A Guide to Leading UP in a Down Economy

Tough Times Requires Gutsy Leadership


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A Guide to Leading UP in a Down Economy

U.S. and world markets are in a panic. Lately, we wake up and go to bed inundated with gloomy news about current economic conditions. Panic sets off a chain reaction, and the situation intensifies. Times are tough, budgets are tight, and people are anxious. So, how do we begin to get our arms around this crisis psychologically and motivate others to do the same? How do we move toward a solution that protects our well-being since the current threat is doing just the opposite? We are not economists or financial gurus, but we do know how gutsy leaders think and act. Gutsy leaders are game-changers; they redefine the game, the field, the rules, and even the competition. Game changers defy mediocrity, declare war on complacency, explore the uncharted, risk the unthinkable, and do the unconventional. Here are ten things you can do to lead yourself and your people through these tough times. Be a game-changer and practice these ten strategies . . . your future depends on it!

1. What we know: The financial world has turned upside down; uncertainty distracts and derails us.

Be a Game-Changer

You can increase your effectiveness by simply asking the question, “Right now, at this moment, given this situation; am I focusing on something I can control, or am I obsessing over something I can’t control?”

Focusing on the things you cannot control is a waste of energy. It drains you and leaves you with less time and energy to focus on the things that will make you and your organization more productive. Game changers simply don’t let things outside their control take up too much mental space. Instead, they concentrate on things they have influence and control over!

Are you focused and concentrating on what you can control?

2. What we know: Panic and fear hinder us from thinking rationally.

Be a Game Changer: Step through fear.

In these difficult times, no one is exempt from fear. Most of us don’t think as well when we are panic-stricken. In fear we hesitate, procrastinate, rationalize, make excuses, and ultimately end up living more cautious and less fulfilling lives. Fear deadens our spirits. Fear says, “NO! Stop. You can’t.” Yet fear always confronts us with a choice. We can choose to face what we fear, or we can choose to let fear run our lives.

Stop running from NO, and start running toward YES. Stop getting ready—Do something now! You can’t go anywhere in neutral; to make a difference, you have to shift into gear. Game changers do not get stuck in neutral and do not accept “NO” as an answer. They embrace a “DSN mentality”—a willingness to do something now.

What is your bigger YES? How can you step through your fear toward your bigger yes?

3. What we know: The Media specializes in bad news and feeds it to us 24/7.

Be a Game Changer: Stop ruminating.

Rumination is an obsessive analysis; it’s mulling over bad events again and again. Both optimists and pessimists do it, but optimists tend to push the eject button much faster. Pessimists tend to hang on and “overanalyze” longer, feeding on helplessness, depression, and paralysis. Become knowledgeable about what’s going on, but stop ruminating about how bad things are.

You have the freedom to choose who you listen to, what you listen to, and how often you feed on what others are saying. Monitor and limit the intake of news and people that zap your optimism and hope. Change your focus. Stop moaning and overanalyzing everything, keep it simple.

Read a biography about a hero, a successful person, or a business that is booming. Perhaps their story will inspire big dreams and your desire to accomplish more, or at the very least, change your perspective.

4. What we know: In the absence of accurate, consistent information people make assumptions.

Be a Game Changer: Communicate more than you think is necessary.

The breadth and depth of business failures and the personal crises that have ensued are zapping employee morale. Low morale kills productivity.

Now is not the time to be alone, cancel meetings, or put a hold on your training and development budget. When times are challenging, people need communication, conversation, and the opportunity to share their fears, frustrations, challenges, AND coping strategies more than ever. Believe it or not, when people are fearful, they are more interested in learning. Get creative—you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Host potlucks and informal get-togethers where colleagues can share and learn investment ideas, budget tips, and household savings strategies.

Be a game-changer and talk about how you can redefine the customer, the competition, and the rules for how services and products are delivered. Now is the time to grow, declare war on complacency, and challenge the status quo . . . especially if it isn’t working!

What information can you bring to the team that might inspire a game-changing contribution?

5. What we know: The pace of change is out of control.

Be a Game Changer: Expand your capacity to grow and change.

Get over the notion that things will mellow and slow down. You have two choices: You can either embrace change courageously, or you can become a Dead Person Working™! General Eric Shinseki, the 34th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, said it well, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” So how do we become more flexible; and how do we develop the ability to move forward with speed and agility? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Move from “YEAH BUT . . . ” to “WHAT IF . . . ?” When confronted with the opportunity to change, rather than resisting it by saying, “Yeah, but that won’t work because…” try asking, “What if I tried this or that and succeeded?”
  • Build a compelling reason in your own mind WHY you should change by creating a burning platform. Ask yourself, “What are the consequences if I don’t change? What are the pay-offs if I do change and succeed?”
  • Don’t assume that just because you know WHAT to do and WHY you’re doing it, change will be easy; it’s not. Real change usually involves doing what’s uncomfortable. The WHY must be compelling, the HOW must be crystal clear, and the WILL is ultimately the fuel or passion that drives you forward.
  • Finally, decide what you must do personally to improve your contribution to your organization and the people you serve and work with. Set 3-5 professional/personal goals to stretch and grow.

The ECONOMY is not the same. The CONSUMER is not the same. TECHNOLOGY is not the same. Everyone and everything around you is getting better all the time. Is your organization changing as fast as the marketplace is changing? Are you changing as fast as your organization is changing?

6. What we know: Before you can find a solution you have to accurately identify the problem.

Be a Game Changer: Face the brutal facts of reality and know the real target.

