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Leadership Presentations: Addressing Your Team When Dealing With Difficult Situations


Addressing Difficult Situations as a Leader

by Kelly Vandever

I survived the great Atlanta snowpocalypse of January 2014.

Even though we live in the metro Atlanta area, snowpocalypse wasn’t hard for me. I was working at home when the snow began to fall.

My husband’s ride home took 2 hours — it’s usual a 45 minute commute.  My son-in-law took 2.5 hours to get home.  But anyone who’s watched the national news on January 29th and January 30th, 2014 knows that they were among the lucky ones.

As we watched Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in his first press conference on Wednesday morning, we had a different reaction than NBC’s Al Roker.  We felt he, along with Governor Nathan Deal, and anyone else you want to criticize, was damned if they did or damned if they didn’t.  And when it comes to addressing the public and the media, they did as well as they could given the circumstance.


Addressing Difficult Situations as a Leader

Luckily, most of us won’t have to deal with the national spotlight on us because of a crisis gone wrong.  But chances are if you’re in a leadership role, eventually, you’ll have to address a negative situation when your staff at different points throughout your career.  How can you best handle the ugliness when it comes up?  Remember these three points.


1 – Be honest and straight-forward

Back in my corporate days, I remember when the president of our division called a division wide meeting.  I don’t remember the date but I remember it was December.  He told us that due loosing one of our major clients, there was going to be downsizing beginning the next year.

I hadn’t been in corporate America long and this was my first downsizing.  It was scary to me.

But I always appreciated that he prepared us for what was to come.

Be frank with your staff.  If you’re willing to talk to them about the hard stuff, they will have more trust and confidence in you as you go through the difficult times.


2 – Be vulnerable

Jon was my manager’s manager.  He was ticked at me for something that happened and his countenance told me he was prepared to rip me a new one.

I immediately stated my mistake and took full responsibility.  He didn’t see that coming.  After I explained what I was going to do to fix the issue, he didn’t have much else to say.  What could he say?  He knew I screwed up.  I knew I screwed up.  I was moving on to make it right.

Be willing to admit fault if you made a mistake.

Be open to being emotive when you’re impacted by that something that’s gone wrong.

By being vulnerable and showing your human side, you become more real to the group you’re leading.  If they know you’re willing to admit mistakes and show your humanness, you will prove more trustworthy in their eyes.


3 – Be encouraging

One of our vendors fired us.  We’d built a good relationship with the vendor over the years but due to some personnel issues on our side and on their side, we’d gotten to a point where our vendor was firing us.

Quite frankly, I freaked out a little bit when I heard it.  I knew how hard it had been to find this vendor and I believed they were the best provider to meet our needs.

Our leader stepped up with the calm voice of reason.  “Whatever happens, it’s going to be OK.”

I took a deep breath and realized he was right.

Even when times are bad — especially when times are bad — we need our leaders to remind us it’s going to be alright even if the worst happens.  Because it’s true.

Clients are lost.  Deals don’t close.  Sometimes people loose their jobs.

But that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.  People and organizations are resilient.  We need our leaders to encourage us through those difficult times.


Your leadership journey

I hope your leadership journey doesn’t include a ton of difficulty along the way.  But it would be naïve to think it never will.

Be straightforward, vulnerable and encouraging, in the right measure, and your team will rally around you when the road gets tough.





Kelly Vandever is a leadership and communications expert who helps leaders and organizations thrive in today’s attention-deficit, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-Facebook world.   Connect with Kelly and discover how opening up and speaking practically can bring you better business results. 

Contact Kelly by phone at 770-597-1108, email her or tweet her @KellyVandever.