“Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.”
— Aldous Leonard Huxley
“Where are we” is a question I hear all the time. Usually, the questioner is looking for some answers about the business landscape and where we might be in the trough between recession and recovery. A challenging question but one that usually prompts a series of my questions: Where are you, and how well are you and your company prepared for the rest of this journey?
Are you personally ready? Have you done all you can do to get organized to maximize your personal productivity? More than ever before, we have more to do with fewer resources to do them. Whatever you can do to increase your productivity by deploying a methodical system for getting things done may create more time to deal with business issues than any other single thing you can do.
Make sure that you have a foolproof system that holds your team accountable so that they know … that you know … what they need to get done, and that you’re measuring and tracking those initiatives to make sure they don’t slip through the cracks.
How have you gotten this far? Since last fall, we’ve been thrown about by an economic tsunami unlike any in our lifetime, and mine is longer than most. Most likely, you reacted with astonishment at the sudden cataclysm and eventually began a rigorous cost-reduction plan. Since “you have to be present to win,” you tugged on that lifeline for all it was worth. You’re anxious to find a more positive direction alongside a sustained cost management system, but you’re still here.
This isn’t much fun. After about nine months of this agony, most of us are pretty sick of it and have begun to focus on recovery instead of reduction. We hanker for sunlight and are anxious to renew that positive, forward-looking outlook that is the heartbeat of American capitalism – optimism that a realistically achievable plan always bears fruit and can overcome the bleakest environment. What have you done to get back on the road to recovery?
Engage with your employees. If you haven’t already stepped up your communication efforts, both internally as well as with customers and vendors, get started. You don’t have to have all the answers to effectively communicate. It’s OK to acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers, that the economy remains unstable, maybe even treacherous. Your employees and other constituents will appreciate the honesty and authenticity more than the right answers. They want to dig their oar deeper in the water and pull harder, and they need to know you’re manning the rudder with renewed focus and commitment.
Are your incentives properly aligned? When was the last time you carefully looked at the incentive programs you’re using? Do you deploy them in the right places, and are they thoughtfully focused on producing the best results for the organization?
Focus on what you can control. There has been an unsettling wave of contradictory economic news that casts more heat than light on our business proposition. While many business leaders have felt overwhelmed, I believe that feeling is more closely related to a lack of control than a lack of direction.