For five years, we’ve been managing our expectations downward. It’s become part of our psyche to manage with less, stifle creativity, and look over our shoulders.
Not that we are ready to be doing triple back-flips or anything, but there are signs (dare I say “encouraging” ones?) that we are moving toward a period of renewed growth and hope. What I’m hearing from the executives I coach – a robust cross-section of American business leaders – is that they expect to do more hiring, plan to modestly introduce new products and services, anticipate keeping salaries relatively flat for a while longer, and worry about volatile gas prices. That’s why the no-back-flips reference: credit is still tight, energy prices are high, global economies are still unstable, and the overall picture is still shaky. But business leaders I’m talking to seem encouraged by an increase in U.S. exports, by consumers spending less on overseas goods and services, and by factories gearing up in anticipation of more consumer spending.
It seems safe to start thinking creatively again.
Scour the web and you’ll find articles and blogposts, even on this website, about leading through crises and uncertainty. But you’ll find relatively little on ramping up for a re-awakening from economic slumber. Going in to hibernation requires a skill set on how to manage with less. Coming out of hibernation means leading your workforce on a journey toward managing with a little more.
My clients aren’t unanimously convinced that the current re-awakening will lead to sustained spending, but most seem to think it will. Here is what business leaders are suggesting we can do to lead change and catalyze growth:
- Proceed cautiously. But proceed.
- Don’t get caught up in analysis paralysis. We have become accustomed to avoiding risk and keeping the ship upright and steady with no sudden moves. Take prudent risk.
- Be decisive. Identify growth opportunities and begin to act on them.
- Identify the right talent to get yo u where you want to go. In fact, be real clear about where you’re going, articulate your vision, obtain buy-in, and communicate expectations for performance and productivity.
- Create metrics to help you answer the question “what will success look like when I do get there?”
- Equip your team for the journey ahead. After a long slumber, many of your team members may need short-term coaching to jump-start their creativity.
- Encourage communication. Now is the time when the open sharing of new ideas will be exceptionally valuable, and when the input and satisfaction of your customers will be the key to your success.
- Review the competencies required for jobs that may be required for upcoming growth, re-assess the skill-sets required for existing jobs, and discuss employee aspirations. Aspirations, and much else, have been on hold for a while.
- Create a smart organizational and IT infrastructure that can handle growth and can easily retract when necessary.
As the bears come out of hibernation, find new ways to inspire and motivate your followers to reach new heights. This is the time you’ve been waiting for to be creative, strategic, and wise.
Written by Dr. Richard Levin, President of Richard Levin & Associates. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.