Almost every company hits a rough patch now and then. No one knows that better than Paul Tellier, former CEO of Montreal-based transportation giant Bombardier Inc. An unforeseen spike in the Canadian dollar, coupled with a steep rise in fuel prices, led to major turbulence at the firm. Tellier is no longer with Bombardier, but he didn’t leave without learning a thing or two about how leaders should guide a firm during difficult times, which he shares with the authors of Everything I Needed to Know about Business I Learned from a Canadian by Leonard Brody and David Raffa. His best advice includes:
- Develop an appetite for the hard stuff. Seek out tough situations and embrace them. While others gravitate to low-risk roles, seek out the arduous ones and take them head-on. Don’t be afraid of change, conflict or the insurmountable challenge.
- Start by drawing a line in the sand. Ensure your leadership features a clear line of authority. (This is especially crucial when outsiders control the firm, as in the case of Bombardier.) Don’t wait for an issue to arise to confidently mark your territory.
- Don’t be a ghost. Communicate regularly with everyone in your company, in good times and bad. Ensure staff, board members and investors all know your game plan. Don’t leave them in an information vacuum, especially during crisis periods when their likely source of information could be from third parties.
- Seek company. If you have a board of directors, use it to mentor your leadership. Yes, you are ultimately accountable to these people, but when tough decisions are required, directors can be great sources of support. Also, try to find a mentor. Being a CEO is often said to be the loneliest job. Change that.
- Toughen up for the game between periods. The days of one-dimensional workaholic CEOs are over. Find ways to reduce stress and increase mental and physical toughness by working out, eating well and finding spiritual escapes.