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Keeping Morale Up in a Downturn

In tough times, leaders can't afford to be anything but totally transparent

Our company, like many these days, is experiencing lower earnings and the termination of many good employees. How do we build morale and give workers some sense of confidence in the face of poor financial results? — Anonymous, Maryville, Tenn.

Our first piece of advice might be the hardest for you to follow, if you're a normal human being with feelings and emotions, a career of your own, and a mortgage to worry about. It concerns not something you should do right now but the one thing you must not do. And that is act scared. Yes, times are uncertain, and you're probably wondering if the bottom is here or still months away, and how it will affect everything you've worked and planned for. But as a leader, the minute fear shows on your face, you'll lose your people's positive energy, which, as you surely know, you need more than ever to get to the other side.