Managing in Turbulent Times

Managing in Turbulent

Times: Leading Your

Employees through


A.J. Hyland, Carl Dill,and Jim Wanner,

I. Think Positive

Even the worst of times can present

certain opportunities.

II. Save Money and Morale

If you’re faced with cutting costs, look

at trimming things your employees and

customers won’t miss, but don’t rule out

more drastic solutions.

III. Must-Have Qualities for

a Leader’s Support Team

Staying cool, anticipating problems and

being willing to work harder in tough

times are essential characteristics for

your executive team.

IV. The Golden Rules of

Communication in Tough Times

Be honest, be clear and be quick to

keep employees updated.

V. Essential Take-Aways

If you have a clear plan to deal with

changes caused by upheaval in the

marketplace and you effectively communicate

that plan to the staff, you will

be in a good position to survive and

even thrive in turbulent times.


#1 C'est Moi on 12.14.08 at 1:09 pm

Management gurus always sound good: they say things which appear matter of fact make good common sense and the language used is meant to cover their tracks.

Leading the Organization During Uncertain Times
By Lilli Friedland, PhD, ABPP

A few years ago, the economy was booming, CEOs were given broad powers, and organizational boards
were typically friendly with executives. In the 1990s, executives had free-rein with their organizations. The
downturn in economy and movement toward accountability of leadership since 2000 resulted in a new
atmosphere of insecurity and ambiguity. Frequently even in robust companies, the necessary
components to handle uncertain situations break down among the executives with one another, the staff,
the board, and other stakeholders. Executives are expected to be models of adaptability and fortitude in
uncertain times. C-level leadership (i.e., CEOs, COOs, and CFOs) is demanded to respond effectively to
unforeseen global economic envelopments in high stakes environments. Business psychologists assist
executives to assess their changing roles and expand appropriate responses to the new challenges.
When necessary, consulting psychologists promote resilience training for leaders and organizations.
Conceptually, there have typically been two types of leadership: green-light (i.e., openness to risk, new
ideas, and spending) used during good economic times; and red-light (i.e., applying the brakes) for times
of crisis or turnaround. Both leadership types have charismatic leaders who set goals and use behavioral
tools to achieve their goals (Pasternack & O’Toole, 2002). Research indicates that during times of
uncertainty, successful executives lead their companies in a yellow-light mode; i.e., strong leaders who
exercise cautious, thoughtful assessment before taking actions and risks (Waldman, et al., 2001).
Uncertainty elicits instability and insecurity in organizations’ cultures and staff. By reframing these
situations, psychologists help executives view these situations as opportunities for growth and innovation.
Based on studies showing that conditions of uncertainty are the norm for pioneering radical change,
psychologists assist leaders and organizations to shift their desires for stability and predictability into
attitudes of acceptance, valuing innovation and cautious risk taking (Coutou, 2003; Zimmerman & Zeitz,
2002). Effective executives, frequently coached by psychologists, have expanded their leadership styles
to become more flexible and capable of leading the organization into new directions (Goleman, 2000).
Openness to examining current practices and the thoughtful assessment of new ideas is essential to
yellow light leaders’ evaluation of risk. Long-term successful companies frequently experience difficulty
examining current practices that have brought them success. Psychologists coach executives to promote
organization-wide practices of questioning practices and prudent risks. One way to promote divergent
thinking is by identifying and valuing individuals within the organization who provoke questions and
change. These individuals are called tempered radicals; i.e., individuals often at odds with the dominant
culture who want the organization to succeed, yet raise issues and ideas to ‘better’ the organization
(Meyerson, D., 2001).
Consultants increase the alertness/mindfulness of executives to identify even weak signals that may
foreshadow problems and the need for change (Coutou, 2003). With training provided by psychologists,
they encourage leaders and organizations to learn from mistakes, create environments that are based
upon the complex nature of change, and encourage divergent thinking.
External Factors
Long term business success creates personal and organizational forces that frequently develop cautious
conservatism and complacency, even arrogance toward alternative ways of doing things. One way to
offset this type of inertia is by developing a strong Board (Conger, et al., 2001). A good board provides a
