Eight Ways to Stay Focused in a Troubled Company

ship in stormThere’s no denying that work is much easier when your organization is flying high or your sector is booming. But working for a troubled company or in a dying industry needn’t be all bad. The challenge is recognizing the opportunities within, while keeping an eye on the exit. Here are eight tips on how to stay motivated and focused if you find yourself working in a struggling business or industry.

1. Be alert to problems. Keep an eye on what is happening, both in your business and your industry. Stay abreast of news and gossip, and be on the lookout for danger signs. There’s an assumption that technological change destroys industries, and this is sometimes true. But changes in the law, economics and even public tastes can be just as devastating. Aim to be the kind of person who sees what is around the next corner.

2. Don’t focus purely on the negatives. Try to find some perspective. Look for the things that are good about your organization and the places where you can make a difference. Adversity can often forge very strong team morale as it provides a common goal. Remember, agile companies in troubled sectors can often adapt and reinvent themselves, presenting new opportunities. If good times return, those who stay the course may be rewarded handsomely.

4. Look for opportunities within the company. Surprisingly, struggling organizations often offer a huge breadth of opportunities. Promotion can come very rapidly as senior people may leave and the firm could have trouble recruiting, or decide not to replace them. You may be asked to take on responsibilities that you’d have to wait years for in a better-resourced business.

5. Try to take a long-term view. When times are difficult, people often fall into a fire-fighting mode where they behave reactively and never think beyond the next problem. Instead, you need to ensure you make time for long-term strategy. It is long-term thinking, not short-term fixes, and that will return your organization to good health. Don’t let the “urgent” be the enemy of the “important”.

6. Think about those you manage. Be honest with your team about what is happening, but make an effort to ensure that their hard work is recognized. Even if you can’t do this financially, creating a culture of recognition and praise will do much to keep them engaged when times are tough. Bear in mind, too, how your own behavior looks. The signals you send out will have a big influence on how your team behaves.

7. Think about your own accomplishments. Keep a log of your successes, ensure your efforts are recognized, and document where you have boosted company performance. This will provide you with a record to prove that you’ve been part of the solution, not part of the problem.

8. Stress the positives.  Point to your resilience and the challenges you’ve overcome.  Resist the urge to criticize the current situation: You don’t want to come across as bitter, jaded or cynical. It’s fine to say times were tough, but be upbeat and focus on what you’ve learned.