Leaders are facing tough challenges due to uncertainties surrounding their businesses. But Jane Howell, professor in organised behaviour at Richard Ivey School of Business, says it is important for managers in companies to listen and provide relevant information to staff to get through difficult times. Can you tell us how coaching can help companies under these market conditions? The need for coaching is at a premium during adversity. Leaders need to listen carefully to their employees to understand and deal with their stress, anxiety, frustration and loss of control. By acknowledging and addressing these negative feelings, leaders enable their employees to better cope with challenges and refocus on their work and deliver results. Also, in turbulent times employees need to be reassured and their accomplishments recognised. Finally, asking for their input and ideas to tackle present problems helps employees feel valued, motivated and energised, and contributes to the turnaround of the business. What does good leadership mean nowadays? Can you provide some examples? During volatile times the best leaders show four qualities. First, they have high self-awareness of the impact of their words and deeds on others. Effective leaders are calm and confident under pressure, rather than moody and volatile. Leaders set the tone and mood in the company and are closely observed. They are always conveying signals, whether they realise it or not. This is particularly true during this downturn where everyone is watching carefully for signs from their leader about how to react. Second, leaders are visible; they don't hide in the management bunker when times are tough. The best leaders run to problems, not away from problems. For example, I consult with a capital markets firm that had 11 large clients who were very upset about their trading losses when the markets crashed in 2008. Instead of avoiding the problem, the president decided to visit each client and asked: 'What's wrong right now and how can we work together to make things better?' As a result, all 11 clients stayed with the firm and the relationships were stronger than ever because he had the courage to tackle the problem quickly and directly. The third point for leaders is to keep employees in the loop by communicating clearly, concisely and frequently. Providing a steady stream of information about financial performance, customer loyalty, or future opportunities to be seized, for example, helps employees understand the present economic situation and to plan and act going forward. Finally, at a time when surviving is top-of-mind, the best leaders also reflect and look to the future. Leaders who think and act strategically by using the downturn to hire talent they could not afford in the past or investing in leadership development will be better positioned when the economic turnaround comes. The critical question for leaders is: did we learn and become stronger as a company through these tough times? Can you tell us your research findings about how to lead during a crisis? Effective leaders during a crisis engage in three key actions. First, they communicate an inspiring vision of the future, energising their team to perform during difficult times. Second, leaders who provide much-needed direction and feedback decrease team members' stress and uncertainty and increase their productivity. Third, the quality of the relationship between leaders and team members matters. Positive relationships between leaders and team members that are based on mutual trust, respect and co-operation create a positive 'emotional bank account' that can be tapped during tough times. These three leadership actions create optimism in team members who bounce back from setbacks quicker, persevere in the face of obstacles, learn new skills and can deal with future adversity. In the end, leadership makes the difference between surviving and thriving, or disappearing.