Leading in an Economic Downturn

May 25, 2015 Tracy Cocivera

Amy, the VP of Talent Development, was frustrated that the senior leadership team decimated her budget and resigned that she was no longer able to drive the talent agenda.  Low oil prices were causing a downturn for Amy’s company and the budget cuts were understandable.  Yet, this was the time when the leaders in her organization really needed support.  Many of the leaders within Amy’s organization were facing a down turn for the first time.  These leaders were not prepared for challenges of leading during an economic crisis.  They were not skilled in restructuring, laying people off, dealing with continual ambiguity and scarce resources, merging cultures, and driving performance with a skeleton team.

They needed to be resilient, to communicate effectively, to lead through change, and keep their employees engaged and achieving business results.  Yet as more layoffs occurred fear and suspicion were increasing.  It was becoming increasingly hard to get work done.  Trust was eroding and departments were increasingly protecting their resources.  For her organization to survive through this down turn, Amy knew she needed to find a cost effective solution to help these leaders.  Amy called me and I introduced the idea of Group Coaching.  It fit within her reduced budget and could support all of her senior leaders. 

In small groups of 4-6, senior leaders from different departments worked together with our coaches over 6 months.  These leaders engaged in bi-weekly 90-minute group coaching sessions over the phone, which provided maximum flexibility and cost effectiveness.  During these sessions, each group of leaders openly discussed pre-arranged topics selected by them and ad hoc issues, including how to have courageous conversations, how to build resilience in their teams, and how to integrate two or more teams. 

As these senior leaders shared their challenges and successes, our coaches facilitated the group coaching process to deepen their learning by sharing effective and relevant strategies and tools, and providing a forum in which the leaders could learn from and help each other.  Skeptical in the beginning, the senior leaders benefited greatly from their group coaching sessions.  They increased their teams’ performance, they successfully engaged their disenfranchised employees, increased cross-functional collaboration, and found innovative ways to lead with scarce resources.  They also built a strong community of leaders who will continue to lean on each other for future coaching and help. 

Five months after the Group Coaching Process was launched, Amy was ecstatic.  There were many signs that her organization was turning around, even though the economy was still a concern.  Results were continuing to improve, employees were more engaged, and there was a renewed optimism across the organization.  Amy admitted that in the beginning she had concerns that Group Coaching would fail, but after the organizational transformation she experienced she is a strong advocate.

What are your experiences with Group Coaching?  How are you using the power of Group Coaching within you organizations?  

About the Author

Tracy Cocivera

Dr. Tracy Cocivera is a Business Psychologist and a Principal with Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge Leadership Solutions. For over 12 years, Tracy has contributed to the success of leaders and their teams across many industries, including retail, technology, financial services, and energy and natural resources From established executives to emerging executives, Tracy partners with her clients to help them manage their organization and their careers in order to achieve significant business results.

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