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The Sling-Shot Effect

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Every day we watch the evening news and somehow it surpasses the gloom and depression of the day before. The discussions we have with clients seem always to be on how bad the economy is and what will happen if the stimulus package doesn't work or Congress doesn't "get it together" to save our drooping economic environment. Wow, I don't know about you, but I am completely exhausted. Thinking we could all use a break, I decided to write about something that might not make you want to break immediately from what you are doing and jump off the proverbial bridge. We will survive this current state of affairs and, in fact, we will dust ourselves off and likely be stronger and better because of it. Why? Here are my thoughts on this subject.

Since 1900, we in the US have lived through 10 recessions lasting an average of 2.4 years. That means that 24 out of the last 100 years we were approximately where we are now. Some folks may argue that this is a much more severe recession and clearly I can't argue with that. May I remind us all that the average time between recessions is 9.7 years. I'm not absolutely sure I got the math perfect, but I hope you get my point. We have some opportunities ahead, all of us do. And in typical American fashion we will step up to the plate again. This leads me to a new question, why do we always prepare for the next recession and never seem to prepare for the next 9.7 years of prosperity? ChartWishing I had more answers I can only assume that somewhere in here the answer is that we respond more to what frightens us than to what excites us. We'll hold on because, if the math works, we are over halfway through this one and, if half of the initiatives used to try to fix our financial problems work, we are going to get a heck of a sling-shot effect.

Here's my thinking on this...If you are a business, think about what your sling-shot effect may be and begin to at least prepare your leadership to think about what might happen if you are not ready, or better yet, what might happen if you are. Think about the constant bombardment of information and its affect on morale and individual fear factors. A CEO recently told me, "We are not going out of business but some of our competitors are and someone has to serve their customers. That will be us, because we will be ready. We will shrink, save money, cut costs and do all the difficult and necessary stuff to stay afloat, while we prepare our people to be a better, more nimble organization. On the other side we will win the battle for clients. Someone has to and it will be us." On the opposite side, we have seen companies and people get a little mind blind. It is hard to think of what we should be doing for our future when we are in survival mode. Most companies will survive, but not all. However, all of your people will. Jobs and even careers may change, but we will all be here on the other side together.

As bread winners we have two responsibilities. We need to be valued and be valuable to our employer and, additionally, we need to personally grow so we can be better for our future and families. This is really no different than what each company needs to be thinking right now. Again, the fog of this economy seems to be saying to some people that this is the time to stop and be grateful that money continues to come in. Please do that, but remember you can and will need to do more.

To all companies out there who read this, I would suggest that you answer the following question, with the world as it is, there will be fewer competitors and more demand. Are you ready to meet, hold and exceed the expectations of this new demand? If the answer is no or maybe, the answer may lie in your leadership as the solution. The ability of your leaders to use all the resources on hand and to prepare for that moment is critical. This doesn't mean spending tons of money. This may be the right time to iron out all of our old customer relationship problems or implement that software package that's only being minimally utilized. To do these things, you need time to build leaders so they can handle a more dynamic flow, enabling you to enter the new markets that you have wanted to be in for years.

For all the great leaders or aspiring leaders out there who are asking the what-to-do question, this is a chance for you to pick up that new skill that has kept you from expanding on your successes or asking for feedback from a colleague that might help you grow. How about learning to project plan or learning a job that will make you more valuable to the organization. Read a book and learn about your industry. Take a course and meet people who can help you learn. We are heading into 9.7 years of some measure of prosperity. Will you think about how to use the sling-shot affect to build what you want?

People will say that I have no fear of risk and that may be somewhat true, but there are a couple of things I am sure of in life. The way we look at problems is critical to our approach in solving them. If you feel you are in the worst moment of your life, you will be there. If you feel like your opportunity is coming because people are going to need your expertise when we rebound out of this mess, now's the time to prepare and be ready for that.

People constantly surprise me with their intellectual strength and their ability to cope. This is the time to prepare and go after the future you want in your development and for your organization. I can't speak for you, but I'm tired of the same old bad news and, though that bad news may not be going away anytime soon, we all have things to do.

So, if you read this and it resonates with you, I would ask you to think and discuss with others in your business and life to start the process of looking forward to get ready for new opportunities. Many of you know that a lot of what we have previously written is the 'work' of our organization. I'm not writing this to sell anything. I'm simply asking that you begin the discussion. Talking about it will give it strength and in turn give you some locus of control over your own life and business.

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Ralph Twombly
Priority Learning

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.



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