The Leadership Project with Robert M. BENNIN: It’s time for spring-cleaning – strategies to stimulate your business in stormy weather


The recent Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) Report from the Bank of Ghana highlighted challenges in the real sector. The monetary policy rate was increased to 29.5 percent – the highest since establishment of the MPC, even though market players expected the rate to remain unchanged at 28 percent.

The cost of doing business is expected to increase as a result of the additional taxes that have been imposed on businesses. These are potentially ominous signs for business, and it might seem there is no way a business can thrive under these austere conditions. Though strictly speaking this is not a health crisis, our recent experience with COVID-19 demonstrates that leaders and organisations are capable of responding positively to difficult challenges.

There are many complex issues to resolve, and the challenge for leaders is where to focus attention to make an impact in a time of crisis. This is a perfect opportunity for spring-cleaning. Probably your business was roaring when times were good – and accumulated dust while overlooking some of the inefficiencies.

The weather has changed; the rains are here, and you need to clean the choked gutters. Spring-cleaning takes the sludge out of the business and makes it more responsive in a time of crisis. Spring-cleaning your business will make the impact of perennial flooding associated with economic distress less severe and enable you to sleep better at night.

However, undertaking this business spring-cleaning is an arduous task. Over the next three weeks I will pinpoint three main areas you must focus your spring-cleaning efforts on, and offer a guide to making the process more impactful as you navigate your way through the present economic challenges.

First, start-spring cleaning from where you are with your people

Every organisation is as good as its people. Talent is the catalysing resource organisations use to carry out their mission. The impact and returns on human capital in the post-industrial economy outweigh the return and impact of financial capital. Many organisations have not yet adapted their approaches to managing talent in response to this significant change.

The crisis presents an opportunity to look inward and fix the talent issues that act as a drag on execution. This is when you need your talent to be agile, empowered, motivated etc. to go through the difficult months ahead. It is time to spring-clean your team, the environment, leadership and the mindsets that have shaped the business. Here are three ideas to get your business and people ready for the rainy season.

Energise the environment for meaningful work, the rains are here

It’s time to actively reconsider how to create an environment that enables talent to fulfil their potential. Take out bad energy just as you would take a toxic person out of the team, and start celebrating and appreciating all the great work that’s been done over the years. Set the mood for the team with the story you want to lead with, rather than allowing the flood of news about impending storms to dominate and create fear and panic in the team. Turn bad situations into meaningful learning moments, by encouraging the team to reflect on their experiences and take the lessons needed for the business’s future.

The business must put its best foot forward by making sure that the best people are in the critical roles needed in responding to business floods. For example, if in the past you had two people who normally cleaned the choked gutter, you may need to double the number or replace them with more skilled people to desilt quickly before the rains come. Conduct an audit of the key roles that are needed at this moment, and make sure they are staffed with your best talent.

No business can survive the storm with the usual acrimony and ‘silo mentality’ that characterises teamwork in most organisations. Do not allow it to slide with the mindset that these challenges are in every business. Ensure that your team is tuned-up and facilitate supportive, collaborative relationships across diverse teams. Get your team to work together in the storm.

Engage every team-member in the spring-cleaning effort; it’s community labour 

Safeguarding the business may mean undertaking major cost and expenditure reviews which necessitate cuts to everything – including compensation and benefits, and potential downsizing. These have to be done transparently and with the team’s involvement. Staff should be engaged in seeking solutions to the crisis.

At the beginning of the year, I facilitated mini-workshops for a couple of clients on the theme Accelerating in a Time of Uncertainty’. I used, as an example, the strategies many adopt to drive home safely when there is a storm to elicit ideas on how individuals can support their organisations to thrive in the current business climate.

Many people shared personal stories and identified ways such strategies and resourcefulness could be extended to the business to enable their organisations to thrive in the current storm. Your team is brimming with ideas, but you will only find out if you engage them. I have always found that there is energy in the organisation waiting to be released. Involving the team creates a sense of ownership, which galvanises everyone into taking effective action.

Empower leaders to lead and support others to do their own spring-cleaning 

This is also the time to equip leaders with the necessary skills to energise and lead teams for accelerated performance, as the current challenges require an all-hands-on-deck approach. Team members are also experiencing the pains of the moment, and they will remember how the organisation and its leaders made them feel when times were tough.

Hence, leaders also need to be resilient, have clarity and be in a great space to engage teams. Who cares for the caregiver? Recently, some leaders and board members from two of my clients in the banking industry participated in our resilience and talent leadership training. Even before the session ended, one leader said: “We have received a real booster to re-energise our teams in these challenging times”. These engagements prepare leaders to better support the teams they lead.

Adopt effective accountability practices so leaders are primed to check-in on the wellbeing of their teams (and can account for them when there is a storm). Team leads must also support their teams to undertake their own spring-cleaning by engaging them to review the progress they have made on their professional journeys, the skill-sets and attitudes that supported their growth, and what has been a drag that has to be jettisoned. Engaging team members in these empowering conversations creates trust and energises them to enhance their contribution in a moment of great need.

It’s vital that you begin your spring-cleaning as soon possible (if you have not started already) because the rains are already here. You can start with any one of the three ideas right now. In my next article, I will share ideas on how to spring-clean your relationship with customers and key stakeholders.

>>>The writer is a Leadership Development Facilitator, Executive Coach and Strategy Consultant, Founder of the CEO Accelerator Programme, and Chief Learning Strategist at TEMPLE Advisory. The mission of The Leadership Project is to harvest highly effective leadership practices and share them in a manner that other leaders can easily incorporate into their leadership practice. If you have got an idea or leadership practice to share, kindly write to [email protected]. Until you read from us again, keep leading…..from leader to leader, one practice at a time.

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