Recession Proof Leadership–5 Keys

It’s not the economy, stupid.

Ok, as Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does,” and I
certainly don’t mean to call anyone reading this “stupid,” per se, but leading
in difficult times – in this case, either our current economic recession, or “recession that isn’t”  (for those that think “denial” is a river in Africa) – isn’t hugely different from day-to-day leadership.
But, it’s not the same, either.
We know for certain that burying our head in the sand and
pretending that nothing is going on is positively insane.  It’s like your 2 year-old child closing his
or her eyes and saying, “you can’t see me.”
Of course there’s
something different in “corporate land.” 
In fact, it’s that very difference – those current challenges we face –
that we need to use as a call to action.
There are 5 keys to leading effectively during these times;
they aren’t necessarily difficult, but to ignore them will certainly make your
life more difficult.  Do you really need
that now?  So, here goes:
1.  Credibility is a must.  If ever leaders needed their credibility to
lean on, it’s now.  The simplest
definition for leadership credibility is to simply “do what you say you’re
going to do.”  Your folks – now more than
ever – need to look to you for guidance, leadership, and appropriate behavior.
The bigger statement, of course, includes making sure you
take a definitive stand on those things that bring comfort during turbulent
times – and then following up (doing what you say you’ll do) on those strong
In other words, take the tougher route.  Make difficult calls, step up when no one
else will and take command of an otherwise un-led situation.  C’mon, be
in charge
!  Your employees need it,
and the organization could stand the leadership
 2.  See and be seen.  Visibility is a big deal.  Now’s not the time to hide out in your
office, pining away the days or lamenting for better times. Get out, be seen,
be available, and most importantly, be heard.  High visibility coupled with credibility is a
near-guarantee of success in uncertain times. 
These times are challenging; challenging for the business,
for employees, and for you.  But there’s
opportunity in challenge… you’ve just got to be there when it happens. And
“there” is out in the open, in front
of the troops.
Back when we had real warrior generals, “Brigadier” Generals
led a brigade of men… from the front
of the brigade.  Not back at some remote
headquarters location, sitting in air conditioned comfort while others went to
battle.  No, they were visible, and literally out front.
Those leaders led. 
You can to.
I hate buzzwords and phrases, and “management by walking
around” is certainly one of those; it is, however, a good concept for current
times.  Get out there…
3.  Remember, you were young once.  Put yourself in employees’ shoes; this is
uncomfortable, and there are plenty of unknowns.  Lots of things are changing around them, and
they are neither fully aware of the rationale, nor in control of, those things
Even in times of more positive change, the first to ever buy
in are those who either (a) control/direct the change, or  (b) are experiencing change that is positive
to them personally.
Cut ‘em a break – you’re not always easy to live with
either, remember?  Our folks – at least
those sticking with it, trying to perform, succeed, and persevere, deserve our
Those who aren’t? 
Well, now’s a good time for a change… dead wood never has a place in a
successful organization; it has even lesser
status during challenging economic times. 
We need all to pull their weight – who wants to lug around someone’s
else’s gear??
4.  Want cheese with that whine?  No open complaining, commiserating, or
whining.  Not now (assuming it was ever
ok, which you know, of course, that it isn’t) especially.
Your folks don’t need to know that you feel as out of
control as they do.  It doesn’t help
them, or you, to believe that things are hurtling out of everyone’s
control.  Better to convince them that
hard work, strong performance, and effective leadership will prevail.
Because, of course, it will.  You must know – and believe – that.  Or bail
out.  Face it – if you believe your
organization is one foot from the grave, simply leave it and go somewhere else.
Otherwise, you believe it will emerge
from these times, and in a better place. 
Either or, but make a call one way or another. If you’re sticking
around, never forget to “work for whomever you work for.”
And as a leader, that means “no whining.”
5.  Sit down, shut up, and color.  Focus is paramount, especially when there’s
an unseen drag on earnings called “the economy.”  Help people understand as best you can,
explaining why things are happening (when you know), and why we’re taking this
specific action.
But in the end, they’ve got to do what’s necessary to help
your organization weather this storm, so just do it can become the fall-back
phrase of choice.  Don’t allow so much
discourse that we forget why we’re here. 
They want to vent? 
Ok, we’ll allow that.  Employees
want to complain a bit, because gas is high, milk has doubled, and their 401K
isn’t making money?
Yeah, ok… Fine, fine. 
Now, get back to work.  Enough of the belly-achin’, since last I
checked, that’s not a specific part of your job description, and I don’t see
how that’s helping us get from here to there.
Sit down, shut up, and
.  It’s not just for kindergarten
But that’s just me…


Kevin Berchelmann

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