Back to Basics: 3 Tips for Leading Through Changing Times

Back to Basics: 3 Tips for Leading Through Changing Times

Over the last several years, there has been an unprecedented combination of financial challenges for business leaders — a global pandemic, rising unemployment rates, rising interest rates and inflation. I was leading a team during the economic downturn of 2008 but the last three-plus years have been unique, especially with the recent (and welcomed) emphasis on areas like work-life balance and employee well-being.

It may seem during these times that you should break out an emergency playbook to shore up your company, client and employee performance, but what I have learned from leading through two distinct periods of financial turmoil is that these are the times to go back to basics. During times of financial uncertainty, it is imperative to focus on the things you might take for granted in better times.

After leading my team and clients through challenging periods — recent years included — here are some of the key areas I remind myself to lean into when the going gets tough:

1. Communicate

First and foremost, communication is the single most important asset when leading through financial hardships. Remember that your team feels vulnerable, and concerned about their own financial well-being and their future at the company. We can sometimes forget how, at the leadership level, we have access to a more complete picture of the organization; in challenging times, there are ample opportunities to create more transparency.

Create opportunities for your team to communicate with you. A key aspect of communication is listening to what your team has to say and helping them navigate challenging conversations. At my company, the way we view banking relationships is that our bankers should act as the CFO of every company they work with. That level of care and personalized communication should be at its peak during times like these.

2. Anticipate

During times of uncertainty, people are less likely to reach out or ask for help — this applies to both clients and team members. Schedule more frequent touch-bases with all parties, and include both formal and informal check-ins. By creating more opportunities for dialogue, not only will your team feel more secure, but you will feel more confident, with more chances to spot issues before they arise.

In addition, turbulent times are not the time to innovate unless you are 100% confident that what are you planning will solve a real problem. This is the time to focus on loyal customers, dedicated employees and established processes that are tried and true.

3. Investigate

Because of the current economic conditions, a lot of financial activity is heightening right now — from external client reviews to ensure that portfolios are secure, to internal employee reviews to analyze things like salaries and expenses. Put the checks and balances in place to understand the trends within your organization and drill deep down to understand trends in your team’s behavior and performance.

Always check in with team members to investigate that due diligence is taking place. As I said earlier, more frequent touch-bases are critical in a market like this.

Additionally, understanding why your team is doing what they are doing is just as important as the processes themselves. At WSFS, this is how we work with customers to identify the best path forward. What was their strategy before and what have they changed to adapt in this climate? From there, we analyze the plan and provide feedback. That same mentality applies to our internal team as well.

Final Thoughts

Some of these tips may feel obvious, but in my experience, it is during the most challenging times that we take these standard practices for granted. By placing an emphasis on communication, anticipating the needs and challenges of both employees and customers and investigating trends to inform reaction plans, you can be better prepared to lead through challenging times and bring your team with you to the other side.

This article originally appeared on the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Leadership Trust.

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