The last nine months have completely changed the equation about business and non-profit development in America. And yet, I’m amazed at the number of leaders who are doing the same thing they’ve always done – totally oblivious to the dramatic shifts in business, the economy and culture. One by one, those leaders are getting blindsided and either getting fired, laid off, or going out of business completely. One friend of mine who’s a great planner, said that months ago he cancelled everything – plans, strategies, travel, etc – in order to re-focus on the challenge at hand. While that might be extreme, there are some important ways to make sure you don’t get surprised:
1. Re-set your priorities. Stop doing the same old things, and re-think how you do business. Focus on pathways to revenue and strengthen those connections. In a similar way, look at the fat and make some changes there. As someone famous once said, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Get out of the traditional business mindset and start thinking like an entrepreneur.
2. No matter how panicked you get, don’t make across the board cuts. While it might seem fair, it’s not smart. For instance, cut administrative bloat, but keep your sales staff humming. Cut extraneous projects, but don’t cut media, advertising, or any connections to your customers, donors, or audience. Get your people better tools. Look for new markets, audiences, and donors. It’s not about being fair, it’s about adjusting to the marketplace, and keeping your message in front of the people who can help you.
3. Pay attention to trends. This is the time to re-build your organization into a much nimbler group. Respond more quickly to market changes. Shift on a dime. Listen to the culture. Position for the future.
4. A great athlete trims fat, but never muscle. Make sure you’re getting accurate information about which departments are working and which aren’t. Know your employees. Walk through the factory. See for yourself what’s working and what isn’t. Don’t always take other people’s word for it. Cut through the politics and get real answers to the real challenges you’re facing right now. Traditional leaders filter through a few close advisors. Contemporary leaders hear it for themselves. Are you personally hearing from the front line people? Demolish the silos.
5. Finally – educate your employees about changing their expectations. The era of a “job for life” is over. One of the biggest problems the Los Angeles school district is facing is a union that thinks this is 1970. They want all the traditional perks while fighting any performance based evaluations.
Folks, this is a new world, and it’s competitive. Help your employees understand that they need to stay sharp, educated, growth oriented, and eager to face these changes. Otherwise, they’ll get left in the dustbin of history.