Written by Yiannis Koutsoumaris – Managing Partner, inwards
The -real- case:
Recently I was working with a CEO and business owner, who had decided to proceed to a significant number of redundancies (17%) and hired me for leadership and engagement matters, from the decision up to the maintenance of change and the achievement of specific profitability by the remaining people.
From our first meetings, interviews and diagnostics, the areas for improvement that emerged were basically three:
- The management team was pretty functional, affected by the disorders of the family system though
- The evolution of individual and collective emotional intelligence
- The low level of diversity in both behaviors and motivators among the team members since the CEO has selected his team to be like him
The first, in fact, proved fatal to the deterioration of the situation during the project, while the second would determine the outcome, unless we could help the client to alter the auto-pilot.
Entropy came too early!
Before we could complete the stage of planning, an informal group of mid-level managers with liaison to the family, leaked the decision of dismissals. There was anguish and anger. All were under confusion.
Since the team was accustomed to an intensive focus on the fiscal part of the transformation, it was my call to shift the attention to the emotional part of it. By ascertaining the signs of entropy, we couldn’t ignore the importance of gaining the emotional control to move the employees and the organization a step forward.
In our overnights sessions, was decided that the neutralization of anxiety, agony and pain was a necessary victory.
Although the CEO was considering the possibility to delay the implementation of the decision, in light of the recent radical changes the passage from the anguish and anger to fear was selected as the most functional and realistic.
The action plan had to be significantly changed to facilitate the emotional movement as follows:
- The CEO forgets about delays and reviews. Instead he announces the dismissals immediately, to “change” the feeling of :
- Anguish to uncertainty for those (the majority) that will not be affected
- Anguish to fear, for the few, who would lose their jobs. This way we created the conditions for (the people to move to) emotions with lower energy, less intensity and larger duration, to gain time and offer relief.
- With HR coordination, the Board creates a general action and communication plan, a) for all employees as a whole, b) for all those who would be affected and c) individually for those who would be affected, so as the Board to understand the peculiarities of each individual’s life and include these in the personal level of the support planThis increased the sense of trust in people, reduced the uncertainty and established a counter level of fear, avoiding a lot of pain.
- The Board members :
- “Work” individually their own emotions in private sessions with a counselor ! Managers in charge of the communication of such decisions do not come out untouched from the process, as believed) a
- Redesign as a team, a ready to share collective vision for the day after, for those who remain with increased workload.
! This step is critical in order to prevent the negative spiral generated when those unaffected do not change emotions and essentially “keep on feeling grief for those who left.”
The results exceeded our expectations.
The feedback from people showed that the same happened with their own!
Those unaffected, ceased losing their sleep every night and begun preparing for their new, increased contribution.
Those who were found in the difficult state, managed to focus on insecurity and fear for the future, through a much more realistic and creative process practically and mentally. Free-to an extent-from the initial anxiety and anger, and with the active, personalized support by the company, started to focus on their future plan. Some of them even found it useful for their lives….
The conclusions as well as the lessons were a lot – fortunately much fewer than the mishaps.
Furthermore, although a crisis had to be dealt with, within the general crisis itself, the company managed to keep its reputation intact.
The emotional intelligence of the leader, as part of the capacity for success, seems to be not understood to many people who are in leading positions both in business, and in politics, professions and organizations.
I recognize how difficult it is to explain and connect an intangible and dynamic psychological level, with concrete and static bottom line of a business, especially when it is combined with the absence of experience.
So the realization of their abilities remains a blind spot for many leaders. The result is to lose quick wins, or to establish a mental path of propensity to the repetition of the same type of errors.
Emotions have hidden energy to produce results. By focusing, understanding, elaborating and ultimately regulating emotions leadership gets effective and effortless. On the other hand by leaving emotions governed by systemic or external forces is like leaders prepare to fail.