Every year around this time, people start to swear off the doughnuts, swear by the treadmill or embark on some other such version of personal reform, promising themselves that this time around, their New Year’s resolutions are really, truly, going to stick.
And every year, right around February or March, those same resolutions usually start to come a little unglued. That’s OK; it’s only human. But this year—since it’s unlike any other year in memory—calls for a new routine.
As 2009 looms, bringing unprecedented challenge and uncertainty, we suggest that you add four work resolutions to your list, especially if you’re leading a company, division, or even a team. They won’t solve everything, but ardently abiding by them throughout the year might help you make the best of a bad situation.
First and foremost, we suggest that you resolve to make 2009 the year you stay outward-facing and on the offensive. Yes, defensive actions are necessary right now. Many companies have conducted a round of layoffs or reduced compensation, and more such moves are likely to follow, along with cutbacks on many other forms of spending. But watch out.
In such an environment, people typically start obsessing about the internal—in particular, about who and what will be next to go. Even more counterproductive, they start forgetting what keeps the whole place alive in the first place—customers.
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As a leader, your job over the upcoming daunting quarters is to block that tendency. With your positive energy and example, keep your people riveted on delivering innovative products and services. And remember—your customers are hurting, too. Look to offer them better-than-ever value and you will sell more today, and stand a chance of keeping their loyalty even after these dark days pass.
Second, resolve to make 2009 the year you become excruciatingly clear with your people about the meaning of the term integrity. Of course you’ve been there, done that. You’ve told your team that integrity is a given; you’ve insisted that you have zero tolerance for people who act unethically. But integrity violations aren’t just committed on a grand scale, a la Bernard Madoff. Far more often, they’re committed by regular employees who have found a way to manoeuvre in the grey areas of your business.
So this year, pledge to take the time—real, unhurried time—to explicitly express what's right and wrong. Make integrity black and white; try to eliminate the grey. And let your people know that when it comes to protecting your customers and the company’s reputation, ignoring an ethical violation is as bad as committing one.
Third, resolve to educate your whole team, no matter where they work in your organization, about the dangerous consequences of the Employee Free Choice Act.
(The Employee Free Choice Act is legislation in the US which aims to “amend the National Labour Relations Act to establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labour organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labour practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes”.)
On this one, you’d better act fast. Most Democrats campaigned in support of this legislation, and some believe the new Congress will push it to a vote before summer. If they are successful, Americans can say goodbye to the secret ballot in labour elections and expect a widespread increase in unionization efforts. No industry will be immune.
Now, as the Big Three auto companies struggle for survival, it’s possible that some of your employees are watching the president of the United Auto Workers on TV and thinking, “I wish I had someone like that to protect my job.” But as you talk about this legislation with your people, you might remind them that union work rules are one of the main reasons that the auto industry is close to bankruptcy to begin with. In 2009, Americans couldn’t less afford a resurgent unionization movement.
Finally, resolve to make 2009 a year that isn’t devoid of celebration. Too often when times get tough, leaders assume that it’s unseemly to stop every now and again and, well, have some fun.
But this year—because of its very challenges—is sure to be filled with remarkable small victories and extraordinary efforts. What a missed opportunity to build morale it would be, then, not to recognize and reward the people who are over-delivering. More than ever, they need and deserve it.
Look, the economic forecast for 2009 is pretty awful. You have your operating plan in place. But there’s no time like New Year’s to launch another, amplifying set of rules for getting through it in decent shape. These four resolutions—and a heavy-duty dose of resolve—should help.
Write to Jack & Suzy
Jack and Suzy are eager to hear about your career dilemmas and challenges at work, and look forward to answering some of your questions in future columns. Jack and Suzy Welch are the authors of the international best-seller, Winning. Their latest book is Winning: The Answers: Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today. Mint readers can email them questions at email@example.com Please include your name, occupation and city. Only select questions will be answered.