We all face challenges during the course of our careers, and while many of those come on an individual basis, sometimes you will find yourself part of a workplace that is going through tough times en masse.
In those circumstances, some people take a back seat and just follow the rollercoaster ride wherever it takes them – and actually it is important to have at least some of this type of individual to take instructions when they are given.
But for a chosen few, turbulence is an opportunity to rise to the top and demonstrate natural leadership qualities – so if this is you, be ready to grasp that opportunity with both hands.
What went wrong?
Like diagnosing an illness, carrying a workplace through a period of turbulence begins with understanding what has gone wrong.
The problem could be as simple as being short staffed due to illness or a lack of available talent – in which case you just need to steady the ship and keep people motivated until the right candidates can be recruited.
Alternatively, you might be part of a larger trend, such as a recession or an industry adapting to new environmental regulations or disruptive technologies.
Be clear about why things have become so difficult, and pragmatic about the end target you need to reach in order to overcome these obstacles.
Be a listener
If nobody listens, everybody ends up shouting at the same time. The way to get your own voice heard is to listen to others – ask for their views, and offer to represent them in meetings with more senior management.
By doing this you earn the trust and support of those individuals who are less confident about raising their own voices; you can also begin to coordinate groups of people who share the same viewpoints.
Along the way, you emerge as the hub of those viewpoints – even if you do not strongly agree with them yourself – and this gives you a platform from which to lead others, including those who are not already within your group of ‘followers’.
Short-termism is the enemy of survival, and while it’s important to adapt quickly to emerging challenges, the ultimate aim should be long-term prosperity.
While others around you are fighting fires, you can focus on flame-proofing your company’s processes for the future, so that when you emerge from the immediate tough times, you’re on much safer ground.
So you’ve analysed the situation, built a following of loyal supporters, and planned a long-term strategy for survival – now it’s time to make yourself indispensable.
Make clear that your expertise – whether in terms of technical knowledge or ‘soft skills’ such as the ability to communicate effectively between disparate teams – is essential to the success of your company.