Despite reported accelerating GDP growth in Q3 2023, many CEOs have yet to feel the surge in revenues. Whether their companies’ performance is lagging due to a sector-specific downturn, lower consumer demand, or poor team performance, leaders must rise to the occasion. What strategies can they use to invigorate their upper and middle management and harness everyone’s energy to go from good to great?
While no one celebrates sluggish financial results, astute CEOs accept these problems as a business reality, even embracing them as opportunities. As CEO at XINNIX, I’ve had experiences overcoming down markets and witnessed the wise steps taken by other accomplished leaders. The approaches below have helped improve many companies and grow sales revenues.
Be the Beacon of Innovation and Optimism
In challenging times, your role as a CEO transcends managing; it’s about inspiring. Demonstrate creativity and positivity. Craft a vision that’s not just about survival but about thriving. Challenge every division not just to meet but exceed their goals. Now is not the time for complacency; it’s a time for exemplary leadership and high expectations.
Empower Your Leaders
• Require detailed 90-day plans outlining how every leader will meet their team’s goals.
• Establish regular leaders’ meetings where open dialogue and ideation are invited and expected. Meet often to reinforce your trust in their contributions.
• Evaluate your leaders and confirm they’re qualified to lead in any economy. At every level, assess your top, middle and average players. Who is struggling, who is succeeding–and why?
• Focus on sales leadership to assess how they’re managing in this environment. Even your rock stars can struggle in down markets when their compensation dwindles. Consider new incentives and competitions to reinvigorate their energy.
• Identify flight risks and protect top talent. This is no time to lose your best people.
Simplify to Amplify – The KISS Method
Embrace the KISS methodology – it is a highly effective process for enabling a culture of continuous improvement. This methodology:
• Identifies challenges and opportunities and defines impactful approaches for change.
• Promotes free expression, making leaders feel valued and trusted.
• Taps perspectives from individuals who are closer to day-to-day activities.
So how do you implement the KISS Method? Bring your team together and ask them the following questions:
• What do we want to Keep doing?
• What do we want to Improve?
• What do we want to Stop Doing?
• What do we want to Start Doing?
When XINNIX’s sales slowed during the 2008 economic downturn, the KISS method helped us pinpoint an opportunity to better align our product packaging with evolving customer needs. We went from live to online training in just 30 days. It was a transformational pivot that, 12 years later, insulated us from the market challenges other training companies faced during the pandemic.
Cultivate an “Own Your Mindset” Culture
Research by the Corporate Leadership Council indicates that as many as 76% of employees could be more engaged. That’s why building an “Own Your Mindset” culture is so vital to elevating performance. It starts by instilling accountability in everyone. Each individual must be responsible for their successes and have confidence in their ability to perform.
Many sales leaders have shockingly poor self-images, which turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. If they don’t feel capable of getting to the top, they’ll never take the steps they need to elevate their results.
Invest in Impactful Training
It can be tempting to cut back on training expenses, especially sales training, in a down market. Yet, it’s the most opportune time to lean in for many reasons. The slower pace allows team members to give time and attention to reskilling. Training improves both individuals’ and teams’ expertise and boosts morale by demonstrating leadership’s investment in their people.
Here are a few tips to select the best training options for your team:
• Insist on training that can demonstrate measurable results.
• Ensure that leadership participates in modeling and evangelizing how your organization benefits from learning new techniques.
• Require immediate implementation so new ways of working quickly become habits.
Master the Art of Communication
I’ve had the privilege of knowing many of the CEOs whose companies are listed in Newsweek’s annual report, “The 100 Most Loved Workplaces in America.” One of the traits these leaders have in common is their highly effective communication styles. Even in difficult markets, they do outstanding jobs of rallying their troops using these best practices:
• Communicate often within all levels of an organization. Be transparent yet exude positivity; acknowledge the challenges and offer an action-oriented vision for a better future.
• Celebrate victories and successful milestones. Recognizing positive impact will increase motivation, encourage perseverance, and instill healthy competition.
While you can’t always prevent a downturn, you can own how you address its challenges. Using this time to your advantage will prepare you for tremendous success and make you more resilient when obstacles inevitably arrive.