Bring Your Company Out of Recession Mode

By Gayle Lantz

Last year was a tough one, all right. Though we didn’t get the official word until December, you suspected all along we were in a recession—and you responded accordingly. You cut costs to the bone. You stretched your resources (and probably your employees) to the breaking point. But now that we’re through the first quarter of the New Year, you’re sick of working by candlelight and sharing the single office paperclip (to exaggerate a point). You’re ready to take the bull by the horns and start producing revenue again. But you’re not sure how.

You’ve been in “survival” mode for so long that you forget how to move back to “thrive” mode. But to gain a competitive edge you’ve got to figure out how to aggressively your company move forward—now.

Now is the time for leaders to take the bull by the horns to focus on what’s most important and to coach others to do the same. To be successful, you need a fearless mindset coupled with a strategic plan—a balance of inspiration and practicality.

Here are a few strategies you can implement right now:

  • Remind employees that the current downturn is temporary. It’s easy to let the current mood convince you that the situation’s never going to get any better. By assuring employees that the recession is just a blip on the radar, you free the creative energy you’re going to need to pull your company out of its slump. Call your team together and emphasize the big picture and long-term goals. Paint a very specific scene in which employees can see themselves thriving. Discuss the positive impact the organization will make serving your market. The psychology of this is very powerful: if your employees can see it, they can achieve it.

  • Shine a light on the optimists in your company. Seek out your most positive, “can do” people and place them in visible positions. Encourage them to share their ideas, and if at all possible, implement them. Even if the ideas don’t ultimately bear fruit, other employees will “catch” their optimistic spirit. By fanning the flames of optimism in your company—even if they’re mere sparks—you can create a fiery passion. On a personal level, surround yourself with optimistic fellow leaders and employees. People who have a vision and a strong faith about the future will keep your own spirits from flagging.

  • Ask better questions. Leaders often feel pressured to come up with all the solutions themselves. In so doing, they deprive themselves of a rich storehouse of creative ideas. Somewhere in the minds of your colleagues and employees lies at least one company-saving idea. Your job is to excavate that solution by asking the right questions.
    Set a positive tone. Instead of asking, “How can we get through this?” ask, “How can we take charge of this situation and achieve outstanding results?” Resist the urge to tell too much. Use coaching questions like “What support do you need to be successful?” and “What’s holding you back?”

  • Be willing to try something completely different. Remember, the status quo got you where you are now. Take calculated risks. Of course you shouldn’t throw caution to the wind, but continuing to do business the same way you’ve always done it may be even riskier than experimenting with something new.
    Don’t think “failure”; think “testing.” By experimenting, you’re testing an idea. If it doesn’t work, no harm done. Just try something else.

  • Help customers win their own recession war. The absolute best way to shore up relationships with your top customers or clients is to ensure their fiscal health. Identify their unique challenges and opportunities. Develop new solutions for them. Not only will you keep them happy, you’ll inspire them to refer your company to others.
    Anyone can help companies do the same old, same old. But businesses need fresh ideas that will help them grow. Serving your customers well ultimately serves you, too.

  • Infuse your workplace with a wave of energy. No, we’re not suggesting doubling your team’s coffee consumption. Rather, help them engage in their work and with each other in stronger ways. Break down silos by creating opportunities for people to come together from different areas to talk about ideas and solutions. And leverage the natural energy of your most motivated employees by getting them involved in projects that interest them. Remember: optimism is the best energy booster of all. Celebrate every success or breakthrough. And squelch negative attitudes as soon as they arise.

  • Identify and invest in your top 5%. Your company’s future is only as strong as its people. Make a list of your top 5% leaders or potential leaders—those highly motivated men and women who show strong energy and the desire to move your company forward. Invite them to participate in strategic discussions about your future.

Concluding Thoughts
Any parent or teacher will tell you that when you set the bar low, kids live down to it. And when you set it high, they live up to it. Adults are no different. Most of us have mentally had our bar set on “survival” for the past year or even longer. You can’t control the level of performance the rest of America will accept, but you can control your own. Take the bull by the horns and start business flowing again. We’ve been bearish for too long now, and it’s time to get bullish!

Author Bio:
Gayle Lantz is president of WorkMatters, Inc., a corporate consulting firm that helps companies improve performance by growing great leaders and engaging employees. She is the author of Take the Bull by the Horns: The Busy Leader’s Action Guide to Growing Your Business…and Yourself (WorkMatters Press, 2009). She is the publisher of My Daily Coach Calendar, the Mastermind Quick Launch Kit, and WorkMatters Tips, a free e-zine for leaders (www.workmatters.com/signup).

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