For months now, business leaders have been coming to me for advice on how to wrestle with the chaos that has taken over our economy. Persistent inflation. The war in Ukraine. COVID-related supply chain issues.
These are folks who were just starting to pick up the pieces from the last economic curveball – they established their High-Definition Destination and were working on getting their teams aligned again – when the next curveball came along and threw them right back into the frying pan. And when talking to these folks, I always seemed to get some version of the same question:
“Murph, with all of this constant change, how can we have any confidence in our next moves?”
After 26 years of working as a consultant to businesses that range from healthcare to Home Depot to Nike, and helping them navigate no fewer than three recessions, my advice now is simple: Great leadership in business today means going back to basics and keeping your team focused on small, short-term wins.
Here’s what that looks like.
Align your team
The first step is to get your team together to take stock of everything that impacts your execution, from the strategic to the emotional to the practical.
Does everyone on your team share a common understanding of the vision and mission objective? Is there 360-degree situational awareness of the tools at their disposal to achieve that objective – and of the tools that are lacking? How’s your employee morale holding up amid all this economic chaos?
Look at current economic conditions
The last few years have shown us that you can’t trust a snapshot of the economy at any specific time. Things are just changing too rapidly. And predicting the next change is risky business to say the least.
Still, there’s value in taking stock of the economic landscape to get a sense of what you should be prepared for going forward. We’ve seen a jobs boom, major inflation, and talk of a recession, all in the last 12 months. This is a good time to start thinking about plans for each of those contingencies in case we see more of the same in the months and years ahead.
Double-down on Flawless Execution
Afterburner’s Flawless Execution cycle should be your go-to process right now for hitting your short-term goals. Focus your energy on the four core steps: Plan, Brief, Execute, and Debrief. Then iterate to strengthen your execution the next time through the cycle.
What’s key here is using every scrap of feedback and information this cycle produces to tweak your target and make your product, plan, and execution more effective each time. This is how you generate small, iterative wins. And small, iterative wins lead to rapid improvements that eventually get you to your mission objective.
Why is “back to basics” the key to leadership in business today?
There are definitely those who are going to shoot for the moon right now rather than taking the back-to-basics approach I’ve described here. Sure, chaos offers the opportunity for you to come up with that unexpected, out-of-left-field, homerun innovation. A one-and-done maneuver that gets you to your goal in just one shot – wouldn’t that be nice?
But when economic times get tough, the smart business leader is going to focus their team’s efforts not on one-and-done maneuvers, but on iteration: testing and evolving products and plans in real time, and in response to changing economic realities.
The act of planning and communicating these short term moves and small wins is the key to strong leadership in business, gaining confidence, and successfully navigating this economic landscape. And it starts right now. Good luck!