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Recession Repellant For Your Company

Apr 29, 2008
It's bad out there. People are spending less. Debt is up and confidence in the market is down. It's time to tighten the belt and be extra careful. It's time to commit ourselves to poor results, right?

What? That's crazy! Who would do such a thing? Yet, that's what most of your competitors will be doing through the recession. They'll make three fundamental leadership errors, and as a result sabotage their own best efforts to deliver a profit. Here's what you can do to help your company apply some recession repellent.

Leadership Error #1: They Stall Their Own Momentum

Imagine you've entered a contest: The first team to push a car to the end of the parking lot wins. There are three cars in a parking lot. One car is rolling backwards; one car is sitting still; and one car is rolling forward. Which car do you want your team to get behind?

Obviously, your team wants to be behind the car rolling forward; your team craves momentum. Yet, leaders inadvertently sabotage momentum by their actions and words:

* "Times are tough," they tell their team. And guess what? The team follows the command and acts like times are tough. Fear becomes the norm: Will we survive? Is my job secure? These leaders have just manifested their own tough times.

* Managers announce, "We're entering a downward business cycle." They rub their forehead and grit their teeth. So "DISASTER!" is what people hear and read in the body language. Thus, confidence seeps away like heat through a screen door. Questions are asked that leadership never hears. The team becomes nervous.

* Conversely, some managers hide or ignore the bad news. But people read newspapers, so rumors spread. What people feel is always more powerful than what we tell them; rah-rah speeches prove to be a waste of money.

Recession repellent can be applied by taking these actions:

1) At the start of the day ask yourself, "Why am I capable of leading in times like this?" and "What is the image I want to project right now?" and "What can I do so my team can be at their best?"

2) Share the truth so that it reveals the strengths and momentum the organization possesses.

3) Rather than talk about what you don't want to have happen, talk about what you do want to see.

Leadership Error #2: Managers Adopt a "Bunker Mentality"

Because they've committed error #1 above, troubles compound:

* More than ever, perfection is needed. But due to pervasive fear, mistakes increase. And like a magnet, management focuses on those failures - thus communicating to people that "you better lay low. Don't risk standing out during times like this!"

* Management begins analyzing where things are going wrong. And due to their focus, those they lead can't focus on solutions. Idea generation - the action that will save the company - becomes stagnant because everyone is trying to outsmart the problem rather than create solutions.

* Firefighting becomes a survival mechanism. This shortsightedness eliminates any vision for the road forward. Resumé polishing begins and productivity plummets, further cutting into the already narrow margins.

Recession repellent can be provided by:

1) Paying close attention to individual and collective focus. We go in the direction of our focus - so ensure all eyes are on the target.

2) Analyze where things are going well. This simple act breeds a mentality of "we are capable." Then ensure that celebrations - hallway handshakes, acknowledgment emails, and Friday afternoon picnics - remain the norm.

3) Pause and think long term. When "issues" arise the average manager uses the "fix-it" approach. This sends the message that we're also trying to fix the people involved - a certain turn off. Instead, when addressing challenges, take actions that resolve the issue and builds stronger people and relationships moving forward.

Leadership Error #3: They Think "Pressure" Warrants a Command-and-Control Approach

Things become desperate. Trust evaporates. It's every person for himself. Now:

* Managers revert to a frantic telling and demanding mode. There's no time (or perceived need) to listen to other people's ideas.

* Synergies between teams and individuals are gone. Ironically, people place more value on protecting themselves at the risk of having the company go under - never comprehending that if the company goes under they lose themselves anyway.

* Resources necessary to get the job done with high quality are taken away - so it's even tougher to get the job done.

Recession repellent can be established by taking these actions:

1) Generate greater ownership and accountability by asking better questions, such as:

a. How did we succeed during similar times in the past?
b. What important aspects of our client relationships can we build upon?
c. What qualities do we want to demonstrate over the next year?
d. Where do we see momentum in our business right now?
e. How do we take advantage of this economic situation to position ourselves stronger in the market?

2) Then, listen like crazy. The ideas necessary for success exist - we just need to hear them.

3) Eliminate paralysis by over analyzing. Try the ideas generated and use them to propel you forward.

The leadership errors above exacerbate the effects of a recession and commit a company to poor results. But it's never too late. Recession repellent can be applied in your next meeting. Consider the possibility that prosperity is only one leadership action away.
About the Author
Stomp the Elephant in the Office employs the programs and concepts successfully implemented by Pathways to Leadership, Inc., formed by Steven Vannoy and Craig Ross. To find out how big the elephant in YOUR office is, visit Stomp the Elephant.
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