A few years back, two colleagues and I were managing a start-up after the CEO of that company had already left at short notice, essentially abandoning us. We were tasked with gradually firing staff from the start-up due to running out of money, as we shopped ourselves around town to try to find another investor or buyer. In the end we failed, and our last action was to fire ourselves after shutting down the servers.
It was misery.
Managing decline is one of the hardest tasks that a leader needs to undertake.
I like to think of it as a journey down a stairs, one step at a time, where:
And yet when tomorrow arrives you step down one more, and your perception resets again to the above list. It is a coping mechanism.
Tomorrow seems unbearable until you must bear it, until you run out of tomorrows.
As a leader, nothing builds your character and resilience more that managing the decline of an organization.