Business Still Lagging?–Here’s How to Drive Recovery

Is your business or not-for-profit enterprise still lagging in this early stage of economic recovery? Undoubtedly like most, your company is populated by two distinct groups: those who care deeply about collective outcome and those who do not. To revive your lagging enterprise you will need to expand the universe of emotionally committed leaders, employees and volunteers. Loyalty to self or to a particular boss, work team, profit center or functional discipline is not enough.

To light a fire under participants top to bottom, new and old, I recommend you adopt the following ten commandments of business revival:

Commandment #1–Promote Collective Renewal as a Project of Highest Priority. Ideally your CEO will launch revitalization personally by communicating urgency, presenting a leadership vision and challenging every employee to assume a vital role in recovery. The CEO’s message must be clear and concise: “Collective revitalization is our number one priority!

Commandment #2–Stick Your Neck Out and Commit to Employees. In exchange for unqualified support of recovery objectives, your executive team must genuinely promote personal career development. The key is to emphasize a mutual bond of commitment: “As your employer of choice, we pledge to commit 100% to your personal career advancement within the bounds of our resources and the best interests of our company as a whole.

Commandment #3–Build the Future Around Committed On-board Talent. As a leader seeking collective recovery, you will need to inspire and build upon your company’s most valuable asset–the cherished employees who have carried you up unitil today. In an interesting paradox, you may need to rewrite the script but you most certainly should not discard your most talented actors and actresses.

Commandment #4–Affirm or Refine Your Enterprise Mission Statement. Before attempting to launch revival, you will need to demonstrate to self and others a solid rationale for remaining in business. Does your current strategic vision need update to meet today’s competitive reality? A closely related issue is whether you have on board the human and physical resources and financial capacity needed to accomplish your mission as presently defined. Once core mission is refined, your next leadership challenge is to communicate a collective vision to crucial investors, employees, lenders, customers and suppliers: “We are proud of who we are and what we intend to accomplish; we have solid plans in place to service customers and to enhance long-term value of this enterprise.”

Commandment #5–Inspire Self-examination Beginning at the Top. If the CEO and senior executives fail to demonstrate unwaivering dedication to change, meaningful revitalization will not occur. Without exception, executives, managers and employees will benefit from a “mid-term” self-examination of on-the-job performance and personal and career aspirations. Businesses large and small provide fertile ground for formation of “renewal teams” where participants assist each other to restore positive emotions and map out an optimal collective future.

Commandment #6–Offer Every Employee the Opportunity to Expand Personal Franchise. Challenge participants top-to-bottom with meaningful responsibilities in support of worthy collective targets and present them the opportunity to help define those responsibilities. Once employees become convinced that they will play a vital role in recovery, most will respond with a surge in positive energy and emotions.

Commandment #7–Introduce Incentives which Inspire Thinking Outside the Lines.Effective company revival begins with a positive yet no-nonsence CEO call to action: “Status-quo no longer is good enough!” Astute change facilitators follow up by modifying performance, promotion and bonus criteria to specifically target and reward individual and collective initiative and experimentation.

Commandment #8–Expand and Sustain Circles of Cooperation Throughout and Beyond Your Enderprise. Any collection of individuals, formal or ad-hoc, has potential to solidify into a transitional or permanent “circle of cooperation.” Motivated, self-confident participants tend to seek out and interact effectively with similarly inspired colleagues. Formation of task forces or cross-functional special project teams presents an ideal opportunity to blend old ideas with new, integrate new employees and extend careers of previously uninspired veteran employees. In certain instances, circles of cooperation might be extended to include representatives of customers or suppliers.

Commendment #9–Provide Realistic Opportunities for Reward and Advancement. Given human nature, every employee will inquire silently or out loud, “How will this recovery initiative impact me? Will I wind up better or worse off than I am now?” To generate and sustain enthusiasm, change facilitators must demonstrate a clear and certain link between accomplishment of individual and collective targets and potential for career advancement and monetary reward.

Commandment #10–Sustain Recovery Momentum Through Periodic Progress Reviews. Collective progress reviews should be scheduled in advance at routine intervals following completion of each recovery phase. Except in dire emergencies, review sessions should never be cancelled or postponed indefinately. Periodic times out are essential to track progress and to facilitate mid-course corrections. Progress reviews and evaluations should extend down to front-line employees thoughout your company.

The bottom line: any leader seeking to revive a lagging enterprise must create and sustain an intentional atmosphere of accellerated obsolescence. Your competition will not stand still. Managers and employees at all levels must routinely seek out upgrade, innovation and expansion of boudaries. Product and service enhancements which are new and exciting today will appear “old hat” within a year. So what have you done for your customers lately?

To effectively counter loss of sustainable product differentiation, your only realistic success formula is to establish and build upon a unique relationship with a specifically targeted loyal customer base. In turn, mutual employee-customer satisfaction will only be accomplished through a cadre of inspired managers and employees, top to bottom, dedicated to anticipating and servicing customer demand.

To contact Roy Richards, author of this article or to preview his latest book on enterprise renewal, please visit our web site: www.middleagerenewal.com.

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