The 3 Rs for Leadership during tough times

This article first appeared in DNA India on Nov 3rd 2016.

The past few days have demonstrated the need for organizations (business or political) to ensure that succession planning is given importance. We all know that political parties in India, especially those that are dependent on one strong leader, typically suffer from issues regarding succession. Examples abound in our country with political entities such as AIADMK, DMK, the Samajwadi Party and the Congress demonstrating the difficulty for personality driven parties to come up with an adequate succession plan. The most surprising news in the last week has been the unceremonious sacking of Cyrus Mistry from the helm of the Tata Group, a much more professional entity. While there have been recriminations on all sides, it is not the intention in this column to delve into the reasons for the sacking. Rather, what I’d like to focus on is what the many group companies ought to be doing in such a scenario where the share prices for the many companies making up the group are plunging. In such circumstances, morale is bound to take a hit.

So how do the CEOs of the many group companies handle this situation where the group’s dirty laundry is being aired in public almost every day with some regularity? Should they keep quiet and hope that things eventually quieten down, as they will? Or should they take proactive measures to ensure their employees that what is happening now is merely a storm in a teacup and that a group with the hoary history of Tata Sons will be able to weather this storm?

In my opinion, sitting quiet and doing nothing would lead to a lot of water cooler conversations, rumor and innuendo which will cause the company morale and culture immense harm. CEOs must be proactive in such scenarios and work through the three Rs

  • ReassureThe first task is to reassure their employees that this is but a minor roadbump on the path towards success. Employees look for guidance and reassurance from their leaders during tough times and this can go a long way in squashing misgivings and feelings of helplessness among the workforce.

  • Renew – The leadership must also renew the focus of the organization towards the goals that need to be achieved. Mindless speculation and water-cooler talk can lead to employees taking their eyes off the ball with the result that performance suffers. Refocusing attention on what needs to be achieved helps to maintain focus on the here and now.

  • Reiterate – Finally, leaders need to reiterate the organizational culture. This is supremely important especially because it is this shared culture that can bind people together and help them get through difficult times.

These three Rs are critical processes for leaders to help steer the organizational ship through the troubled waters of instability.

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