Leadership

In 2009, you need to know this

2009 is tough. And it's going to get worse before it gets better. In this blog, leadership and success coach John M McKee shares ideas that will help you succeed when others around you are failing.
New to her role as a department leader, Nancy was being cautious. "Before I make any decisions, I want to understand how things get done at this level. I need to know whom I can count on and who may have other plans that could affect my department's success. Knowing the agendas of others helps me get my job done. I'm taking my time. I'll just watch and learn before I take any action."

This would be a very smart plan. If we still lived in the 20th century.

Today? Not-so-smart.

In this perfect storm of tight money, uncertainty and increasingly tough customers, most organizations simply can no longer afford to wait very long see genuine action. And therefore, any leader who wants to survive and thrive needs to show that they're capable of creating forward momentum. Quickly.

In her case, Nancy's in the retail sector which is under huge pressure for simple survival, not just growing and building. Some of the approaches, which in the past had helped move her up the ladder, are not going to help her this time around. For any new leader today, it's important to recognize that what may have been successful for you earlier may be a drag on your ability to succeed this time around. Styles and methods which were appropriate in other positions and in other economies may result in failure in the new reality of 2009.

Regardless of their position on an organization chart, most leaders would be wise to follow our new President's example. He gets it. He understands that the old ways of operating don't work in this tough new environment.

In his first week in office, Obama created a whirlwind of activity. Orders and pronouncements flowed daily. Meetings took place with important individuals of various stripes inside government and outside of it. He honored several commitments made on the campaign trail and worked the media to reinforce his goals and plans.

By doing so, did 3 critical things:

1. He made a positive first impression on many who were following his actions. And that positive impression will help him develop relationships that will be very important when honeymoon period is over.

2. He confirmed to his supporters that they could trust him to honor promises. Many new leaders don't do a good job of that once they get into power. Consequently, they lose their key supporters and with that some ability to get things done.

3. He showed he's not afraid of getting his hands dirty. He knows people want to see that their leaders are prepared to do whatever it takes to get the big tasks completed. We're more prone to bust out backs to help those who also work hard.

Any leader, in any role, or organization would be well served to follow his example.

john

Leadership Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

32 comments
malkinson
malkinson

Bottom line, BHO did not hesitate and observe. He hit the ground running. Though it may be different when working with new staff, the author's point stands - produce results quickly in the present business climate.

cshupe
cshupe

I would think it appropriate to consider options and try to make an informed choice. While I agree that the analogy is flawed (business v. government), the hasty decision is often incorrect and will require a correction. Curtis R. Shupe

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

need correcting at some point. Almost everything changes, the only constant is the never ending quest for the silver bullet.

johnstonem
johnstonem

I may be wrong here, but did Obama really do all this in his first week, or has he perhaps spent several months, working with a large team of experts, planning what to do once he was in office?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

doodling on his blotter while the Whitehouse IT tech was configuring the network to use his Blackberry..... Or may be not.....

APitBoss
APitBoss

I almost never reply to these discussions but I do read them regularly; but this one, oh boy...! John McKee, your whole concept is flawed in my opinion and I am not sure by which ideological pulpit you are really trying to preach from but maybe you may want to take a step back and let more business minded individual take the reins on this one. I sincerely hope that Tech Republic is not actually paying you for your contributions because if so, they should demand their money back! Yes, it is important to move with the times but that does not mean that you walk on water because you have the ability to make a decision at the drop of a hat. For someone who seems to have gotten around as much as it is indicated that you have, you seem to be missing even the basic understanding of the way business and more importantly, business decisions work. This only contributes to the notion that ?Career Coaches? are those who can?t find real work so they pray upon those who are foolish enough to think that someone like you knows more than the rest of us. If you really want you have any sense of business, your new mantra should be "calculation". When you make moves, they must be calculated or they could have adverse affects. A good example of this would be: if you had made a calculated decision, you would not have written this article.

wburr
wburr

Hey guys, this is not a Wild West shootout. Let's try to remember to attack ideas, rather than each other. I think some of you went a little far in disagreement with perspective. I'm not the overly sensitive type, but jeez, the Atilla theHun School of Management is also not the only way to deal with ideas that you disagree with. --WB--

kenmarcus
kenmarcus

This article looks like someone wanted to praise Obama and they did it. For business I prefer real examples from real businesses.

