Leading in Difficult Times

    The current economic downturn creates a ripe opportunity for proactive leaders to build powerful leadership skills and to explore new business strategies or sectors. Leaders who focus their energy on three key areas will not only survive the economic turmoil, but flourish in it.

    1) Take Risks. As fear creeps into the workplace, employees start to become more risk averse in their behavior, choosing to focus on the tried-and-true. There is a temptation when budgets are tight to cut out the “non-essentials” like training, employee team-building, career development, industry networking, and even customer service-related travel.

    Successful leaders will continue to invest in these areas, as they will help them to build a competitive advantage in the long run. Also, difficult economic times are exactly the right time to invest in bolstering customer relationships; building new alliances with potential suppliers, partners, or customers; and exploring new market niches. As your competition hunkers down to protect what it already has, you, as a savvy leader, can concentrate on growing your business by focusing intently on customers, the marketplace, and taking calculated risks.

    2) Get Creative. It is clear that strategies and tactics that worked earlier in the decade will no longer work in today’s economic climate. This presents a tremendous opportunity to “get outside the box.” The resourceful leader can beat the competition by employing unique methods to accomplish business goals or by creating efficiency or productivity gains in existing processes.

    There are many places to look for creative solutions -“ your employees, customers and suppliers, to name a few. Ask them what ideas do they have for improving processes, saving money, or creating new customer relationships?

    Another option is to reinvent your products or services and how you deliver them. Ask the following questions:

    -¢ What is no longer working? How can it be improved or changed?
    -¢ What is missing?
    -¢ How can technology be used to change how we create or deliver our products/services?

    3) Keep Your Cool. As Winston Churchill said, “if you are going through Hell, keep going.” Those who maintain a level head will stand out as others panic. Remember that you are a talented leader who happens to find themselves in difficult times -” your abilities and experience are still intact.

    Try taking 15 minutes each morning to pursue an activity that will help you mentally and emotionally prepare for the day: jogging on the treadmill, connecting with old friends on Facebook, or writing in a journal can help you to check in with yourself and set your intentions for the day. You can then draw upon these intentions as you go through your workday and deal with the interruptions and issues that inevitably crop up.

    Another helpful tool can be writing out a statement about your unique strengths and posting it on your laptop or rearview mirror. The reminder that “I am an expert estate planning attorney” or “I will be the top sales person in my territory” can be encouraging when times are tough.

    The savvy, proactive leader will see the tremendous opportunity that the global economic downturn presents. For, as the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

    Megan M. Thomas is founder of Firsthand Coaching. She can be reached at [email protected].