Leading When Times Are Good

by Zanzibar Vermiglio

It’s almost second nature for business leaders to lean in and help their team weather a storm. The pandemic was a perfect example, as many companies were trying to figure out new and creative ways to make sales to keep from closing their doors. On the other hand, these trying times turned into a pot of gold for many companies that were able to pivot quickly. The stream of new customers opened the floodgates to unparalleled success. 

But instead of laying off daily disciplines and going with the flow when things are going well, strong business leaders should put just as much energy into new processes, alternative methods and growth as they do when times are tough.

Creating a Gap: Exquisite Value to Customer

When experiencing success, leaders should always create a gap between where their teams are now and what they’re striving for. A business only exists to create value in a market. When times are good, businesses have room to get experimental in how they are going to approach the marketplace in new ways and elevate delivery to potential customers. For example, when businesses are overrun with business, often what happens is team members scramble to get everything done. Details can be missed. Instead, encourage team members to focus their attention on ways of elevating value delivery both technically and experientially to the client. 

Two things will happen. First, switching the culture from frenetic defense to cognitive and careful offense will leave the team grounded and having more space around them. Second, the value delivery of their operations will be more dialed in, resulting in more client referrals. Rather than just a groundswell, elevate to another level of performance. The first thing great leaders do in good times is create a gap between where we are now, and how good they can possibly be at executing for their clients.

Develop People

Next, leaders should always be developing their people. When a business is running smoothly, leaders should have room around them both emotionally and contextually to dig in and help people become the next iteration of themselves professionally. Team members shouldn’t go on autopilot. They should stay busy and hungry. 

One of the most important things leaders can do is to make sure to know where each one of their people wants to be in the next three years in their career. It is a manager’s job to get them where they want to be. Find out what that future is for them and get behind it. Challenge programs are an amazing way to develop people into the next best version of themselves. Having employees switch positions for a week, allowing them to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, builds empathy for other departments and triggers them to want to do their job better when they return. Challenge programs can be done between executives or teams, and have proven to be extremely developmental because growth is inevitable.

Capitalize on Increased Results

Capitalizing on increased results is critical to maximize opportunity. If sales have started to flow, change processes to capitalize on the increase in flow. Leaders might not do certain things they were once doing to garner success; breaking into a different mode of management could be an option. For example, I worked with a large mortgage broker team. We had structures in place to manage each broker around generating relationships with real estate agents. They had daily and weekly reporting structures in place. These architectures were wonderful in garnering expansion of results. However, when the refinance industry exploded, it didn’t make sense to spend all this time cultivating referral partners for homebuyers. We quickly instituted new sets of actions for automated touches through email and text to keep those relationships simmering, but not directly driven so we could free ourselves up to capitalize on the influx in low-hanging fruit. (Notice, however, we figured out a way to keep a bit of momentum in those relationships in preparation for the inevitable turn back the other direction.)

Something that is important in these times of flooding results is, leaders should take away a bit of the reporting mechanisms and allow people to run more freely. The burden of scrutiny when creating any reporting mechanism is, “What do I need to see, and how often do I need to see it to guarantee the result will be produced?” This principle doesn’t change when things start going impressively well. However, “What do I need to see?” and “How often do I need to see it?” should be significantly less.

Look Around the Corner

A great leader is always looking around the corner for what’s next. When times are good, it’s the appropriate move to focus intensely on what could possibly go wrong. When everyone is focusing on how great everything is, it is incumbent on our leaders to have the maturity to see where things could possibly go wrong, and either prepare for them or prevent them. This takes a discerning eye and a bit of intuition, but when intelligent people look, they will find good answers to answer or prepare for. In the example above, we knew that the refinance market wouldn’t last forever and made certain to not only keep the relationships in place, but also instituted cultivation long before anyone else did. The result was that we didn’t get hit at all with the pain other brokerage houses felt when the market shifted.

Raise Emotional Intelligence 

Lastly, when times are good, elevating the emotional intelligence (EQ) of team members is a must to keep functions within a company from stagnating. An easy way to build EQ is through team building. For instance, with a team of 12, ask three people on the team at the beginning of each meeting to highlight one person and acknowledge what that individual brings to the table and what’s truly unique about how that person operates — making sure to be creative about it. Another key for elevating EQ is for people to self-identify weaknesses in their own development or what weaknesses they have for the next job they want to obtain within the company.

When times are good and the floodgates of productivity are open, leaders should always be pointing in a direction and taking their group of people there. Leaders should never be happy with where things are or how things are running. Something can always be created. I’d recommend sitting with leaders to come up with where they are going to point next and make sure there is a designated plan for how they will get there. 

Zanzibar Vermiglio is an author, corporate trainer, time management expert and the founder of Zanzibar Enterprises. After skipping college at age 18 to manage companies, he has since led training programs for more than 20,000 people in hundreds of businesses. He has also doubled the size of more than 100 companies. The three aspects of business he focuses on are value proposition design and execution, operation scalability (including management architectures) and sales planning.

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