"If you manage for long enough, you'll lead through a recession, and one's coming. Now, a recession is not the end of the world. Hewlett Packard started in the late 1930s. Microsoft in the mid-1970s. Uber in 2007, and these were all deep, painful recessions. When you lead through a recession, you're going to deal with a lot of change, a lot of unpredictability and surprises, a lot of confusion and a lot of misreads and mixed messages.
This is when the real leadership talents going to thrive. It's going to rise to the top. The US military calls this leadership challenge 'VUCA'. It's an acronym for "Volatility", "Uncertainty", "Complexity", and "Ambiguity". That's the post- Cold War world that military officers have been leading through, and it's the world business leaders are facing today. The FED is done printing money, interest rates are going up, supply chains are all but upended. Inflation is real, and the stock market is due for a correction.
But this is a huge opportunity. A high tide raises every ship, and a lot of companies have been enjoying the recent high tide. Warren Buffett said that, "you don't know who's swimming naked until the tide goes out". Well, the tide is going out. So what do leaders do now?
You focus on three things. You focus on priorities, process and progress. In a VUCA world, you don't focus on the month, the quarter or annual targets. You focus on what's right in front of you. You win-the-day.
You focus on daily priorities, processes and progress. Your leadership style has to be more hands on, and I don't mean micromanaging. You eliminate the clutter by clarifying priorities. You focus on execution by simplifying your processes, and you build momentum and confidence by focusing on progress. You can't live in the past and you can't worry about the future.
You have to focus and lead through the moment at hand, and that's what 'winning the day' means. Remember, you can't control the world around you, but you're still in control. You can control what you choose to focus on your priorities and your team's priorities. You can control your habits and routines. These are your processes and your team's processes, and you define what success looks like.
You can embrace progress made. You can focus on the next immediate milestone and not get overwhelmed by long term goals. In a VUCA world, long term goals provide direction, but daily process goals are going to fuel your success. The leaders and teams that win each day and keep stacking good days, day after day. They're going to thrive in this recession, and they're going to come out of this VUCA world stronger than ever."
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