Making it through the storm: tips for leaders in tough times.

Author:Wright, Carol
Position:FEATURE
 
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In a tough economy, keeping a business going is no easy task. Yet many businesses are able to not only survive, but thrive. What's their secret? A strong leader.

Good leaders lead, but a great leader is a servant, taking on whatever role is necessary to achieve the team's goal. Leaders make the tough calls--recognizing their own weaknesses and working to overcome them. They encourage those they lead to excel and acknowledge the teams' efforts and contributions.

So what do leaders know that the rest of us might not? The answer may surprise you. It's not necessarily a matter of "What they know," but "What they are willing to do," that sets them apart.

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1 Don't be too proud to look outside for help. Sometimes, you need a different perspective. An outside consultant can do things insiders can't--i.e. offer a more objective approach. Someone outside the company can ask the tough questions, listen and offer solutions that someone closer to the situation cannot because they can lend a broader "view" and approach the issue unemotionally. Consultants are not bound by territorial issues. For example, people in sales may know that something in HR needs to be fixed, but the sales team's ideas seem more objective when reported by an outside consultant.

2 Never ignore external threats. Longtime businesses stay in business because they don't panic. You must be willing to look at your business with a constructively critical eye. The economy has changed: adapt bravely.

3 Never delay decision-making. Once you've discerned the problem, move quickly to correct the course. Monitor this correction and continue to adjust as necessary. It's easier to steer a moving ship.

4 Allow the tough questions to be asked. Find advisors who will cheerfully (or annoyingly) disagree with you. These will often be people outside the company who aren't simply working to please you.

5 Pay attention to employee stress levels. People operate best when they have stimulating work. The challenge is to strike a balance--when the work is too easy, your staff won't feel motivated and they are robbed of the opportunity to make a contribution. But if your...

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