Leading Through the Storm

None of us knows what is going to happen to our economy in the coming weeks and months, but one thing is certain. Your team needs your leadership.

Our industry that tends to wish away bad news (Downturn? What downturn?) but we all know that this is not the time for Happy Talk. Your team needs to hear from you. They know things are difficult. They're afraid. They need to believe that you have the confidence and smarts to steer your company through the storm. A recent article in Executive Coach broke it down succinctly. Here are the five steps author Karlin Sloan recommends:

1. Get your story straight.
It's important that you and other managers communicate a unified message. What is our strategy? What actions are we going to take? Why do we feel this will work?

2. Focus on those who are leading the charge under you.
The article admonishes leaders to avoid just "putting nose to the grindstone" and making sure you stay connected to all around you.
"Your first priority should be to get those who work for you to become a unified force," Sloan insists. Sloan also warns against focusing on departing employees (either folks who quit or are laid off) and make sure that you devote energy and time to the ones that remain.

3. Overcommunicate.
"If you don't know what will happen--say that," says Sloan. This is not the time for BS. Similarly, if you don't feel you have anything helpful or encouraging to say--and remain silent--rumors will pop up. A hard truth is better than anything the spa gossip mill will produce. Call a meeting and give a "state of the spa" address.

4. Practice gratitude.
Sloan points out, "When we practice gratitude, it changes our ability to motivate and inspire others." Be grateful for whatever you can, whenever you can. Even if it's getting the ten minute break to eat the lunch you brought from home, or the fact that it's a gorgeous, sunny fall morning. I make sure I visit the operations floor regularly so I can be grateful for our amazing clients, many of whom have been coming to our spa for over twenty years.

5. Use the crisis as an opportunity for learning and growth.
You can also use the crisis to do some of the things you may have wanted to do but were afraid you couldn't pull off--reductions in inventory that you knew were necessary, for example. Or perhaps getting your comp plan revised. When you're not having to be concerned about being the "bad guy" there are many tough decisions that get easier. Here, the economy is the "bad cop."

I would add another vital component for leading during a downturn: doing whatever it takes to keep your "game face" on for your team. You must be the source of strength. This is just as hard as it sounds. Exercise, meditate, sleep enough, eat properly, and oh yeah--get some spa treatments. You're not just training for a marathon, you'll be running one every week.

Another vital part of self care: peer support. Wynne Business started a Spa Leadership Round Table in the Bay Area, with non-competing member spas--but any spa can do it. It's a great way to share ideas and best practices, but it's also wonderful moral support during a crisis. I am also a member of the Entrepreneur's Organization, and I sure look forward to my monthly Forum, a sub-group I belong to, within my chapter. It's especially valuable to get outside the industry for new ideas and new thinking.

By Peggy Wynne Borgman, CEO Wynne Business, Preston Wynne Spa www.wynnebusiness.com