“The players need me now when we are losing more than they do when we are winning.”
That was a sentiment expressed recently by Jim Leyland, manager of
the Detroit Tigers, and shared with the team’s broadcast television analyst,
Rod Allen, himself a former major leaguer. After contending for, or being in
first, for half the season the Tigers are out of contention now. But while his
team may be out of the pennant race, Leyland, a veteran manager, is not giving
up on his players. He is there as coach, counselor and sometime challenger to
keep his players focused.
Leyland’s approach has relevance for managers off the field,
too. Losing has a way at eating at a team’s confidence, and no wonder; they are
getting beaten. What a manager cannot allow is that loss of team confidence to
erode self-confidence. Put bluntly, the team may suck, but individual players
do not. It is a manager’s challenge to pull players up as well as together.
As the Great Recession lingers, and job growth remains
negligible, business is sluggish. Yes, profits have returned but morale is
uneasy. Better than a year ago certainly, but nowhere near what it should be.
Now is the time therefore for managers to step to the fore keep their teams
pointed in the right direction. Here are some suggestions, all being with the
what you know about the business, even when the news is not good. You make
yourself willing to listen to your employees’ concerns. Share your expertise as
well as yourself. That means you provide advice about the work as well as
insight into improving performance. So much of management today is coaching,
that is, putting the people in the right slots and then helping them achieve.
Just because business is down, spirits need not be. Managers fight negativity
by affirming the contributions their employees make.
must do something. Leaders act for the good of the team. So consider ways you
can help the team does its work. Provide additional resources when possible. If
not, pitch in and help. Acting for the team also means spreading kindness. Mark
milestones of achievement. On an individual basis, look for employees who may
be struggling. Perhaps they need an extra hand or need to be paired with a
colleague. Additional training may be in order. This additional help should be
temporary; chronic underperformance means the person is not in the right job.
attention to what employees are saying as well as not saying Grousing and
grumbling are of the everyday workplace, but if such words begin to encroach on
behavior, then the manager must step in. Complaints will be accepting, but not
complaining. The former may be justified; the latter is not because it affects
behavior. The manager needs to keep the team focused on the work and on the
What gives such advice credibility is straight talk. Never
overpromise as in: “Do what I tell you to do and everything will be okay.” Save
those words for your kids, not for providing insights into how to navigate the
choppy waves of a roiling recession. Employees know the severity of the
situation so trying to buck them up with happy talk only makes the manager look
Just as you avoid the happy talk, avoid bad mouthing
your team or the organization. No team is perfect but making wise cracks about
their performance is unwise. Nothing erodes trust more quickly than a manager
who speaks out of both sides of his mouth.
Finding ways to buck up a team in tough times is a manager’s
job. And it is one that may not only steady nerves during adversity; it will
lay the foundation for greater levels of trust. As another baseball manager,
Casey Stengel, once said, “Managing is getting paid for home runs someone else
Such will be necessary as the economy does pick up steam. A
team that has endured hardship together may be more capable of rebounding more
quickly and be able to take advantage of the uptick.
John Baldoni is an
internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach,
author, and speaker. In 2010 Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s
top 25 leadership experts. John’s newest book is 12
Steps to Power Presence: How to Assert Your Authority to Lead (Amacom 2010). Readers are welcome to visit John’s website, www.johnbaldoni.com.