You need staff on your side now

In tough times, managers need to be firm and decisive - and to listen, says Debra Allcock Tyler.

I am sure that I'm not the only person in the sector suffering from sleepless nights at the moment. For many of us, times are not easy and doubts might set in at moments such as these. It can be particularly hard to be confident that the actions we are taking are the right ones.

It is also true that in difficult times people get scared and they depend on you even more than usual to be strong and firm, to be clear and decisive, to radiate confidence and optimism. They might dislike the decisions you are taking but, ultimately, they do want you to stick to them and not to falter in the face of opposition.

However, there is a fine line between clarity and dictatorship, and one that it is easy to overstep.

It is not that difficult to stop listening when you are hanging on to hope by the skin of your teeth. But it is at these moments that it is even more important to listen to what your staff, your users and your funders are telling you. Even if what they say doesn't change your mind, you must always consider their points of view.

People will accept you sticking to your decisions if they believe you have listened to them and considered their perspectives properly. They are much less inclined to support you if they believe that you are deaf to their input. And that is when they will perceive you as being dictatorial rather than simply clear.

It is, however, even more important to take the time to explain properly why you are taking the actions that you are. In tough times, you need people to be on your side even more than you do when you are having an easy ride. But you need to allow them the space to express their fears.

Believe it or not, you do have the skills, experience and intelligence to survive.

- Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of SocialChange and a trustee of MedicAlert

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