Julie Grass


And Don’t Mess With Mr. In-Between


By Julie Grass  


Management Consulting + Training



6 Tips For Combating “The Sky Is Falling” Thinking

  1. Step up your communication. Be visible and accessible. Walk around and check in with people.

  2. Project realistic optimism. Be aware of the messages you are sending both verbally and with body language.

  3. Give people the added skills and knowledge they need to do work that has been assigned to them because of reductions in workforce.

  4. Engage staff in finding solutions and making improvements for the future. It suggests that there will indeed be a future.

  5. Look for company successes to publicize and give individuals recognition whenever possible. Come together as a community to celebrate.

  6. Get to know your staff as individuals; what they are interested in, what they think about. These are your future leaders and you want to know who they are.


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In the words of lyricist Johnny Mercer, effective leaders know that in difficult times “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative”.


Winning leaders, all eyes are on you! Clients and employees are reading your faces and looking for clues about what’s coming next.  “Are we turning the corner yet?”  “Will we still be here next year?”  “Are there more layoffs coming?’  “Am I next?”


Everyone knows that this is a rough economy, so there is no use denying the struggle.  At best, it’s unrealistic and at worst it is perceived as condescending and dismissive. 


Let me introduce you to a client of mine who is using this time to her advantage and refocusing her employees on “the positive.”


Jennifer is the CEO of a marketing firm.  She works primarily with professional firms and not-for-profits.  Impacted like everyone else, she reluctantly laid off 12 employees (a third of her group) in January.  Soon after, she noticed her remaining staff was so uptight about their job security that they were missing deadlines and often just missing the point.


The last thing she could afford was a partial workforce that was paralyzed.


We met and brainstormed – the process was so energizing and engaging that it was pretty obvious: this was precisely the kind of unedited, dynamic interaction her staff needed.  So, Jennifer formed a creative employee think-tank, which she dubbed, “Innovate Today For Tomorrow” (ITFT). 


She dedicated a room and deliberately made the inside look like no other office.  No desk.  No office chairs.  No white walls.  She hauled in a couch from a storage closet and found a couple free comfy chairs on Craig’s List.  She threw cushy pillows on the floor and stocked a small fridge with sodas and juices.


And then she started publicizing her idea.  ITFT would meet with her every Wednesday from 1 – 2:30.  There would be a specific concept or process to kick around each week.  Everyone would be welcome and employees most directly involved with that area would be asked to attend.  At the end of the discussion, ideas would be collected and assigned to individuals to explore further.


The first ITFT topic was, “What opportunities do we have that we are not taking advantage of?”  One week ahead, Jennifer posted the question in the lobby, in the restrooms, by the back door and in the lounge area.  She hung butcher-block paper on the corridor walls and dangled permanent markers inviting people to write down their thoughts.  The day of the meeting, she collected all of the ideas and posted them on the walls of the “think” room.  By the time people arrived, they were jazzed.


So what goodies did Jennifer yield from her first ITFT?

  • She refocused her employees’ energy from ‘the sky is falling’ to the more positive and empowering, ‘we can do things better’.

  • She got to know each employee in a more individual way, to listen for potential leaders and to watch group dynamics.

  • The group came up with 7 possible opportunities to pursue.

  • The 3 top ideas were parceled out to key individuals to explore further. They were captured on action plans so everyone was clear about responsibilities and deadlines.

  • Staff learned new tools: brainstorming, multi-voting, action-planning and accountability.

  • Throughout the following week, employees emailed her other issues to tackle, ranging from  “How can we educate our existing clients about other services we can provide them?” to “Where can we cut costs without impacting quality?”.

  • The doors of communication were wide open.  Staff started feeling more connected, more focused on a future, and more invested in their work.

Now back to you.  Can you relate to Jennifer’s plight?  Would you rather have a root canal than walk into your office and be greeted by the same malaise, frustration, paralysis and lack of focus?  


If so, how about trying to Innovate Today For Tomorrow at your business?  Here are some topics you might start with:

  • What additional services that we offer can we sell to current clients?

  • Where are the holes or bottlenecks that slow us down and how can we eliminate them?

  • What other businesses/organizations might we collaborate with for cost savings?


'We would love to hear your insights and how your organization is managing this economy.


If you have questions or thoughts to share, please drop us a line at Julie@TheMomentumGroup.biz