Leading people through economic headwinds?

The global economy has enjoyed a strong period of growth throughout the past 2 years following COVID 19 and the demand in executive search remains buoyant at this stage, given the demand for skilled executives as organisations take advantage of growth, consolidation opportunities or undertake sustainable restructure. However, strong economic headwinds led by inflation, energy demand and global supply chain challenges are driving businesses take a critical review of growth and opportunities in changing economic circumstances.

We are looking to explore what changes leaders and self-led teams should consider in order to continue to thrive despite stronger economic headwinds. Those in executive search, who have survived recessions, global financial crisis or COVID, know some organisations will fail and others will grow exponentially through crisis and leadership. We offer the following considerations:

  1. Shift from top-down to bottom-up leadership: In a growing business, leaders typically have a top-down approach to decision-making. However, in a declining business, leaders need to shift to a bottom-up approach, engaging and empowering employees to provide innovative solutions top emerging challenges.
  2. Emphasise collaboration over competition: In a growing business, competition among teams or functions or regions is often encouraged to take full advantage of growth opportunities. However, in a declining business, this type of competition can be counterproductive. Leaders should instead emphasise collaboration, encouraging teams to work together to solve problems and find new ways to drive growth.
  3. Focus on communication: in a declining market, it is even more important for leaders to encourage clear lines of communication between all levels of the business. Leaders at all levels should ensure that information is shared among teams and that feedback is regularly solicited from employees. It is critical that individuals or teams are broadly recognised for their constructive contribution during this time to maintain strong employee engagement.
  4. Prioritize customer experience: Leaders should focus on providing the best possible customer experience in a declining business. This means making sure customer service standards are consistently high, and that customer feedback is considered when making decisions.
  5. Encourage risk-taking: In a declining business, taking risks can be necessary to remain competitive. Leaders should encourage employees to think outside the box and try new things, even if those ideas bring with them a degree of risk. By creating a culture of risk-taking and innovation, leaders can help to drive growth in a declining business.

Additional areas for consideration include: Identify areas where costs can be reduced and reallocate resources to lower risk areas, leverage technology to increase productivity and efficiency, leverage data and analytics to help identify trends and opportunities and regularly review contingency plans to quickly respond to changing market conditions.

Successful organisations continue to focus on their people in challenging times with CFR clients more often thriving through a continued investment in their people. You always get the best out of people who possess a strong sense at belonging within organisations and are supported in challenging times. Now is the time to invest in employee development to maintain morale and help them cope with the changing environment.

Executive search consultants can play a critical support role in assessing your current leadership teams for change and assist in development programs to help your business grow in changing economic environments.

Article written by David Gallagher, CFR Global Executive Search Australia

Photo source: Unsplash

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