(This article is part of regular series of business articles I write for the York County Coast Star)
In this difficult economy, we all hope things will get better. Business owners hope to finally make a profit, while sales managers hope sales will increase, and line managers hope disengaged workers will improve their performance.
Hope is one of those virtues we all cherish and hold tightly. With it we can endure difficult circumstances because we believe tomorrow will be better, righting today’s troubles.
While hope alone may give us momentary peace, it is a lousy business strategy, for it is not enough. Profits and sales don’t just happen and employees never simply get better. Successful managers take control and make things happen.
The recession battered many organizations and as sales and profits tumbled, managers hoped for a speedy recovery, looking to the government, banks and anyone to throw them a life line. Most are still waiting. Others realized hope was not enough and took positive actions to both endure and even thrive during this trying time. For example, one local manufacturing firm made the tough decisions most firms made to save their business, cutting costs, labor and expenses. But they didn’t stop there. Seeing the recession as an opportunity, the ownership acted. Even though their customers stopped or reduced orders, this management team aggressively reached out to both their customers and their competitor’s customers, forging new alliances, investing in new programs, and cementing new relationships that are today bearing positive results. This same company also used the downturn to recruit star performers away from other companies who might not otherwise been receptive to a change, strengthening the company’s overall bench. Another organization, a human service organization, used the downturn to redefine their business model, expand into new geographies, and minimized their dependency on government funding for their revenues.
Each of these firms realized that merely hoping things would get better was a recipe for disaster. Instead they created a plan to both endure the downturn, but also to position themselves for the recovery. For them, it was not a time to be passive. Strategy and execution were employed. While hope was not discarded, the executives running these two operations embraced another virtue—courage. Courage to ignore the doomsayers who cautioned them to not act; courage to take a risk, realizing failure could be risky, but not acting could be fatal; courage to act when conventional wisdom advised against it.
Great leaders never shed hope. But they know it is not enough.
Success in the business world depends on having the courage to act, regardless of your position and circumstances. Whether it’s in finding a new job, going for a promotion, or addressing a problem employee. There is nothing wrong with hoping things will happen as you want, but without the courage to act, you may be waiting a long time.