I recently facilitated a Leading Through a Downturn session for leaders in the energy industry.  Knowing you’re in a cyclical business doesn’t make the downturn any less painful.

Impact of a Leader

Leadership can have a huge impact on whether companies and people survive or thrive. Warren Bennis, an organizational consultant and author of many books on leadership, said, “A leader doesn’t just get the message across. A leader is the message.”

Recipe for Success

In an exercise on creating a “Secret Sauce for Successful Leaders” my client team identified these ingredients:  vision, communication, confidence, positive role modeling, reliability, trustworthiness and transparency. They also suggested adding generous dashes of encouragement, motivation, appreciation, fun, coaching, caring and steadiness.

Next steps included “How to Avoid Burning Your Fingers” – developing a plan for dealing with potential distractions that might prevent them from using their secret sauce — and “Why We Shouldn’t Skip Dessert” — celebrating successes in ways that motivate people.   Check out to find out what happened.

Have you heard the expression, “That light at the end of the tunnel might be a train?”  The impact of an unexpected downturn in your business can feel like being hit by a train you didn’t see coming.

Safety or Creativity?

So what do you do? Hunker down and play it safe or find ways to be creative?  It is easy to keep doing what works when times are good.

Out of Your Comfort Zone

In the face of an unexpected setback, your first response may not be stepping out of your comfort zone. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that any experience, good or bad, can lead to creativity if it pushes us outside our normal thought patterns.

If you use this opportunity to think creatively about your business, your team or yourself, how might you ride that train through a downturn and be well-positioned for recovery?