Published: January 9, 2009
Jennifer Selby Long, Selby Group
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Make 2009 the Best Year for Your Business: Ten Tragic Mistakes to Avoid

Welcome to 2009! How can I be so upbeat when I’m reporting on the topic of tragic mistakes? Because I know YOU can thrive this year, and your business right along with you. It’s your choice – curl up into the fetal position or go for the gold.

Money MagazineDon’t let the economic doom and gloom obscure your decision-making. This month’s Money magazine cited an absolutely fascinating study demonstrating how we see patterns that simply aren’t there when we feel out of control of our environments. Participants in the study were given two different headlines, one indicating that this year would be smooth sailing for the stock market, and the other indicating that the year ahead looked rocky.

Sure enough, when shown pages of utterly random dots, participants who had read the unsettling headline genuinely thought they saw patterns, while those who read the optimistic headline weren’t fooled. They knew there were no patterns on those pages.

This translates into real life when we find ourselves searching, searching, searching for a clear pattern to explain what is happening, on the assumption that if we understand the pattern we can regain control. When we feel out of control, we make poor decisions.

That’s why it’s so essential to seek out not only data, but perspective, from a variety of sources. One of my favorite ways to ensure that I make informed decisions and recommendations is to gain a broader viewpoint through conversations (both in person and on line) with my peers.

One great source of these insights has been my membership in The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC®). SAC is an international association of consulting professionals who subscribe to an industry code of ethics and have provided evidence of significant consulting results among our clients.

We recently developed a Top Ten list of the best and worst practices in current economic conditions, based on the observations of our global membership and the tens of thousands of clients we serve. These are the ten tragic mistakes to avoid:

  1. Panicking as leaders, and allowing employees to witness dissension, indecision, and vacillation
  2. Withdrawal and downsizing so severe that the probability of being positioned strongly when the upturn arrives is remote
  3. Sacrificing productivity of remaining workers through rolling and seemingly arbitrary layoffs
  4. Failure to spread sacrifice, and a perception that executives are not sharing the burden
  5. Poor communication of short and longer term plans to the workforce
  6. Failure to manage public relations, media speculation, and reporting
  7. Follow-the-leader mentality instead of carving out a singular approach to the conditions as they affect the organization
  8. Failure to provide incentive for key talent which can't easily be replaced
  9. Cutbacks in the wrong areas, such as customer responsiveness
  10. Poor use of existing credit and financial reserves

How are you doing in each of these areas?

Steer the boat in the right directionIf any of them look familiar to you, it’s never too late to steer the boat in the right direction, but don’t put it off. Recession rewards those who are nimble, not those who analyze and ponder until the opportunity passes them by. If your organization is drifting into these bad practices, you need to make changes right now.

For the Top Ten Best Practices list, please visit my blog at www.jenniferselbylong.com.

My intent in sharing our top ten lists is not to scare you. There’s the American media to do that. My intent is to help you make better-informed decisions. Your happiness and success mean a lot to me. If there's anything I can do to help you make 2009 your best year, please let me know.


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