What being made redundant taught me about leadership

The year was 2003, and on my way to the refinery that I (and hundreds of others) worked at, I found out that it was being shut down. And everyone would be made redundant that day. Nothing like the media getting the scoop on a story. Oh, and it was in the paper, too, on the same day. 

It was a tough day. For everyone. All my then work mates were now out of a job. 

Everyone got to work, and we calibrated. We talked through the gravity of the situation. Some people were positive about it. Others were shattered. All were now unemployed. 

People rang their loved ones, with the news. 

We were all called into a range of meetings with the GM and management team, who gave us the details. This is what would happen today. Then this happens tomorrow. That happens the next day. It was all very methodical.  

I was in middle management at the time, and unlike (sadly) some of the workers at the team level, the leaders at my level were given a little bit more time (of employment – before having to finish up), in which to obtain employment. That was positive, although it was still a crappy experience. 

The challenge for Mrs G and I was that my wage was the only one supporting our family, of one wife, two boys, and one mortgage. We were not very financial. I was 30 years old. Only having one source of income left us vulnerable.  

It was a scary time.  

Let’s look at the positives first. The company paid out our entitlements quickly. I had only been with the company for 18 months, so the pay out was not huge. The company also gave me and others at my level at least a month of employment following the redundancy decision to find a job elsewhere. 

Let’s unpack downsides of being made redundant. 

1. You have a choice how you respond 

There will be times in your life when the rug is literally pulled out from under you. When you didn’t (or might have) seen it coming. When there is just nothing you can do about it, and when you could get really down about it, or you can smile and get on with it. 

The great Stoic Philosophers had a saying that ‘it is not what happens to you, it is how you respond that matters.’ And that is so true when you get made redundant. 

From a leadership perspective, you need to be able to lead yourself first, right. Mrs G and I are both the leaders of our family, so we both needed to be strong for each other, and be ready to make the right decisions for our little family.  

That meant not dwelling on the negatives of the situation, but focusing on what we could control, and that was our response. We sat down, talked it through, and decided to pack up our family and move back to Gladstone, where we have lived ever since. 

We saw it as a positive, and it gave us a reason to move on, and move home. 

And the key skill of leadership is choosing your response. Choosing your language and choosing your behaviour. Choosing the best course of action, regardless of what is going on around you. It’s your choice. 

2. Pain is temporary 

The vast majority of things that will befall you, as part of your life’s journey, are temporary. They don’t last forever (with some exceptions, like loss or grief). This too shall pass, is another way of saying this.  

The boom events in our lives are generally not permanent. But we treat them like they are. 

Being made redundant taught this lesson. As much as it hurts to be out of a job, there are other jobs out there. There are other opportunities. There are businesses to start, even, if you don’t want to go to another employer. 

Pain is temporary, so the message is to hold on through the challenging time and know that generally time has a way of sorting things out for you. 

And leaders can get stuck in a rut, and not knowing how they are going to get out of it. They feel like it will never end, and they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing that pain is temporary gives you hope for a better future.  

3. Getting into action should be your priority 

The think about challenges in our life, is that they can tend to get us stuck. We freeze, instead of fighting or flighting. And when we are frozen, we are not actioning. We are static. 

The best way to deal with something like a redundancy is to get into action. To do something. Anything. Just one thing. The reason that you should get into action is because emotionally and mentally, it gets you moving forward. If you take enough action, you will get into momentum. And that is where the change happens. Where the magic happens. 

And getting into action is exactly what I did. I sent out resume after resume after resume. And got a job way quicker than I thought I would.  

It got to the point that I had started that role, and I kept getting calls for job interviews for the other roles that I had applied for. There is power in getting into action and getting moving. 

And it takes your mind off anything negative, as a side bonus. 

For leaders who are facing a challenge, the first thing I say is what are you doing. What action do you need to take. Even if it is just one thing. 

In summary, sometimes life does not go as we planned it. Like when you get made redundant one day, and it was unexpected. When (not if) a boom event occurs in your life. Remember that it is your choice how you respond to it. Also remember that pain is temporary, and that getting into action will get you out of the bind a lot quicker than staying frozen where you are! 

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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