10 Ways To Thrive In This Recession (Part 1 of 2)
Bad Times Offer Great Opportunities For Learning Leaders—If You Know How to Act. Here’s How to Make the Downturn Work for You and Your Career.
By Brent Filson - 3/2008
Your getting through this economic downturn can be like shooting a bad patch of rapids in white water canoeing.
With the right skills, the right presence of mind, and taking the right actions, you can seize the opportunity of that defining experience and come out on the other side a better person, a person who knows one or two things more about white water that other mortals don’t know.
The fact is that economic downturns with their obvious dangers can be your great opportunity as well.
Typically, companies reduce their training expenses in recessions. However, if you employ the right skills, keep the right presence of mind, and take the right actions, you can seize the opportunity of bad times and come out the other side more effective in your job and more successful in your career.
I’m using white water canoeing as a framework to the 10 actions because these actions had their genesis in an up country canoeing trip I took decades ago.
During that trip, especially the white water part, I learned many valuable leadership lessons that have translated well into corporate life and that I’ve taught worldwide for a quarter of a century to leaders of all ranks and functions.
The trip was led by an outdoors guide whom I’ll never forget. His name was Dave Powell. My six friends and I were just out of high school. Dave Powell was in his thirties, an experienced woodsman and guide.
On the third day in our canoes, we heard ahead of us around a bend in the river the rumble of white water. We knew immediately we were about to be afflicted by the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”
Of course, the first way to deal with a downturn and the most obvious is by preparing for it before it arrives. Dave Powell made sure we knew before leaving on our trip the kinds of rapids we would hit and their locations. He had us practice white water canoeing techniques. Likewise, in the corporate world, the best way to deal with the impact of a downturn on your company, your job and career is to make preparations well ahead of time. Today, you might not have had time to prepare for a downturn. You might be new in your job or you’ve been tied up with other projects, so you’ve got to take quick action.
Here are 10 quick actions to take, five in this month’s e-zine and five in next month’s. You may not be able to take all of them, but they will give you a tapestry on which to deploy your efforts as this downturn impacts your organization.
1) Invest In Leadership. Most decision makers in companies hit by downturns don’t see the challenges of downturns for what they really are, leadership challenges.
These decision makers simply start wielding cost cutting tools. They begin chopping out people, hacking out operating costs, and often, in the process, hacking up operations.
But that response to a downturn is like doing nerve surgery with a meat cleaver. Because every downturn challenge is ultimately a leadership challenge, leadership programs should not be seen as a training expense but a capital investment with a measurable return on investment.
For instance, as we approached the rapids, Dave Powell focused on leadership. He used his leadership skills to get us pulling together as a single, inspired team. Without his leadership, we might’ve gotten into more trouble than we could handle.
And that’s what leadership is about: not only directing people and resources toward common objectives, but also inspiring them daily to make extraordinary efforts to attain those objectives.
Your recognizing this, your seeing all recession-related issues as leadership issues, will be a polestar to guide you through the inevitable, internal storms that sweep companies in a downturn when all functions viewed in the light of being “expense items.”
In fact, seeing the leadership issues is not simply a concept, it should be a passionate state of mind. It should, moreover, be a way of life.
Action: Start honing your motivational leadership skills. This may seem like a rather far-reaching undertaking when you have to take action immediately, but such honing can be one of the most important, practical things you do right now.
View yourself not simply as a leader but as a motivational leader. After all, most of the people you must persuade to get on board with your programs do not report to you. They may be your boss or your colleagues or customers. You can’t order them. You must motivate them to be your cause leaders. And you can’t motivate people by simply dumping information on them. In a downturn, if the issue isn’t emotional, it’s irrelevant. Or, it is not relevant until you find the emotion in it. You must tap the well springs of their emotions so as they’ll make the choice to be inspired by your leadership. You can’t do that now and then, hit or miss. You must consistently apply specific, proven processes.
One way to become an exceptional motivational leader is by enhancing your abilities to apply the processes associated with Leadership Talks. Go here:
You can even take a self-study course:
2) Focus on the RIGHT leadership. In bad times, when the margin for error is slim and time is short, don’t go looking for the right people to be led but the right leaders to lead in the right ways.
Errors, wasted time, and failed endeavors march behind the colorful banners of wrong leadership.
For instance, “Because I told you so” leadership, the most common type, is wrong leadership. Yet this leadership often takes possession of leaders—like a demon spirit—as the pressures of a recession build and spread through the company.
Clearly, “Because I told you so” leadership can get results. But such leadership can’t get great results consistently.
What is right leadership? Right leadership is what Dave Powell exhibited. He never raised his voice. He always spoke in a conversational tone, even in the midst of a tight situation. He didn’t have to order us about, we were motivated by who he was. In other words, right leadership is motivational or it’s running around in the dark.
Action: Know the Four Absolute Laws of leadership and start putting them into action NOW.
3. Be A Rainmaker—Now. In a downturn, the long knives are out. The cost cutters have been given a licence to kill. But the rainmakers, those people who have exceptional abilities to fill the company’s coffers, are immune from their attacks.
