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Tune out the noise, move ahead
September 30, 2011
Written By: Russell Jensen

This blog was originally a guest opinion in the Des Moines Business Record on September 30.

Paralysis is rarely a winning strategy. And with all of the economic and political uncertainty of the past summer, it’s hard to be decisive right now, isn’t it? Businesses had just found their footing in this new business climate dictated by the 2008 recession when the one-two punch landed, and it is tempting to take a defensive stance of “let’s wait and see.”

But really, it’s mostly just noise. As loud and relentless as this noise is, it is largely market-driven, outside our control. The good news? The businesses we work with are performing better, and the leaders are less fearful than in 2008. The bad news? It’s hard to be bold and have confidence in this environment.

How do I know this? We’ve been trusted advisers to senior executives from across Central Iowa for more than 17 years, and we’re not hearing the same concerns we did three years ago. Of course, the 24/7 “the world is ending” news cycle does often give us pause, but the business leaders in our executive roundtables see opportunity ahead, because this time around they are ready.

Your business can move ahead with confidence by adopting these three strategies.

1. Commit to core business focus and execution. Now is the time to be really good at your core business. Sloppy, inconsistent execution brings a harsh penalty. If your natural gifts as a leader don’t lend themselves to operational excellence, put the right person in that critical role and set him or her up to succeed.

2. Pour your energy into the one change initiative that will have the greatest impact on bottom-line success and competitive positioning. The leaders we work with rely on an outside-in perspective gained from their boards of directors, a non-industry-specific peer group or trusted mentors to help them identify these critical leverage points. For a number of our clients, this has meant reinventing their sales/growth model, understanding their customers’ changing needs or reconfiguring their senior talent mix.

3. Invest in your own growth. Savvy, successful business leaders realize they must step up their game as leader and coach to lead change and improve organization performance in an environment more challenging and complex than ever before. If you were to pick out the one person in the company who, with a noticeable improvement in effectiveness, would have the biggest impact on organizational performance, who would it be? Leadership assessment, coaching, peer groups, mentors and executive education all provide an outside perspective and challenge an executive’s thinking.

Now is the time to be confident, focused and bold; are you ready? Run a quick system diagnostic. Spend some time with a trusted peer or a blank notepad thinking about these strategies and see if that gets you moving forward.


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