Questions for a Recession

There are signs the recession might—emphasize might—be working its way toward a conclusion. I’m sure many will join me in saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But after sitting with a group of discouraged business people for several hours recently, and wanting afterwards to blow my brains out in despair, I decided I needed to shift my mind.

How do I shift my mind? Pose challenging questions. After all, a provocative question is the best way to break out of unproductive thinking — the kind of thinking that got you to despair in the first place.

So here are some questions to raise about your business in those moments when despair sneaks in on little cat feet and threatens to make you tedious and whiny. (These questions aren’t designed to make you happy, but they will engage your higher levels of reasoning as a counterpoint to base fear.)

  • What does the current recession tell me about the foundational health of my business before the recession?
  • What might have shifted permanently in my business environment? (Is this something different — and more institutional than a regular recession?)
  • What does the recession tell me about my personal choices and lifestyle? Was the decision to purchase the Hummer made with stability and financial health in mind?
  • What have I learned about leadership during this recession? How am I a better leader now? And what do I need to do to become a better leader still?
  • What is the role of transparency in this environment? Are my employees better off holding on to their hope or should I pull them into the dark inner sanctum of financial reality?
  • How might my business be healthier and stronger as a result of this recession?
  • How will I approach growth differently when it starts happening again?

YOUR PATH FORWARD: Posing great questions keeps your intellect and spirit engaged during tough times. We may not like the answers we get, but wrestling with them gives us a kind of balance and control that springs from awareness. Engaging in deep, courageous critical thinking is an intrinsic victory even when extrinsic victories seem hard to come by. Take a stab at the questions above. Write out your answers, and discuss them with a trusted ally.

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About the Author

Jim Hessler
Jim Hessler bootstrapped his way from retail work into a successful career as salesman, sales manager, Fortune 500 executive, and corporate turnaround engineer. Along the way, he developed The Leadership Platform, a proven model for training managers to become sustainably better leaders. It became the basis of his leadership primer, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guild to Building Your Leadership Platform. Jim is the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services.

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