This article was based on episode 97 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Become a member of The Modern Manager community at www.mamieks.com/join. Purchase individual episode guides at mamieks.com/store.
Before the unexpected happened, Dyan Dolfi-Offutt was thrilled with the success of the PR shop she founded in 2011, Soda Pop Public Relations. In eight years, it had launched over 40 products, managed over 50 influencer campaigns, brokered 100+ partnerships and produced over 90 promotional events resulting in over 7 billion impressions in the last eight years.
But when her largest client shocked her by not renewing their contract, Dyan was left with a painful decision to make. Without new business coming in soon, her runway was uncomfortably short. She had to do something; she could either fire staff and focus on keeping a smaller version of the business afloat, fly solo and transition to a one-woman provider, shut down the business and take time to rediscover her path, or convince the team to rebuild together.
Though some advisors recommended slowing down and letting staff go, Dyan didn’t believe it was her best option. As she says, “I took the “I” out of it and I considered all of the options. The thing that kept on coming back to me is that we built this together, we will survive together, and we will thrive together.”
Surviving and rebuilding from that fall, Dyan weighs in on the most effective ways to keep trust and spirits high while sharing bad news with your team, and strategies she gleaned for how to focus on the future, even when things are looking bleak.
THE TRUST YOU BUILD EVERY DAY IS YOUR CURRENCY IN CRISIS
The small things you do daily as a manager builds the trust currency you fall back on when a crisis rocks your company. The little gestures of greetings and concerns over wellbeing, giving continuous feedback, only asking a staff member to do something that you’re willing to do yourself, and having bonding opportunities all build you up as a competent and trustworthy leader to look to if things start falling apart.
ACCEPT ALL THE POSSIBILITIES, THEN FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
When facing a crisis, if a manager herself is gripped with fear, she may hold too tightly onto control and negatively impact the team’s ability to move forward. In order to let go and collaborate effectively, it can be helpful to imagine the worst case scenario. When one makes peace with the possibility of failure-and realizes that your life will move on, even if the worst does happen-you can then let go and securely face the future head-on. By accepting the worst case scenario, you free your mind to focus on what can be done to prevent it.
YOUR TEAM NEEDS SOMEONE WHO IS BOTH ROCK SOLID AND VULNERABLE
Your team is looking for a person to follow that is resilient. Projecting resiliency, however, doesn’t mean avoiding the hard truth. Sometimes the best way to be rock solid is to be vulnerable. Make sure you are completely transparent, down to the dollar amount you have in the bank, how long it will last, and how many clients the company needs to acquire to keep things moving.
Invite your team to join you in moving through the crisis, but also let people know they won’t be judged if they decide it’s best for them to leave. Each person needs to own their decision which is easier when without fearing backlash from other staff.
THE HARDEST PART OF ANY TRANSITION IS THE NEUTRAL ZONE
In Managing Transitions by William Bridges, he discusses the danger of the neutral zone that erupts when the future is uncertain. In that limbo state, people will often give up, psych themselves out, break down, or fall into bad patterns. Having strategies for surviving the neutral zone is critical. Focus on the small day-to-day tasks that will get you back on track. For Dyan, that meant focusing on the daily things she could do to build awareness of Soda Pop PR among new audiences, attract new and service existing clients.
KEEP THINKING ABOUT YOUR TEAM HOLISTICALLY WHILE IN CRISIS
A crisis doesn’t eliminate the need to invest in your people. As Dyan relays, “You’re only as strong as your team.” With their yearly retreat only a few weeks away, Dyan considered canceling it to save money when they lost their big client. Instead, she scaled back the expenses and proceeded with it, rejuvenating one of Soda Pop PR’s main resources; their tight-knit staff. After the retreat, invigorated from their time together, the team secured multiple new clients and strengthened relationships with existing clients, giving them the momentum they needed to get back on their feet.
THE WAR ROOM: FOCUS ON SOLVING THE PROBLEM TOGETHER
Dyan could have held all the responsibility for finding new clients, but instead, she recognized the power of attacking the problem as a team. She formed what they term “The War Room”; blocking off multiple hours for a team session each week to share leads, information, and plan outreach. By making acquiring more prospects and customers a team priority, Soda Pop PR now constantly fills a strong pipeline while simultaneously strengthening the team’s capabilities and bonds.
Though no manager wants a crisis to hit their organization, times of upheaval do offer them the opportunity to reflect and rebuild a stronger system than before. If a manager has built up trust throughout the years, and can be both forthright and firm in the company’s present fragile state, and work with the team to plan and execute next steps, the change that transpires from overcoming challenges can raise a team and company to the next level.
KEEP UP WITH DYAN
This article was based on episode 97 The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.