Tough times good leadership test

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The mood at the July Truckload Carriers Association Refrigerated meeting was guardedly optimistic. An unexpected drop in fuel prices was the first tangible good news in a while, but there were other reasons for optimism.

Pat Lencioni, author of “Obsessions of the Extraordinary Executive,” gave the keynote address and centered his advice around the opportunities of leading in tough times. In fact, Lencioni says that tough times not only test great leaders, but when the tide turns, an organization can end up healthier. He believes in concentrating on the factors you can control and taking practical steps to lead your company through the last part of the down cycle.

  1. Take time to make your leadership team more cohesive. Tough times are great opportunities to build trust and shape your team for the future.
  2. Define who you are and the market you serve. Take time to look at issues like: why your business exists, what values are important to you and what your strategy is going to be when things begin to turn around.
  3. Communicate more than ever. Talk to your people about what you want from them and what kind of company you want to create. Repeat yourself often- employees can’t get enough clarity and reinforcement.
  4. Take the time to evaluate the systems already in place. Are you hiring the right people? Are you rewarding the right behaviors? Are there hidden costs you can eliminate?

When business is booming, and everyone is busy, it’s hard to justify taking time to do these things. Right now, there is no good reason not to. Lencioni suggests you keep in mind that the world will look very different two years from now. “You will look back and ask yourself, ‘Was I a good leader when it mattered the most?'”

CR England’s CEO Dan England agrees that the challenges of tough times can translate into opportunities for evaluation and reflection. “Although we would not invite the kind of adversity that is currently confronting the industry, we are already seeing the fruits of an intensive refocus on cost reduction that has been dictated by the difficult times. We are a better carrier for having had this experience,” England says.

Most long-timers in the business concur; this is an economic cycle, and opportunities abound for those with the vision to seize the experience as a leadership proving ground.

Chip Magner is publisher of Commercial Carrier Journal.
E-mail Lmagner@eTrucker.com.