< Back to Leadrly blog

Leading beyond downsizing – conversations matter

Paul Stewart
Paul Stewart
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

In recent weeks we’ve been speaking with a lot of leaders who have faced, or are facing, significant cuts in head count as their organisations work through a ‘cost-out’ process required by their stakeholders.

Leading beyond downsizing – conversations matter

It’s an incredibly challenging experience for leaders, and their teams. It can feel brutal and unfair.

Firstly, to work through the processes that are necessary to understand the impact that these resource cuts will affect. Inevitably that compromises the focus and plans the leader and (previous) team has developed and, no doubt, has been striving towards.  The compromises required will, almost inevitably, leave an indelibly negative feeling.      

Secondly, to manage the emotional dynamics of team members directly impacted. Ironically, against stakeholder’s expectation that they ‘just’ need ‘to do more with less’, there is less, in some cases much less, being achieved due at this time due to these distractions. So, now many have fallen further behind and feeling more pressure to make up lost ground.  And, with a team that is feeling disconnected, less aligned and somewhat demotivated and anxious about their own roles.    

The sense and reality that more needs to be achieved with less can be overwhelming. And the temptation to just make sure ‘everyone has their head down and are not wasting any time’ can easily take over. That’s not likely to be a good recipe for success.

"Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge."
– Simon Sinek

People and prioritisation are key here.  Not just in terms of prioritising the ‘work’ to be done, but also in effectively engaging the ‘new team’ and its dynamics. Rebuilding an emotional state, working towards a positive team climate, underpinned by a sense of purpose is the hallmark of the leader needed during this time.    

However, under pressure, there’s a risk that leaders underestimate the value of good, regular conversations with their teams. Even those that see them as important, may not consider them urgent. Yet, there’s foundational work to be done if they are to get the most from the people they have. As teams change, one role of a leader is to build back, and build up, their teams.  

Fortunately, the tools and support available today, such as Leadrly, can help take a lot of the pain away.  

The first 100 days

By focusing on some critical areas, leaders can effectively navigate the challenges of a team restructure, rebuild a cohesive and motivated team, and set the foundation for future success.  

The first 100 days are a pivotal period in any key change, which team and service reduction is one example.  It’s an important time for establishing trust, setting clear expectations, and fostering a collaborative and productive team environment, whether it’s a new team, new leader or reassigned group. A leader needs to consider:

Care about getting connected

Building meaningful connection at the outset is critical. Not just in terms of the goals and objectives of the business and the function.  

Team connection – peer to peer and between leader and team members is the foundation on which sustainably good performance will be built. What makes each person tick? what’s important for them to be at their best? What knowledge and experience can we tap into?  How are people feeling about the current situation? These are all very important conversation points.

Reassess and Realign Goals

With fewer resources, previous goals may no longer be realistic. It's essential to reassess the team's objectives and set achievable targets.  

Engage with your team to understand their capabilities and constraints and realign your strategy to reflect the current situation. Engage with key stakeholders, especially those who you are unlikely to be able to deliver to as well as you could previously.  

Establish Consistent Communication Practices

Regular and meaningful dialogue is important during times of change. Be transparent about the reality of the downsizing and how it will affect the team's operations. This includes things you’ll be stopping - or starting.

Share your vision for moving forward and engage the team around the opportunities that exist within this challenge. With every challenge, there is opportunity. This helps to build trust and focus.

Foster a Collaborative Culture

Work on getting everyone connected with each other. It’s during tough times that your culture and support is most evident. Encourage team members to support each other and look for ways to work more collaboratively. This is the time that listening to how others are feeling is important.  

Consider how to use active coaching across the team to ensure that remaining staff can cover and manage essential functions. Think about greater use of collaborative tools to streamline communication and project management.

Good conversations at the core

It’s clear that good conversations between leaders and their teams, and across teams are vital for enhancing engagement, alignment, collaboration, performance, and innovation. And never more so than when navigating the period beyond a restructure.    

Well performing teams and organisations are all underpinned by a discipline of regular, consistent routines and practices. While they may vary from organisation to organisation and may be wrapped up in different process methodologies and ways of working, they are universally underpinned by meaningful conversations.  

In times like these, good leaders double down on engagement with their people through genuine dialogue. Leadership is a conversation.  

For those needing support around these types of conversations, effective virtual assistance – on the job, always on-hand – is now here.  It’s called Leadrly.  

Related posts

Transform your leadership conversations with Leadrly

Book a demo

Get started today.