This article features Sarah Yeverovich, Empowered Staffing’s Co-Founder on Forbes.com
Progress in business is rarely linear. Often, the entrepreneurial journey is like a roller coaster, and most companies face significant ups and downs along the ride.
These critical turning points—whether it’s a shift in business focus or a team restructuring—are necessary for survival. However, these big changes impact every person involved, at every level. As a business leader, it’s up to you to help your team weather the storm. Here’s how 10 Young Entrepreneur Council members recommend maintaining employees’ trust in times of upheaval.
Members of Young Entrepreneur Council share advice for maintaining employees' trust and engagement during times of significant change at your business.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF YEC MEMBERS.
1. Hold Yourself To A High Standard As A Leader
In all the best-performing companies I’ve worked for, the leaders have had extremely high expectations, they have communicated hard feedback consistently and they have held themselves to those same standards. That is the key to weathering a storm. Everyone has to know what is expected of them and know it is a lot. Employees will inevitably fail and make mistakes, but this becomes a strengthening exercise when leaders deal with it imminently and in the daylight. Finally, the best leaders lead from the front and take on these seemingly impossible tasks themselves. That role model transcends across the team and is how we achieve incredible things. “Nice” is the death of survival. - Codie Sanchez, Cresco Capital Partners
2. Increase Your Communication Frequency
One thing I’ve learned along the way is that your ability to communicate changes early and often can make all of the difference in how your decisions land. Sometimes, reaching out to team members individually can give them a chance to ask questions they wouldn’t ask in a company meeting or to have their feelings heard. It’s also a good idea to reiterate why certain things are changing and to continue to paint the long-term vision of the company. When everyone knows where we’re going, it’s easier to maintain trust and to enroll everyone in the bigger vision. - Nathalie Lussier, AccessAlly
3. Reconnect With Your Brand And Mission
As the managing partner of a global personal and corporate branding firm, I’ve helped lead our company through change, including expanding to new markets and pursuing new types of clients, such as Silicon Valley tech leaders. The most important thing to maintain trust is to build a very strong brand that not only clients, but your team, can connect to and rally around, and make sure that the changes you are making are in service of that brand. Your team will be able to navigate turbulence as long as they know that they are part of a mission that has great meaning and purpose. Sometimes, it is not easy to see how changes really do reinforce your brand, so take the time to message your decisions internally. - Beth Doane, Main & Rose
4. Address Rumors Head On
In a period of downsizing, rumors are sure to start flying. But a good leader will put a stop to the rumor mill in order to maintain employees’ trust. Make sure your entire team has all of the information they need at once by holding a company meeting. By giving them all of the information at the same time, it should help to avoid starting up the rumor mill. In addition, if you hear any rumors that are rapidly spreading, you should address them. Putting them out in the open and dispelling them will show your team that you won’t put up with false information and that they can come to you if they have concerns. - Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
5. Open The Lines Of Communication
Keeping the lines of communication open with all employees (whether you have one employee or a thousand employees) and keeping them informed of each critical phase of the challenging times will help increase trust and minimize panic. Whenever we go through rough times, I keep my team informed of what my plans are. If I do have to downsize or eliminate a position, I will let the employee know as early in advance as possible so they have time to make other plans without panic. It’s only fair to give them fair warning. - Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Fem Founder
6. Be Vulnerable And Genuine
Trust needs to be built (and demonstrated) over time. It starts by being genuine, honest and transparent. Set a company culture from the top down where you are vulnerable and genuine, so people know they can trust you. Admit your mistakes and weaknesses and accept critical feedback from your team. Err on the side of transparency and be honest about what’s working and what’s not, even if it’s a hard message to deliver. Make sure the team knows the “why” of the company and that you are committed to making the best decisions for the whole. My team knows that we are in this together—that I will not abandon them or leave them in the dark. We win and lose together. Showing this pattern of honesty and transparency over time will garner trust when you need it at critical moments of change. - Frances Dewing, Rubica Inc.
7. Focus On Solutions, Not Blame
I go by one rule: Be clear, be honest and talk about solutions, not blame. When things are going haywire, I’ve seen leaders start pulling teams apart by pointing fingers and placing blame. There is a difference between saying, “This is what is happening and why,” and, “This happened and it’s all so-and-so’s fault.” All this does is cause more unrest and mistrust in a time when your team needs to be able to trust you. Resist the temptation to point fingers and focus on the facts while encouraging the team to think about how to grow stronger together. That’s leadership. - Benish Shah, Loop & Tie
8. Over-Communicate On Everything
Communication is essential for successfully running any business, but particularly during times of change. Whenever expectations, roles, location or systems shift, there can be an uptick in stress experienced by employees who are uncertain about the permanence of their position or unclear about a new role in the company. To quell unease, over-communicate and ensure your employees know they can come to you with any questions or concerns. - Kelley Weaver, Melrose PR
9. Speak To The Future
Unite the company in speaking about being a team. A lot of the time you can’t disclose everything that happened due to legality, so instead of talking about what was, what happened and why it happened, talk about what will be. “Moving forward as a united team, we’re going to build a culture that is trustworthy and dependable. We need your help. We need to work together.” Include actionable change, such as new policies and/or processes. This way you’re essentially addressing what the problems were by leading with the solutions. This also builds trust because you’re safeguarding from this happening again. Less is more. Be concise. Be thoughtful. - Kerry Guard, MKG Marketing
10. Remind Employees That They Are Valued
It is always best to be open with employees and address the company’s goals and future plans when a critical turning point or downsizing occurs. You do not want your current employees to get fearful and start looking for positions elsewhere. Sharing how the event is actually better for the company and going over future plans are key. If you act weird about the situation and are not open, it can lead to a loss in trust and morale. Your employees will be more likely to stay and feel they are a significant part of the company when you take the time to explain the situation and even have one-on-ones. If you have a strong partnership with your employees and they feel they are being valued and trusted, they will step up and help the company prosper when changes like this occur. - Sarah Yeverovich, Empowered Staffing