Position yourself as a rainmaker too. You have only a small window to prove that leadership, driven by a learning leader, works better than cost cutting in meeting the challenges of the downturn.
Action: Get the right leadership tools into the hands of people immediately and quickly get them using the tools on-the-job.
In my leadership sessions, I get people up and running with my revenue-generating processes immediately.
Here are ways you can make your leadership programs become key revenue generators for your company.
4) Be a Results Partner. In a downturn, unless you can quickly become a partner with the leaders of the functions in your company that deliver top and bottom line results, you may be unprotected when the surgery-with-meatcleaver is unleashed.
Executives are always demanding that you “show me money”—but those demands are particularly urgent in downturns.
Dave Powell’s leadership proved that the best way to beat the rapids was not as individuals but as a team of formidable partners.
Action: Identify immediately those leaders you need to partner with. Convince them to team up with you and to select precisely the results to target, results they badly need. You can’t help your clients or yourself you if you (A) mix up training objectives with business objectives or (B) identify the wrong business objectives.
Here are some outcomes with which you might help your results-partners: speed, productivity, operations efficiencies, reducing over-production, boosting transportation efficiencies, streamlining inventory, eliminating wasted motion, eliminating defects, getting rid of over-processing, sales closes, sales leads, sales to new customers, failure prevention, health and safety, quality, training, logistics, marketing targets, new revenue streams, sales erosion, price, supply chain management, cost reductions, demand flow activities and technologies, inventory turns, cycle time reductions, materials and parts management.
Here’s a way to dramatically strengthen your relationship with your results partner.
5) Achieve INCREASES in results. Your leadership development programs should help your clients get increases in results, hard, measured results.
And they should start getting increases immediately and have those results go on continually.
That’s what Dave Powell did. Right from the beginning of our planning for the trip. His leadership inspired us to believe we could do extraordinary things together on the white water and, more importantly, go through the hard work to prepare to do those things. But there’s more: On that river trip, Dave Powell not only got results— i.e. we successfully negotiated the bad patches of white water, nobody hurt, no equipment lost—he did something more: He had us come to believe in ourselves in ways we had never done before.
He generated the leader’s imperative. I will lead in such a way that the people not only achieve the needed results but that we all sharpen our professional skills and grow in the best qualities that make us human beings.
It’s that kind of belief that can provide powerful bonding between you and your partners.
Action: In the beginning of your association with your partners: * Precisely define the participants’ results-challenges. * Divide the challenges into: a)obstacles b)accelerators. * Develop team systems that eliminate the obstacles and enhance the accelerators. * Keep this systems focus on eliminating obstacles and enhancing accelerators throughout your association by establishing monitoring and evaluation systems.
Want to find a way to build in big results at the beginning of a relationship? I’ve done it with sales/marketing leaders, but the process can work for you too.
In next month’s e-zine, I’ll provide five more ways to get ahead of the curve in the downturn.
© 2008, The Filson Leadership Group, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
Note from Brent Filson: Good economies can make bad learning leaders, and bad economies can make good learning leaders. Sometimes we become complacent when our company is riding the cresting wave of a good economy. But when a downturn hits, and we’re forced to provide an extra measure of innovation, productivity, and speed, we have the opportunity to hone our leadership skills in new ways. Please call, and let’s talk about how I can help you and your clients seize those opportunities in comprehensive, systematic ways.
I can help your individual leaders boost their job and career performance. For instance, check out our one-day Leadership Talk sessions that comes with a $50,000 guarantee.
Here’s a one-day session for leaders.
Here’s a one-day session for sales/marketing leaders. http://www.brentfilson.com/pdfs/OnedayForSales-Marketing.pdf
Leadership is too important for the advancement of your client’s job performances and careers and also for the success of your company to have leadership development simply fulfill training objectives. For the past 22+ years, I’ve been helping leaders of all ranks and functions worldwide get great business results.
"Brent Filson knows how to help others get results! His programs are proven in a variety of settings including industry, government, non-profit and the military proving that the way he practices and coaches leadership can work for any organization willing to invest the time and energy necessary to influence their people to produce at their highest productivity levels.”
—Joe Javorski, Director, Worldwide Staffing, Analog Devices
Total Systems Solutions:
I can also help you help your leaders develop and execute unique, customized, total-solution systems for every function of your business. http://www.actionleadership.com/Leadership_Training.cfm
“One of the key components of Brent’s methodologies is their tremendous value in driving monumental change through the leadership of others in the matrix supporting your cause. The actions of developing cause leaders has allowed ordinary teams in my organization to achieve extraordinary results.”
—Robert Cancalosi, Global General Manager, General Electric Medical
Lots Of Help On My Web Site:
On my web site, http://www.actionleadership.com you’ll find many of my books, articles, interviews, course descriptions, and instruction methodologies that will help you in many ways boost your job performance and advance your career by helping your clients get the right results in the right ways.