You’ve taken a look at the balance sheet and your company has lost more than $1 billion in revenue from the previous year. What do you do?
If you’re Brett Good, president of the Southern California district for Robert Half International Inc., you face some very painful decisions. Good manages a small part of Robert Half and not the entire $3.2 billion specialized staffing firm. But he still felt the pressure to demonstrate leadership.
First, he had to get over his own frustration about what was happening.
“I remember sitting one day and just ticking through my head the amount of market capitalization that had disappeared over the course of three or four months,” Good says. “I got up to over $100 billion in market cap and decided I was making myself depressed and just stopped counting.”
Good, who has about 200 employees in his district, had spent enough time wallowing. It was time to make those decisions and do what had to be done to survive. He knew he had to start with his own demeanor.
“I think about the pilot who landed the jet in the Hudson River,” Good says. “He was such a consummate professional. He was poised through that whole crisis. He averted disaster just because of that poise and calmness and the way he approached that situation. When faced with crisis, calm and poise is important.”
If you’re going to get the root of what needs to be done in your business, you can’t have people who are afraid to deliver bad news to you.
“Quite candidly, you want to hear the bad news more than the good news because those represent the areas of opportunity within an organization,” Good says.
As you begin the process of feedback, you need to go out of your way to show that you haven’t already made up your mind.
“People at all levels can contribute to a really good idea,” Good says. “A lot of times, they are so much closer to the problem or the opportunity that they can provide insight that you simply don’t have if you are removed by multiple layers.”
Good recalled discussions he had at Robert Half about reducing variable expenses and cutting costs. When he met with people to discuss possible steps, his attention was on that meeting.
“You’re going to have an important staff meeting regarding a project or cutting expenses or something important to the organization and you spend the time in that meeting checking your BlackBerry or your smartphone,” Good says. “It’s those little things that can have a big impact on the psyche of the staff. How much better would it be if you call that meeting and you say at the front end, ‘Cellphones shut down, put your iPads away. Let’s sit down and really talk about what’s going on.’”
When you feel you’ve reached a decision, you need to demonstrate commitment and belief in the choice you’re making.
“You don’t want to blindly stick to it, but be committed to it,” Good says. “If you and the people around you truly feel it’s the right decision for the organization, whether it’s disposing assets or slashing variable costs, communicate to those who are the key stakeholders what decision has been made and why it’s been made. Reinforce that decision and stick with it. Then follow up on it to make sure it’s having the desired impact on the organization.”
Good is hopeful the bottom has been reached and the economy will continue improving. But when you’re still searching for bottom, he adds that hope is not a very useful tool.
“Time is not your friend,” Good says. “The longer you take to make a decision, it usually doesn’t help the end result.”
How to reach: Robert Half International Inc., (650) 234-6000 or www.rhi.com
You may never think you’re doing enough to get your company out of danger. But working 16-hour days is usually not the answer, says Brett Good, president of the Southern California district for Robert Half International Inc.
“What I found during those really challenging times was leaning a little more heavily on the personal side,” says Good, who has about 200 employees in his district at the specialized staffing firm. “What are some things that can reinvigorate me?
“I’m blessed to have a beautiful wife and three young children. Having the opportunity to watch a tee ball game with the kids all in a mosh pile on top of a baseball and a quiet time to think about something other than the business, that’s what recharged my batteries. It allowed me to put a little perspective on what was happening around me to make those decisions.”
You can’t take the whole company on your shoulders and take all the responsibility for what needs to be done.
“Rely on the input of people around you to make the best decisions possible,” Good says. “That goes a long way with helping to develop them and it may just reaffirm what you’re already thinking, or you could get a different idea that helps you solve that problem better than you would have by yourself.”