It’s easy for the people on Main Street to point the finger at those greedy Wall Streeters who are responsible for tanking our economy. But what about the consumer who failed to embrace delayed gratification and accepted the enticement to buy a $400,000 home when he or she could realistically only afford a $250,000 home? What are the HARD FACTS telling you about your life, your business, and your industry? Do you have an accurate view of your strengths and weaknesses? Do you have an accurate view of market realities? Do you have an accurate view of the contribution you make each day at work? In the absence of candid feedback and accurate information, it’s easy to assume a convenient reality.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and help you get in touch with reality:

  • What do people like/dislike about working for our company?
  • What are the major issues we are afraid to talk about around here?
  • What makes us easy/difficult to do business with?
  • What can we learn from our competitors who are consistently beating us to market with new products and services?

7. What we know: Your approach to a problem will determine how much energy you have to solve it.

Be a Game Changer: Learn how to ask appreciative questions.

When something goes wrong, people in the traditional problem-solving mode ask, “What caused the problem, who’s to blame, and how are they/we going to fix it?” This often sets off a chain reaction of posturing, finger-pointing, and justification—all of which zaps people’s energy, derails the process of finding solutions and slows down the organization.

Appreciative questions will lead you forward (not backward). For example, if an airline identifies that it is losing customers due to poor on-time performance, the problem would be approached by asking, “When has our on-time performance been the very best? Who was involved? What circumstances came together to create this result? How do we—with limitations and all—recreate a situation like this?” The focus is on what has worked in the past.

Think about a challenge you are up against; how can you use appreciative inquiry to deal with it and move forward?

8. What we know: People are angry and hurt.

Be a Game Changer: Find something or someone to be grateful for.

Want to know the fastest way out of being a complainer and feeling sorry for yourself? Gratitude. Who among us is not “drinking from wells dug by others?” Yet, we live in a world that screams, “I owe nothing, yet I have a right to everything!” This kind of thinking causes us to take what we have for granted and live as if the world owes us everything. An ungrateful heart always sees what is wrong with the world and cynically makes nothing out of something. Gratitude, on the other hand, sees what is right with the world and usually finds something meaningful in nothing. Gratitude transforms our perspective and changes our whole orientation.

Write down 3-5 things you are grateful for every day and ask your kids and your team to do the same. See if your perspective changes.

9. What we know: Attitudes are contagious

Be a Game Changer: Make sure yours is worth catching

The world—your world—needs to be inspired. We have enough doom and gloom. Inspiration! We look for it in every leader, and every leader looks for it in the people he or she leads. Winston Churchill rallied a nation with it.

Had Churchill not been able to see beyond the dark clouds of war, had he not demonstrated the courage to inspire a nation, and had Hitler won the Second World War, the world in which we now live would be a very different place.

Do you bring the same level of energy and passion to the game as those you admire—or envy? If you build a reputation as someone who can infuse the organization with passion and enthusiasm, you stand out. You differentiate yourself from everyone else who just shows up waiting to be inspired.

Your attitude spills out of you—is it worth catching or is it toxic? Your attitude will determine the quality of your life and your relationships. How can you and your attitude be a contagious inspiration to someone today?

10. What we know: The impact of the financial crisis is widespread.

Be a Game Changer: Realize you are not alone.

If you’re nervous and concerned, realize you’re not alone. Share your fears, concerns, solutions, and strategies with people you respect. This is not a “misery loves company” or “pity” party; it’s an attempt to learn from others. None of us is as smart as all of us. The fact is someone you know and respect just might have a solution or strategy that can work for you or vice versa. But you’ll never know unless you have the courage to be vulnerable and share your concerns.

There are probably only six degrees of separation (or less) between you and the beginning of a solution to the challenges you face. Gutsy leaders network like crazy and do whatever-it-takes to build long-lasting relationships. Never burn a bridge, get connected and stay connected.

Do you need to repair any bridges? Do Something Now! Set a goal to network with at least 5 new people each year and get specific about what you will do to stay connected over the years.

In times of drastic change, it is the learners who will inherit the future. For the learned will find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.

Eric Hoffer, American Philosopher

Lead People to Learn Without Spending a Dime

We wholeheartedly believe in the value of ROI for training, learning, and people development. It is a wise and necessary investment especially in times of drastic change. What if you could inspire learning and positive change at no cost? As a gift, we’d like to share an example of how one leader in the real estate business is turning things around and inspiring people to learn—without spending a dime. We encourage you to do the same.

We just had to give you some feedback on your free “Guide to Leading Up in a Down Economy.” It was so awesome that we needed to share it with our agents who meet weekly for a success/power hour. Today was our 3rd week discussing the ‘Guide’ and we are only through the first 3 points! My business partner and I are thrilled at how the agents have embraced your ideas and suggestions.”

Many independent contractors become lackadaisical in managing their businesses and stop taking the necessary steps to be successful. This is especially evident in the current market. The agents hear from the media, sellers, buyers, lenders, their families, and a host of other sources about how terrible things are. They are constantly barraged with statements like; “Why are you still in the business?” “You’re crazy if you think I’m going to buy now.” “My house is worth way more than that!” Needless to say, fear of rejection and fears in general have been running rampant! “

Since we began with your guide we have seen a shift. Agents have begun focusing on the activities that will bring them results, they are educating those in their sphere of influence on the facts that the media neglects to tell us, and they are working on stepping through their fears. Our discussions have allowed many to share and face their innermost thoughts and thereby opening the door for the others in the group to show their support and camaraderie. All thanks to your ‘Guide’!

We look forward to future Freiberg materials to help us all navigate through the good and bad times. Keep up the fantastic work!

Serenity Real Estate Group

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