Whether it’s a global pandemic, economic downturn, or rough merger/acquisition, tough times can strike at any moment and can have a significant impact on businesses and organisations of all sizes. As a middle manager, it’s your job to navigate your team through these turbulent waters and emerge stronger on the other side. 

Here are some effective strategies for managing in tough times, drawing on insights from business leaders, academics, and experts in the field.

1. Communicate clearly and frequently

When times are tough, communication is key. As a middle manager, you need to be transparent with your team about what’s happening; what you’re doing to address the situation; and how it will impact them. This means communicating not just the bad news, but also any positive developments or progress being made.

This also means encouraging the team to keep going when there’s nothing new to report. This can include listening to concerns and providing a caring and supportive ear. This can often significantly reduce the amount of incorrect or toxic gossip.

According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, employees who feel informed and included in the decision-making process are more likely to stay engaged and motivated during tough times. Additionally, regular communication can help build trust and keep morale high, which can be critical in helping your team weather the storm.

2. Focus on what you can control

During tough times, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the things you can’t control. Whether it’s a global pandemic or a sudden economic downturn, there are always external factors that can impact your business. While it’s important to stay informed and be aware of these factors, it’s equally important to focus on what you can control.

This might mean taking steps to cut costs, streamline operations, or pivot your business model to adapt to changing circumstances. It might also mean investing in areas that are likely to be more resilient during tough times, such as technology or digital marketing. By focusing on what you can control, you can help mitigate the impact of external factors and keep your business moving forward.

Helping your team to prioritise, or re-prioritise, to suit the current situation can give back a greater sense of control to the team, and you.

3. Prioritise employee well-being

During tough times, it’s important to remember that your employees are likely experiencing stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. As a middle manager, it’s your responsibility to prioritise their well-being and ensure they have the support they need to cope with these challenges. Do not take this as it being your responsibility to administer the care: it’s about ensuring your people look after themselves, know what support they can access, and help them access it, if required.

    This might involve offering mental health resources, flexible work arrangements, or other benefits that can help employees manage their personal and professional responsibilities. Additionally, you may want to consider investing in training or professional development opportunities that can help employees build new skills or advance their careers, which can be a source of motivation and resilience during tough times.

    4. Embrace innovation and change

    During tough times, the status quo is rarely enough. To stay competitive and adapt to changing circumstances, you may need to embrace innovation and change in your business model, operations, or products and services. This might mean exploring new revenue streams, experimenting with new technologies, or collaborating with partners or suppliers in new ways.

      According to a survey by McKinsey & Company, companies that continued to invest in innovation during the 2008 financial crisis emerged stronger and more competitive than those that didn’t. By embracing innovation and change, you can position your business for long-term success and resilience, even in the face of challenging circumstances. A tad dated but the lesson stands strong.

      5. Build a strong network

      During tough times, it can be helpful to have a strong network of peers, mentors, and advisors who can offer guidance, support, and perspective. This might include industry associations, business networks, or professional organisations that can provide access to resources, expertise, and best practices.

      Additionally, you may want to consider seeking out mentorship or coaching from experienced business leaders who have navigated tough times before. By building a strong network, you can tap into a wealth of knowledge and expertise that can help you make better decisions and navigate challenging situations more effectively.

        Over to you, what works for you when navigating yourself, your team and the organisation through tough times?

        I’d love to know…