Leading In Uncertain Times

Worthy leadershipThe steep decline in oil prices this year is rippling through the industry like a tsunami and organizations large and small are facing a period of uncertainty.

And with the anxiety that grows from uncertainty, company leaders must recognize unease and manage its impact. As individuals, feeling anxious when the road ahead looks dark is normal and actually helps us resolve problems. For an organization, collective anxiety results in bad decisions, exhausting office politics and inertia.

At a seminar earlier this week, the importance of effective leadership through change was emphasized in the context of the current down market for oil and gas. Phillip Weiss, a Denver-based management consultant, described four critical topics every manager should consider during these difficult times.

Weiss, who specializes in effective leadership and organizational change, led an industry forum on critical attributes for energy leaders. The event was part of the WELLS Forum series hosted by About Talent, a Denver-based provider of workforce solutions.

First, says Weiss, when leading through difficult times, think ADKAR. Developed by change management consulting firm, Prosci, ADKAR stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Action and Reinforcement.

According to Prosci’s model, a successful change manager first develops Awareness of the need for change, then fosters Desire to participate and support the change, educates to build Knowledge of what change looks like, then ensures the organization has the Ability to implement required skills and behaviors and finally, regular Reinforcement to sustain change for the long term.

Secondly, Weiss emphasized the critical importance of communications during periods of change. Effective communications must be clear and aimed at a specific goal, key messages must be repeated to be understood and retained, all discussions must be frank and credible, they must convey benefit to the organization and staff, and provide channels for feedback.

Next, when reorganizations require reductions in company staff, leaders must ensure they are positioned for recovery. By clearly stating the competencies expected from professional and support staffs, companies can ensure they have the bench strength needed to move forward.

Finally, navigating rough seas provides an effective leader the opportunity to redefine company goals where needed and clarify those goals that may have gone out of focus when times were good.

“In times like this, you must be less reactive and more deliberative,” says Weiss. “A period of change is the ideal time for a manager to assess his or her own skills, to ask questions and tap into the organization’s knowledge.”

Energy companies recognize that business as usual in the current economic environment is not sustainable. The next several months will be difficult for everyone but difficult times are the true measure of worthy leaders.

Posted February 27, 2015

1 comment on “Leading In Uncertain Times”

  1. Donna O'Brien

    Nice and concise.
    How many of us labor through the change well past the action phase, but really fall down in the reinforcement area. The natural tendencies of organizations is to go back to what was comfortable. Change is uncomfortable. As the Change Agent you must keep the project open through a full reinforcement period. Its not over until everyone has moved through any change at least 3 cycles.

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