regular guy
regular guy

Wise to follow our new President?s example?!?! You've got to be kidding.... Obama is acting like a dictator. John McKee, you, like all the other sheep, don't know what you are talking about. Stop trying to manipulate political opinion in an IT forum....Shame on you.

tdarmond
tdarmond

I can appreciate Mr. McKee?s support of our new President on a personal level. Our freedom of speech gives him the right to voice that. I do have to agree with the majority of comments here, that this is not the place to introduce political figures to use as an example to express what he personally views as entering the year 2009 successfully. I do my best to follow an old line of caution by avoiding politics and religion in the work place. We are dealing with people?s passions and beliefs, both affecting our job security and how we approach challenging times. Clear decisions in the organization of the technical field have to be applied according to foresight and the circumstances of each company and team. Leaders will no doubt be making some hard decisions this year and probably next year. In the meantime, I think we can be kinder to one another as we face uncertain times. We can agree to disagree and still maintain our respect for one another as people and technicians. While I?m here, if Mr. jdclyde is capable of faxing donuts, I?ll take one with sprinkles, please. *smile* Courage to all!

gpineda
gpineda

If we don't know those 3 things (create a positive first impression, honor our promises, and be ready to get our hands dirty), then, what are we doing in an executive position? What's so new about that? How about talking to CEOs or CIOs that you know, and then bring us some of their insights on how to deal with private sector realities (shrinking budgets, forced layoffs, unstable markets, etc). Please don't offend us with President Obama?s example, who can write billion dollar checks to finance whatever projects he wants, good and bad. You can choose a better analogy next time.

mikem
mikem

Sorry, I was unable to vote in your survey just yet? Before I make any decisions, I want to understand how things get done in this new era. I need to know whose thoughts I can count on and who may have other agenda?s that could affect the impact of this decision on my career. Knowing the agendas of you and commenter?s will help me make up my mind. I?m taking my time. I?ll just watch and learn before I vote in your survey. Or maybe not. I haven't decided. Obama?s narcissism ? a trait often found in leaders ? is a big part of what enables him to exhibit the behavior you mention. While I may try to step up my pace of decision making, I will also maintain the humility that allows me to both seek out and act on the suggestions of those around me who are affected by the decisions I have to make, even if I don't agree with them. Then again, I?M not seeking elected office.

Chuck.Elliott
Chuck.Elliott

Keep the politics out of TechRepublic, please. I don't like this type of article because it is mixing politics with tech and the politics get divisive very quickly.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

example for what he was trying to say. Whether you agree with what his ideas are/were or not, the guy did not sit down at his desk on his first day as President and come up with some things to do to look proactive. The second reason he was a poor choice, is because all those who don't agree with his politics, or even some of them, will judge how he acted on what he acted on. It's not so much politics is unwelcome as much as it's a stupid context for an already faulty premise. Can't say I'm surprised, it fits in with TR's other management articles, which I rate as poor in most respects.

pjohnson
pjohnson

There is another side to this. Act too quickly and one can make irreparable or near irreparable mistakes. Just because BHO has started pushing his agenda right away does not mean that everyone has to jump on the bandwagon. There is always room to observe, learn, and think before acting.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"In his first week in office, Obama created a whirlwind of activity." New presidents have over two months to get ready for that first week in office, two months you're denying your fictional Nancy. They start developing lists of potential cabinet members as soon as they have the nomination locked up. They're free to replace every single existing employee with their hand-picked team members. Many key existing employees are expected to tender resignations as a matter of course. How many new managers have the option of replacing their subordinates wholesale? Your point is good but is ruined by a bogus analogy.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

the author seems to equate activity with accomplishment. (not a slam on the president; just pointing out that someone running around the office all day isn't necessarily getting anything done other than burning time and calories) Great to say you're going to do something. Great to plan to do something. But the only thing that matters is if you actually do it! That said, if what the leader is saying in these meetings actually turns into tangible results, I think you start to see the positive impact on those around the environment. (to use Obama as the example...it was great he sat down with the Republicans, but if he doesn't incorporate any of their ideas into the stimulus package, and they don't buy into it/vote for it...did the meeting matter other than a cursory "here's what I'm pushing through" intro...I say not really)

jdclyde
jdclyde

when you are caught up in the moment, basking in the glory that is the obama, and don't really put any real thought into what is said. Or, maybe that is really his understanding of how government works?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

