Picture this: Your business — the legacy that you’ve worked so hard to bring to life — is in a period of turbulence. You’ve maintained a level head, you’ve done all that you can to reduce non-people-related expenses, but you have no choice but to continue to make cuts. And that means that you’re going to have to let some people go.
You’ve gone through the exercise of assessing your entire staff’s dedication to the business’s mission, vision, and values, and their exemplification of belief, operational effectiveness, and leadership in the organization.
Through this process, you’ve identified your essential and non-essential team members, and have privately held one-on-one discussions with those whom you’ve chosen to let go, due to their not meeting the standards associated with the business’s goals.
Now, it’s time to meet with the rest of your team, those who you have identified as your top contributors and the ones who will be crucial to making the contributions that will push the business beyond its current state of disarray, and into yet another phase of innovation, growth, and profitability. This is your 10X team. Or, they can be, if you handle this conversation correctly.
Stick the landing, and this is the team that is going to catapult your business forward. Handle it with anything less than grace, vision, and positive influence, and you just might find yourself a leader without any followers, which is to say, not a leader at all.
There is a process you can use to more effectively navigate this crucial conversation. Make sure you give yourself and the team plenty of time to host this all-team meeting, but not for you, for them. It’s not complicated, but it can be tricky. Be prepared. So, before you have this all hands on deck meeting, make sure you follow these essential steps in unifying your team in a time of crisis.
Address the layoffs
Spend no longer than ten minutes on this topic. It’s very likely that the team is already well aware of what is going on, but they need to hear this news directly from you, and they need to understand why this decision was made. Don’t dance around the subject. Address it immediately. Let them know it wasn’t easy to do. Don’t try to save face. Be open about your emotions, but just be sure to not make this announcement about you — it’s about the “we.”
Listen, you don’t need to share your social security number with the team, but the more transparent you can be with them about what has happened, why it’s happening, and the plan moving forward, the better you’ll be at stabilizing the situation. Emotions might be high. Your transparency will build much-needed trust that will ultimately temper emotions, allowing you all to focus on the work.
Be clear about the business’s financial health in this discussion and during this period of turbulence overall. Hard decisions will be easier to process, and the team will have a deeper understanding of how their contributions will get the business to a healthier place. Spend no more than five minutes on this topic.
Share the vision
This is your opportunity to spend ten minutes providing vision and inspiration to the team. The business is facing an emergency. You’ve just had to let staff go. Why should they follow you? You need to deeply consider this part of the meeting, to the point where you’ve not only thought about what you’re going to say, but you’ve actually spent time rehearsing your message.
Show strength. Show confidence. Be optimistic. Paint a picture of the business’s opportunities and help them understand why they are the ones who can achieve its goals. Build up their confidence by sharing how you identified top talent. They’re the A-team. They should feel it.
State your Commitment
This is an unstable time. You’re asking these people to stay committed to you, and, in turn, it’s only fair that you communicate what your commitment to them is. Spend about five minutes describing how you’re committed to transparency, making sacrifices as a team (and how that includes you), and reviewing the business’s core values together.
Ask for Their Commitment
If you have a smaller team, fewer than twenty, let’s say, you can make this a five-minute discussion about team commitment in a group conversation format. With larger teams, it’s better to ask them to showcase their commitment through showing up each and every day and doing their best work.
Share the Execution Plan
It’s difficult to put a time element to this, as it’s dependent on what type of turbulence you’re facing, but now is the time to share what your strategic pathway is. If there are still some outstanding data points that need to be gathered and communicated, then that’s fine. Just make certain that you follow up and share you’ve promised to. Now is the time to make good on your word, even in those seemingly small moments. Be accountable.
Take questions. Provide answers.
Open up the floor to your team, and take as much time as you need to answer all of their questions. Come prepared with questions that you would ask if you were in their position. This will help break the ice if they’re shy about getting the ball rolling. They might feel intimidated. They’ll probably feel unsafe, since some of their colleagues were let go. Encourage them to ask hard questions or create ways in which they can ask questions anonymously so they can feel totally comfortable. Also encourage them to speak with their direct supervisors. Have an FAQ before this meeting that can be amended and go out directly after the group discussion. This is another way to show that you’re taking transparency seriously.
Taking no more than two to three minutes, provide a summary and communicate action items that will happen after the meeting, including those that pertain to the execution plan. Thank them for being your A-team and their continued commitment to the mission. Rally them. And then get back to work!