Money is on everyone’s minds right now. It’s a high-anxiety topic wherever you are leading, whether it’s a church, business or nonprofit. As year-end approaches, as final accounting is done, and as budgets for 2009 are drawn up and reviewed, people are bound to be concerned. What should you be doing?
Leaders need to offer hope. Try putting the challenges you face in a larger framework for your people, and offer the sense that there is a way through, even if you can’t yet see it. Hope involves the belief that the anxieties of the moment are not the last word, that we can count on something more than economic values for our purpose and possibility.
Hope is not the same thing as optimism. Even hopeful leaders must be honest about the real challenges ahead. People can sense forced optimism, and on some level they know when their leaders are not being honest with them.
In recessionary times, hard choices will no doubt have to be made. Some favorite projects may not go forward. People may have to be laid off. We need to make those choices with calm, not panic, and with integrity toward both the institution and the people.
Leadership in this situation, as in so many, comes back to me: I need to manage my own anxiety and fear. If I don’t have hope, it will be hard to offer hope to others. I need to find the larger meaning and purpose for myself, remembering that it’s never only about money. I can focus on the choices I make in the moment (the only moment available to me). I can concentrate on what I can control, and that can make a difference to the outcome.
Here are five tips for dealing with money issues in a time of fear:
1. A thoughtful response is always better than a panicky one. Most decisions do not need to be made today.
2. On the other hand, a procrastinated response can be as anxious as an over-hasty one. If a decision needs to be made, make it.
3. Monitor your exposure to the media. Many news sources try to ratchet up the anxiety to get attention, and will not help you stay calm. Set limits (for example, 15 minutes of reading Internet news), and stick to them.
4. Look for the calmest people around you and spend more time with them.
5. Make a list of what you are thankful for. This practice will help you keep your perspective. Things may be difficult, but you will have enough food today.