counter-balance to potential traps to which a successful CEO may fall victim. Psychologists facilitate
Board training, criteria to evaluate Boards and Board members, and promote constructive collaboration
between Boards and executives.
Effects on Internal Organization
Disruptive or chaotic situations frequently affect an organization’s workforce by lowering morale,
increasing absenteeism and sick leave, heightened stress and uncertainty, loss of key staff, and lowered
productivity. Executive management typically experiences increased scrutiny, pressures for immediate
responses, difficulties retaining key staff, loss of confidence, and demoralization of the stakeholders.
Leadership needs to adopt productive solutions to these critical unsettling situations. Coping with
disruptive changes, building resilience, and becoming a source of positive motivation can occur while the
leaders develop and use their own personal strategies to deal with their intense feelings and the difficult
experience. Managing the emotional distress, while at the same time being a source of strength and
stability for others, involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be developed, often with the
assistance of I/O psychologists.
Placing value on the people in the organization is top priority for enhancing the flexibility and malleability
of the organization. Psychologists have assisted companies in developing programs and measurements
of policies that value and develop their employees. Companies who effectively select, develop, and retain
stars are more successful (Lorsch. & Tierney, 2002). Successful, knowledgeable people can learn new
competencies and improve their openness and adaptability to innovation (Christiensen & Overdorf, 2000).
Adaptability to change and openness to innovation needs to involve all functions and all levels of an
organization, be valued and rewarded, and become an essential part of the company’s culture (Hipple, et
al., 2002).
Expect Resistance
It is human nature for people to continue doing things the way they have been doing things. When
disruptive change occurs, most people feel unsure about their jobs, experience intense emotions,
withdraw emotionally, and feel depressed, frustrated, or angry. These behaviors and attitudes produce
lowered productivity, and the insecurities contribute to resistance to changes which are unfamiliar.
Psychologists promote management’s awareness of resistance, and promote practices necessary to
reduce it.
Business psychologists promote personal and organizational growth by: developing prudent risk-taking
attitudes in management; facilitate strategic planning and measurement practices; train and measure
effectiveness of Boards and Board members; identifying resistance; promote positive attitudes in the
organization’s culture toward change; and show the economic value added (EVA) in adopting healthy
human resources (HR) practices.
Christiensen, C.& Overdorf, M. (2000). Managing the Challenge of Disruptive Change, Harvard Business
Review, 78, 66-76.
Conger, J., Lawler III, E., & Finegold, D. (2001). Corporate boards: new strategies for adding value at the
top. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Coutou, D. (2003). Sense and reliability: A conversation with celebrated psychologist Karl Weick. Harvard
Business Review, 81 84-90.
Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership that Gets Results. Harvard Business Review, 78, 78-90.
Hipple, J., Hardy, D., Wilson, S., & Michalski, J. (2002). Back to the Future: Putting Innovation Efforts on
Solid Ground. Leadership in Action, vol. 22:1,
Lorsch, J, & Tierney, T. (2002). Aligning the stars: How to succeed when professionals drive result.
Harvard Business School Press: Boston.
Meyerson, D. (2001) Tempered radicals: How people use differences to inspire change at work. Harvard
Business School Press: Boston.
Pasternack, B.A. & O’Toole, J. (2002). Yellow-Light leadership: How the world’s best companies manage
uncertainty. Booz Allen Hamilton: McLean, Virginia.
Waldman, D., Ramirez, G., House, R., & Puranam, P. (2001) Does leadership matter? CEO leadership
attributes and profitability under conditions of perceived environmental uncertain. Academy of
Management Journal, 44 134-143.
Zimmerman, M. & Zeitz, G. (2001) Beyond survival: Achieving new venture growth by building legitimacy.
Academy of Management Review, 27, 414-431.

Lilli Friedland, PhD, ABPP is a Diplomate in clinical psychology and has a credential from the UCLA
School of Management. She is president of Executive Advisors, an executive consulting company. She
currently serves on the APA Council of Representatives, and is Chair of CPA Division III
(Industrial/Organizational Psychology). She has served on APA’s Structure and Function Committee and
Public Information Committee. Dr. Friedland also served as a governor-appointed member of the
California Board of Psychology.