This analogy would not work regardless of who was sworn in January 20th. The comparison of a new manager to a newly inaugurated president completely ignores the amount of lead time the politician has had to prepare. A new manager may not know his new subordinates, doesn't have the immediate option of replacing them, hasn't had time to pick a team of former associates he can immediately hire, etc. How many new managers have several weeks of cooperation from the person they're replacing? How many even get to meet the outgoing manager? The analogy would be bogus for McCain too; probably more so since he has more experience with the "company" (the U.S. government).

FatNGristle
FatNGristle

I love nutrient rich soil... Anyhow, here's an analogy for ya: A new ship captain hears the alarm that we're taking on water deep in the hull. With a flurry of activity that shows he's a take charge guy, he orders the crew to drill an $800 billion hole in the side of the ship to let the water out. Fast acting is no replacement for quick thinking which is not the same as good thinking. How about a quick draw gun slinger, faster than anyone else, but happens to be blind... I don't mean to impune Barak (time will tell how he and his team do) or even to mire this thread in the political mud of spending yourself out of debt (even if by a "conservative" president). Rather, my point is that while 'Nancy' may have been slow, she won't be the one to have sunk the ship. Some things just take thought & time. Many, many companies have gone under for the sole reason that some big shot came in with guns blazing and spent the rent without understanding the business. I'f I were a bigger man, perhaps I wouldn't engage in the political debate, but I'm not. I wish we COULD discuss politics & religion more openly in every day life, but we can't sacrific the core of the business for ideology. Then again, without ideology, where's it all going...

jdclyde
jdclyde

had to press down to get it to fit in the slot! :D :D

jdclyde
jdclyde

[b][i]"and don't really put any real thought into what is said."[/i][/b] It was his lack of critical thought that was the problem, not whom the candidate is. It was the dear writers blind spot that would put such a poor analogy in place. It is rarely a good idea to mix your political agenda with your real job. Now I have to move quickly and make some executive decisions or all the doughnuts will be gone before I get to them..... ;\

StealthWiFi
StealthWiFi

Keep your political agenda out of the otherwise relevant discussions. Palmetto is right on. I could have written the same article as you with the same message just in a few less lines: In 2009 do things differently. Wow, great insight, did you get your MBA to figure that one out... Good luck, you?ll need it.

CareerCoach
CareerCoach

What's the best way to succeed at your place?

traci.esch
traci.esch

I'm not saying you need to be reckless, but what we see a lot of now is an unwillingness to make decisions because the financial environment has created job insecurity. Therefore, leaders aren't LEADING, they are just waiting for the person above them to tell them what to do. It creates an overall lack of forward momentum that isn't healthy for the organization or the economy has a whole. I kind of go by the rule of "Make a decision at 100 mph. If you're going the wrong direction, make the corner and keep going. Either way, you're not standing still." Thanks!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

It's how decisive. Delaying a decision is a decision. Refusing to make one, is abdication. Your president had his first day in office planned before he even knew he was going to be occupying it. To make out that he did things quick, is at best misleading. There are only two aspects to being good leader. Make the right decisions more often than not. When it's not, admit you screwed up and fix it. All else is self serving drivel. The realm of blame spreading, accountability avoiding, buck passing, whiny ass incompetents.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

How long has it been since the election? I'm sure Mr. Obama has had plenty of time to decide exactly what he wanted to accomplish during his first day. And I'm sure his staff members had it (and every day for the next few weeks) planned down to the minute. I have to agree with Tony. The key for 2009 will be to make the best decisions as well as can be made, without blame and without avoidance. If anything, that's what any period of recession requires ... the courage to say "Ooops ... let's rethink that". The wisdom to admit that sometimes even if you do everything right, things go wrong. And the discipline to take the right amount of time to make a decision. Glen Ford http://www.TrainingNOW.ca

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Hands up who thinks the leaders of the fiscal industries might have have been better off if they'd have followed it. Hmm, I sense a career opportunity Leadership Consultant. I could call it "How to be a banker instead of a wanker" :)

Editor's Picks