping service professionals learn from one another and from the brightest minds in the various industries they touch. Find Debra on Twitter at @dhelwig or visit the IGAF Worldwide Web site at http://www.igafworldwide.org.

Running Scared
by Debra Helwig

“At least I still have a job…for now.”

How many times have you heard that phrase in the past few weeks? Me, I’ve heard it more times than I care to count, from people in every walk of life – the bakery gal at Publix, the marketing director of a public accounting firm, a social worker, a Web designer. I’ve heard it enough times that I actually caught myself saying it, even though I work for a very stable association that has yet to feel the rattle from the downturn.

Maybe it’s the pathologically bad news reports blaring from every PC and TV screen. Maybe it’s that just about everyone knows at least two people who have been laid off recently. But whatever the reason, people all around us are behaving as if their jobs are on the chopping block. The whispers at the water cooler aren’t just whispers anymore.

I admit, for some folks, this attitude is common sense. Layoffs are happening all over, and some companies are folding. People who work in these places have every right to be freaked out, jittery, and afraid they’ll be next in line at the Department of Labor.

HOWEVER (and this is a big however) if you’re a manager at a company that’s doing even marginally well, the rising panic is a serious problem. If you don’t stop the tide before it starts, a larger-than-healthy percentage of your people will be punching the wrong half of the flight-or-flight ticket. Now, this doesn’t mean they’re going anywhere. Hooooo no. They’re filling up their timesheets, but mentally they got fired last week. They’ve checked out. They’re unproductive. And – worst of all – if they talk to your clients, they’re poor mouthing your business directly to the people who are keeping you in business. Disaster walking.

You have to stop the bleeding before it begins. But how?

Talk to them.

A lot.

An old boss of mine, Ernie, used a technique he called “management by walking around.” Every day, he walked the department. He talked to every person. He answered questions. He planted ideas. He explained decisions. He never hedged, and he never lied. When we had a sizable layoff, he told it like it was – early – and people believed him because he had the street cred that came with years of playing honest and fair. Even after the downsize, his department’s productivity and customer service soared. People worked harder than ever because they knew Ernie had their back.

Even if you don’t have Ernie’s years of credibility on your side, you can make a difference in your company’s ability to successfully weather this downturn. Begin communicating right now – regularly and truthfully – about where things are going for your business. Give your valued professionals (and your customers) the information they need to stop running scared.

Your bottom line will thank you.

***Thom's 2-Cents:

I agree with Debra. There is too much negative chit-chat going about the negatives in the economy. While not to be discounted, we must also remember that there are still positives out there. To only focus on the bad will not help anyone. We must break the cycle of bad news by finding the good stuff and talking about that, too.

Have A Great Day



Christina said...

I agree as well. It's one thing to keep a careful eye on the economy and your work situation, yet another to be like 'Chicken Little' and scream that the sky is falling.
I also think this is a great time to look around and be thankful for what you have because many seem to have lost touch with what truly matters.

Wendy Nemitz said...

Thank you! We publish a newsletter on professional servicemarketing but our most requested article ever was on enthusiasm. We are in this together!

Woody said...

I agree... that everyone should do everything to become Ernie.