As a professional speaker, I get to visit with many different businesses in a cross-section of industries. I’m noticing some trends that I find encouraging—trends that I’ve confirmed with several of my speaker colleagues. Now, I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you that we’re completely out of the economic doldrums. You’re too smart to fall for that (except for you—the guy in the yellow flowered shirt—you’ll believe anything I tell you). But in broad terms, here’s what I’ve noticed:
I’m finding that business leaders are no longer dwelling on the recession. Oh, they’re still aware of it, and it’s still a factor in many, if not most, of their business decisions. But whereas last year the crappy economy was all people were talking about, I’m sensing a shift. Business leaders are now more focused on growth—on building and reinventing their businesses. That’s a great shift, of course. But my question is: Why wait for a recession? It seems to me that leaders should always be focused on building and reinventing their businesses.
I used to hate the way my mom drove a car (she’s gotten better, thank you). Going down the highway, she would step on the accelerator until she got up to about 65, and then take her foot completely off the pedal. The car, of course, would slow down. So she’d stomp on the gas again, get the car up to 65 again, and let go. This went on forever. The constant lurching of the car always made me, and everybody else except, it seems, my mother, feel seasick. Momentum, no momentum; momentum, no momentum.
The same thing happens in business; the pattern gets repeated. Management will lurch ahead with some new growth and reinvention initiative, and then they’ll coast on that for awhile. Eventually, they notice they’re falling behind, so they’ll step on the gas again with some new strategy. And coast again. And the cycle continues—lather, rinse, repeat. And all the employees, like the passengers in my mom’s car, start to feel seasick. And seasick passengers eventually start to look for a more stable ship (or car, or company, depending on which metaphor you’re still on).
The Beatles didn’t wait for a crisis to start innovating and reinventing themselves. That’s not to say they didn’t react to the competition and the marketplace. But since they were constantly reinventing themselves, constantly moving forward, they could react almost instantly. Moreover, they could avoid that sense of lurching through their business. To go back to the car metaphor (for those of you keeping track), they kept their foot smoothly on the gas all the time.
It’s great that leaders are starting to look forward again. It’s great that they’re starting to not just see light at the end of the tunnel, but actually emerge into it. It’s great that they’re beginning to rediscover their sense of optimism. But I would encourage them, and you (are you listening, guy in yellow flowered shirt?), to make growth and reinvention a habit rather than simply a reaction.Share