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How to come up with practical solutions by engaging all staff

When times are tough business leaders often withdraw and try to solve every problem themselves. This reaction could be due to a sense of responsibility, fight or flight response, or because they are the ones personally, financially, and legally liable.

Despite what your gut response is, this is the time you, as a leader, need your team around you to turn the situation around.

If recent global events have taught us anything, it is that the success and resilience of business is good for everyone; those that rely on it for employment and their families, as well as the communities and customers that rely on it for goods or services.

An example of how to engage all staff to come up with practical solutions for your business in times of crisis is below.

Think of a small transport business working in general freight for the construction industry. The business has 20 trucks on one site, and a crane operation on another.

This business unfortunately just lost their main customer. While the business is small enough to be agile, they did not diversify, therefore the customer they lost was equal to approximately 75% of their work. 

When this event took place the business owner sat the team down, and laid it out honestly. If they couldn’t find more work – things were looking pretty dire. So, he asked the team for their help, and rather than panic, they rolled up their sleeves. 

First, everyone was incentivised with a $200 voucher to help find new customers. If they could come up with a lead for a job greater than $2,000 they won the voucher. 

As the team grew in confidence they became the businesses best advocates and salespeople; from driver’s right through to his admin team. They weren’t afraid to ask for referrals or if clients had anything else they needed help with.

Second, the business leader looked at the teams skills. As the business had the major client for years, the leaders didn’t have much experience tendering or bidding for jobs. However, their Operations Manager did. Together they started applying for more work and over time, winning work.

The final step the business took was to critically look at how the business was operating to see if costs could be cut to be more efficient. To do this, the business owner got out on the road with his team getting their views and could see for himself what was working and what was not.

With honesty and transparency, the business owner built trust and better communication with his team. While the team knew about losing the big contract, rather than let rumours fly, the owner’s up front style made sure that everyone was accurately informed and therefore engaged. The team had confidence in their leader and the approach. They bonded through their shared goal and a need to turn the business around for mutual survival.

While it took a near disaster to do it, this business was able to use their great culture and staff engagement to turn things around.