#2 joseph on 12.14.08 at 5:15 pm

Wow thanks! I am Chinese born , so I am going for Yellow light leadership. Yellow is not only the colour assigned to our race, it is also the colour of the Emperors of China in the ancient days. Hahahahaha

#3 C'est Moi on 12.15.08 at 2:13 am

Yellow has also many other connotations, some not so pleasant.

Yellow may refer to somebody with no guts who is afraid to act, as one may be yellow with fear.

The color is associated with age and aging, both with people and objects (e.g. yellowed-paper).

The term yellow is associated at times with jealousy (compare green with envy)

The Yellow Turbans were a Daoist sect that staged an extensive rebellion during the Han Dynasty.

“Yellow journalism” was sensationalist journalism that distorts, exaggerates, or exploits news to maximize profit. The term came from Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal American, who engaged in sensational reporting during the late 19th and early 20th century, most famously during the Spanish-American War. The term was derived from the color comic strip The Yellow Kid, which appeared in both papers.

An educated Chinese is a “banana”, yellow on the outside, but white on the inside (thinks and talks like a white man)

In Association football (soccer), the referee shows a yellow card to indicate that a player has been officially cautioned.

In some countries (eg US; New York), taxicabs are commonly yellow.

In Canada and the United States, school buses are almost uniformly painted a yellow color (often referred to as “school bus yellow”) for purposes of visibility and safety.

Of course,in business, we always look at yellow pages to locate companies.

The Yellow Ribbon Project seeks to engage the community in giving ex-offenders a second chance at life. It hopes to inspire a ripple effect of concerted community action to support ex-offenders and their families. Does this happen in Mauritius?

Yellow Submarine” is a 1966 song by The Beatles (credited to Lennon/McCartney, though written by Paul McCartney), which was recorded by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr

Yellow Dog Linux, also YDL, is a free-software, open-source operating system for the Sony PlayStation 3, PowerPC 970- and POWER5-based IBM System p workstations and servers (including IBM 510/520/540 and IBM JS20/21), and PowerPC G4- and G5-based Apple Macintosh computers. Developed by Loveland, Colorado (USA)-based Terra Soft Solutions

Yellow Dog Democrats were voters in the U.S. Southern states who consistently voted for Democratic candidates. The term arose from the notion that loyal Southern Democrats would vote for a yellow dog before voting for a Republican

Of course, we have yellow fever, bilious yellow, and there is the maillot jaune: In cycle racing, the yellow jersey – or maillot jaune – is awarded to the leader in a stage race. The tradition was begun in the Tour de France where the sponsoring L’Auto newspaper (later L’Équipe) was printed on distinctive yellow newsprint.

Yellow Tail (officially typeset [ yellow tail ][1]) is a brand of wine produced by Casella Wines Pty Ltd. Casella wines is based in Yenda, Australia, which has a population of approximately 1000 people

*In International maritime signal flags a yellow flag denotes the letter “Q”. It also means a ship asserts that it does not need to be Quarantined.

The Yellow River is called “the cradle of Chinese civilization”, as its basin is the birthplace of the northern Chinese civilizations and is the most prosperous region in early Chinese history. But frequent devastating flooding largely due to the elevated river bed in its lower course, has also earned it the unenviable name “China’s Sorrow”.

Editor Writes: I absolutely love cheese but I must confess I never wondered about the difference between the colour of milk and cheese. I have also seen some fairly white cheese for the records but of course there is a logical answer to every question that falls within the human scope of knowledge and here it is.

Cheese is often pale yellow or white. This is because milk contains a yellow pigment, which is gotten from the grass cows and goats eat. When cheese is made, the liquid part of milk is removed, leaving the solids behind. The yellow colour stays with the solids, resulting in a more yellow colour in cheese, compared to milk.

There are some cheeses though, that have added colouring into them. This website [] has a list of cheeses and their ingredients. Bring your cursor over “Cheese FAQ” and click on “Cheese ingredients”.

#4 joseph on 12.16.08 at 11:25 am

Nice dissertation on Yellow.
Many thanks. I am sure that you realised how that the yellow stint is lasting even on the population despite the metissage over several generations. Tahiti more so that Mauritius are areas of Metissage par excellence.

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