male worker sitting in park holding paper with notes on being a great leader
Business guide to Coronavirus

5 tips for steering your business through good times and bad

Managing a business and its workforce are rarely easy and, when the going gets tough, it can be very challenging indeed. Executive coach and founder of the leadership development firm Stephenson Mansell Virginia Mansell shares her top tips to help you lead your team through all kinds of times.

1. Keep calm and remain optimistic

Having moments of panic and pessimism is part and parcel of being human. But when it comes to managing your team, it pays to be as calm and positive as possible, while not downplaying the difficulties of the situation you’re facing.

“It’s your job to instil a sense of calm and optimism,” Mansell says. “Be authentic, honest and open regarding your own experience of what is going on, together with talking about the current and future challenges. Even if whatever lies ahead is going to be very hard, people need to feel some sense of hope and confidence. Painting the future direction and relating your business purpose to it can help people find a sense of their own purpose.”

2. Show you care

Feeling like you’re just a cog in the system is never pleasant. Good leaders make sure their employees don’t feel this way by consistently displaying genuine concern for their wellbeing. “Keep a lookout to see who’s coping well and who’s not,” Mansell says. “If you notice someone is looking tired or lacking in energy or is not engaging, reach out to them and see how they are.”

3. Look after yourself

Leading and looking out for others is difficult if you’re not looking after yourself. Putting boundaries between your work and personal life, eating well and finding time to exercise will help you stay energised and positive, Mansell says.

4. Learn to delegate

No one likes the feeling of someone hovering over their shoulder. Letting your employees get on with the job, even if they’re working off-site, can help make them, and you, happier and more productive.

“Your aim should always be to delegate and empower others, not to micro-manage everything that goes on in your business,” Mansell says. “This is hard for control freaks, but learning to do so means you won’t be swamped by everyone coming to you for decisions. You don’t get any work done yourself if you’re busy doing this for everyone else.”

Loosening the reins can become easier if you manage by output and outcome, rather than the exact work your employees are putting in – something that’s extra tricky to gauge if you have people working remotely.

5. Don’t go it alone

It can be lonely at the top, especially when conditions are volatile or challenging – but you don’t have to go it alone. Seek out support for yourself from other business owners who understand where you’re at, such as a mentor or a confidant outside your organisation.

“People can get exhausted, if they’re dealing with constant uncertainty,” Mansell says. “It helps to have others who can give you information and advice, or just a listening ear.”

It’s during the tough times when great leadership truly shines though, so show your team they can count on you and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.


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