Leadership through a difficult situation | The Financial Express

Leadership through a difficult situation

Let me try to take an example of a difficult situation that I have seen through, try to observe…

Let me try to take an example of a difficult situation that I have seen through, try to observe what we did well and not so well and then try and come up with a framework that hopefully you can take-away from this article.

One such situations which is distant enough to talk about and also close enough that it still carries meaning is from the early 2000’s when we were still in the early stages of entrepreneurship at EBprovider, which later became Induslogic which later became GlobalLogic. We had had a really good 2000 as far as entrepreneurship goes. We had assembles a fantastic engineering team here in India, we raised venture money even as the market crashed had happened, the space we were in at the time – B2B integration was red hot and everything seemed to be going for us. However, second half of 2001 really pulled out the rug from under us. We spent too much money in building the product, but there were no takers, we were running out of money, venture funding had completely dried up and then 9/11 happened. I still remember we actually had management meeting on 9/11 near Washington DC, which is where we were headquatered and the planes hit really just miles away from where we were.

We had the following tasks in front of us:
* Cut the costs to a bare minimum to be able to stretch our already waning resources

* Find a new strategy / new business to pursue that could start providing us some cashflows
* Somehow find some bridge funding to see us through.
* Bolster our team with more market facing people.

As it turned out, during those months of Sept/Oct, we did all this, found a great CEO, found bridge funding, found a new business which then grew solidly from there. Most importantly, we survived! By January, we were a different company. Here is what I think we did well:

* We moved quickly and decisively. I was heading our team in India at the time and we had to reduce costs. I remember we did it swiftly within a team. Whatever pain we had to swallow we did it quickly.

* We worked well as a team: We took the whole company into confidence and I recall several employees took deep cuts to support the company. We also worked well as a team between US and India where everyone did their bit.
* We kept our chin up: More about this a little later, but we found a way to keep our belief.
* We capitalized on new opportunities quickly: We were interviewing a new CEO candidate and we brought him on board whatever it took.

There are probably many things that we didn’t do well but my sense is that we got the important ones right. Let me see if I can derive some lessons from this situation for you to carry with you.

Keep a positive, forward-looking spirit: This was the secret of us keeping our chin up. You cannot lead through a difficult situation if you get into blame games and post-mortems. That is for later. The key is to focus on “what you can do today”. So you have to very much stay in the present. You can control what you do today to the best of your ability and that’s the best place to focus on.

Face up to the situation and move swiftly: We all like to avoid a difficult situation. We procrastinate. However, if you let the cavity be, it will go from requiring a filling to requiring a root canal to require an extraction! Swift and decisive action will not only help you but all the stakeholders involved. Limbo is bad for everyone.

Work as a team: Difficult situations need team to pull together. You can’t be second-guessing each other. Working with all the stakeholders is critical. This requires intent, planning and communication. Over-communication in these situations is often better than under-communication.

Embrace Change: Often as you come out of a difficult situation, a new reality and a new state of affairs ensues. This may require you writing off old investments, moving forward with a new order. It’s critical that as you spot this new order, you embrace it and make it your own. You can’t think of sunk cost here, you have to think of opportunities going forward.

I think the silver lining in leading through a difficult situation is that you discover yourself more as a leader and grow as a leader as a result. It provides an unparalleled opportunity in that regard.

By Rajul Garg, Director at Sunstone Business School

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.