Omni MCA often collaborates with other professional service providers when our clients require specialized expertise that we do not possess. In this blog, we would like to introduce you to Claudia Verburgh, CMC, CHRP. Claudia has written an article, “Leading Through Turbulent Times.”

“May you live in interesting times.” It’s an interesting quote that is often said to be an ancient Chinese curse. As we look at what we’re going through in Alberta, it certainly seems that we’re living in interesting times. Falling oil prices, a low Canadian dollar and overall economic instability are creating challenging times for Alberta businesses. There are rough seas ahead and how we chart those seas may make or break us both from a business standpoint and as leaders.

Now more than ever, strong leadership is required to navigate through these turbulent times. Tough decisions need to be made and those decisions will have an impact on the people who work in our organizations. We may think that our people understand and accept these decisions, but we may fail to fully appreciate how much our people need their leaders to help them through the challenges that will be faced.

Over the years, I’ve had the honour of working with many, many leaders, helping them to figure out how to get the best from their people. I have worked with organizations undergoing major change and those who just want to get better. The common denominator in what makes the difference in creating high productivity and high engagement workplaces is strong leadership. When we deal with difficult situations and an uncertain future, leadership become even more important.

I’d like to give you some food for thought as you navigate through your turbulent times as a leader. Many of the points I will share with you may seem like common knowledge or common sense, but it has been my experience that that does not always equate to common practice, especially in the “heat of battle.” Here are some points for you to remember as you lead your people on stormy and unpredictable seas:

  • Put on your life preserver and get ready for a bumpy ride. Your first task as a leader in facing difficult times is to get control of yourself. You are a role model for your people and they are looking to you for guidance. You need to take a deep breath and get a hold of yourself. As your people react to bad news and tough decisions, they may do or say things that are at best unproductive and at worst, hurtful. You need to learn to keep your composure, remain objective and practice empathy for what the other person is going through. If you show grace during difficult times, it is more likely that your people will follow your example. The reverse if also true.
  • Be present and involved. Have you heard the one about the captain who stayed in his cabin while his ship was going down? Neither have I. Captains stay with their ship and are at the helm when they are most needed. Remember this as a leader. Be present. Connect frequently and authentically with your people. Help your people to feel safe and secure, listen to them, respect their point of view and what they’re going through, and show them that you care.
  • Steer the ship. Your people want and need you to take charge. They also need you to help them see where they are going. Be realistic with your people but also give them a sense of optimism that together you will weather the storm. You may have to chart a new course to get through the stormy seas, so if you do, make sure you involve your people in figuring out how to get there. And communicate frequently and repeatedly so that your people remember where they are going.
  • Make sure you have the right people on the ship. Have the right people doing the right things, and ensure that they know what they should be doing and how. Sounds simple? You’d be surprised how many times this doesn’t happen in organizations. Set people up for success with clear expectations, accountabilities and standards. And if you have done that and a person’s performance or behaviour is still not up to standard, deal with it.

These are but a few of critical actions a leader needs to lead their people through to better times. Just remember, you are the leader and your people are looking to you and counting on you to lead the way.

Claudia Verburgh is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Engaging Workplaces. She is a senior consulting professional with over 25 years of experience working with a wide range of industries and sectors. Claudia specializes in working with leaders to support them in being their best and getting the best from their people. She provides training, coaching and consulting to leaders to help them gain the insights, knowledge and skills they need to successfully and productively engage their people. To connect with Claudia, please email her at cverburgh@shaw.ca or call her at 780-464-1962.