Editor's View

Keeping up morale

Jul/Aug 09 issue

Is attitude more important than ability? While the answer is definitely ‘no’ for a surgeon or auditor, it’s certainly applicable in other professions

This is a recurring topic among CEOs. Maintaining energy levels and enthusiasm during an economic collapse is not something many of us have had to cope with before. It goes without saying that every employee has to work harder, so it can be deflating to watch staff refusing to make that extra effort.

If there is a positive to a recession, it’s that as a CEO you really begin to see who is who in your business. Character, determination and guile come to the fore, while those who are lazy, inept or content to just coast along in second gear stick out like a sore thumb. Especially infuriating are those people who have the ability but refuse to use it (again, you learn a little bit more about the make-up of the people in the business).

Wheat and chaff
By extension, the shortcomings of CEOs are also revealed. It’s true that a highly entrepreneurial person might not have the basic skills needed to get a struggling concern back on track, but the real question is how that CEO can re-channel creeping gloominess among staff – notably sales people – into a positive, “we can do this” mentality.

Chris Ingram makes a similar point in his column (page 34), admitting that a director at his old company once had to pull him aside because his dour demeanour was damaging staff morale.

Staying upbeat and inspiring staff may be the biggest test of your resolve and self-discipline as a leader if new business is hard to come by. It may test your patience too if employees don’t respond to your encouraging words and fail to be galvanised by a spate of redundancies.

Moreover, it becomes apparent whether a CEO is able to roll up their sleeves and bring in fresh sales as opposed to tut-tutting at the monthly accounts and admonishing team leaders. Is that person capable of leading by example?
In the final analysis, if a company is to succeed, it shouldn’t be because a CEO has had to do it all on their own. The onus will be on them, however, to encourage, compliment and motivate those people who are delivering, and to keep a close on eye on those who like to blame everyone and everything else for a lack of results.