Bob Lieberman's Blog

Tools For Initiating and Managing Change

Handling Discouragement In Hard Times

Have you ever been discouraged? It's uncomfortable, you feel hopeless, and there's a lot of fear involved. It's natural to run desperately to the first plausible idea for relief that you encounter. It's so natural, in fact, that we often run with rose-colored glasses to ideas that are actually not plausible at all.

These days there's plenty of discouragement to go around. Those of us who are employed are working very hard, in a tense business climate. Those not employed are scrambling to keep expenses down as we wait for companies to start hiring again.

If you manage people or run a business, you're most certainly aware of their tension – and, of course, your business has its own set of survival challenges.

It's an extreme situation that I hope we don't have to endure much longer. But it does provide a pretty clear picture of the pressure survival puts on clarity and creativity. We say that necessity is the mother of invention, but we forget that many of her metaphorical children die in childbirth due to desperate choices made in haste. Just as truth is the first casualty of war, so is good judgment the first casualty of hardship.

As a leader in these times, you have the means and the responsibility to do something about that. You are in a position to reassure, and the place to start is with your employees. All businesses want to seem committed to their employees, but few really are when the chips are down. That's an unfortunate fact, because commitment is the lubricant that fosters clarity and creativity – two qualities that are in very short supply these days.

So instead of fretting over cost-cutting trivia like whether to limit employee access to office supplies, I suggest you devote your time to developing and implementing a viable, concrete, visible strategy of commitment to your current employees. It will pay you back twice – now, with their clarity and creativity applied to your business problems, and later, when the economy recovers, with their loyalty when others are leaving for greener pastures.