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Executive Emergency

Monday, June 1, 2009 - 09:35

Now may be the opportunity to rejuvenate your professional and personal life. Diana Day looks at the new reality.

For salaried employees, like most of us, things are beginning to get - or get more - stressful, mean and unfair in this shaky economic environment of accelerated and mostly negative news.

Uncertainty and instability are the hallmarks of 21st century economic and social change. Today, there is simply more ambiguity, risk, speed and guarded corporate knowledge; so get used to it.

Here's a guide to what's what and how to survive the roller-coaster:

Your private challenge
Should you stay in your role or job? Are the rewards diminishing? Or is it that you just can't see the point? Any of the above might mean you have a real drain on your psyche, mind, body and relationship, especially with yourself.

If your work and remnant private life feel closer to a cosmic black hole than to paradise, then consider action that works for you. What if you feel life hasn't delivered for you, yet? And is it likely to if you go on as you are?

Refresh your career
Get up and live your own life with energy, not just as a sporadic afterthought. Work out what excites you first. It might mean creating change in your life. Do something small and new for a start. Make that short cut to a better, well-deserved phase of your professional life. Find a life that feels more rewarding and peaceful, because life is awfully short and old age is not guaranteed.

Find a well-qualified and experienced career consultant to assist you to find new insights on your personal needs and interests as well as preferred work/life and career. Sometimes the simply obvious often only appears clear after someone independent helps you to discover yourself again. Be happy with your life, family and world.

Refresh your workplace now
So how to move on? Learn much more about your clients, customers and stakeholders. How do they feel about your service, product or organisation? Do you really know their needs and understandings? Do you really know the people? If not, you are losing advantage and inheriting a cascade of problems for later.

Have you reviewed your business environment lately? Get to know it better. Fresh independent eyes can certainly help, and not necessarily from the same sector. Get some now. This is no time for mincing around. Make sure your board and executive are spot on with managing intellectual property. Review all aspects of your organisation's knowledge wealth. But watch out for the knowledge-management experts who make it seem so hard and expensive that your people can't be bothered to wear it.

Tend your people like a garden
We all know people are our best capital resource. They are also increasingly independent, demanding and mobile. Get the best people who enjoy creativity in their work. Work to keep them if you can, don't just hope they will stay. Good people are too expensive to lose and replace. Be flexible.

Include career-development programs that are vital with flatter structures. Morale must be up. If it is wavering, you have a problem. If morale is dead, the company is. Get it clear that there is an A team. And everyone is on it. Or else.

Youth has many contributions
Get youth out there and give it responsibility. It knows the street and its telecommunication languages. New marketing and research groups sell information on generational trends. It pays to keep up with what they are saying.

Avoid business rot
You literally cannot afford to support freeloading, poor focus, antagonism, inefficiency, ineffectiveness and yesterday's thinking about resource management. It kills business and growth and squanders social and environmental capital. These people need to shape up or ship out.

Management is not just economics
Forget listening to some of those smirky economists with their post-cyclical theory or some erroneous and over-optimistic market predictions. Find expertise and crosscheck it. Read, learn, and talk.

Management can thrive on change
Despite massive external impacts to our businesses, which flow through to our lives and national accounts, there is significant opportunity to get results in tough times. Rapid change always allows for new initiatives. For instance, Hunter Water grabbed on to the early 1980s drought as a platform to change urban water pricing forever; up.

Let innovation be your touchstone
If you are not innovating, then what are you doing? Australia's former Chief Scientist Robin Batterham has said that innovation is the only real commodity in the 21st century. So where does your organisation stand? As Jennings and Haughton say in their book: It's not the big that eat the small, it's the fast that eat the slow, can you articulate your competitive advantage or niche and be confident about its relevance? Is your core business direction even a little vague to your board?

Relationships are vital
These are essential for most of us, except for hermits and the super stressed. Building better relationships, alliances and joint ventures is essential for you and your business right now. Such relationships can be entirely unusual and across sectors, industries or cyberspace. In fact, the more dissimilar your alliances the more invigorating it might be for your business.