This month we discuss strategies for survival in
times when there is no solid ground beneath your
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President, Jim Schaffer & Associates
Musical Chairs, Anyone?
"It's perfectly safe to stand nowhere."
When I began my career nearly 30 years ago, the
road to success may have
seemed a little long, but it was paved in concrete and
well-illumined. Today, however, you can be
along at 80 miles an hour only to find the road ends
abruptly in a pool of darkness and you find yourself in a
farmer's lane with only a jug of cheap whiskey to light
your path back to civilization (I grew up in the Amish
Country, so cut me a little slack with the metaphors.)
Everyone today is wondering the same
things: "When will it all settle down?
When will I be safe again? How can I do my job when
things keep changing almost on a daily basis?"
Jobs which used to follow some semblance of an
orderly, logical pattern have
today become virtually undoable.
How do you manage people when they're afraid of
being laid off, they're so
distracted they only bring 50% of their energy to their
jobs, and there's a ton of pressure coming from above
that must, gravity dictates, be pushed in some fashion
down to their level?
How do you sell when every time you build your
pipeline there's a territory realignment or your company
changes its business model, and you get a new boss
every six months?
The bad news is that there is no safe haven
and there's not likely to be one any time before the end
of your career. The good news is: that's not as
you think. In fact, it may just be a cause for rejoicing.
Times of instability offer a great opportunity to learn
something about ourselves.
How we behave in the face of fear, for instance. What
we will do in order to survive that goes against our
Paying close attention to your own behavior is
much more productive than reacting to everyone else's.
It allows you to take an honest look at what's really
effective and make better decisions about how and
when to act.
More good news: it's less dangerous out there
you imagine. In this country,
you may lose your job if your employers fall out of love
with you, but you won't be taken out back and shot.
And in thirty years, I've never known anyone, even
after a protracted period of unemployment, to lose
his/her house (in fact, a close friend who once spent
two years between jobs even hung on to his summer
It's far more dangerous to pretend that you
will find a safe perch; that reality is other than it is.
Running from how things are can lead to cynicism and
burnout, which will cost you a lot more cash than any
setback you're likely to encounter in the course of
performing your job.
As you begin paying close attention to your own
behavior, here are some tips to help you thrive during
periods of uncertainty:
- Take care of your own inner state. If
not peaceful inside, you're bound to communicate that
to your customers, bosses, employees and co-workers.
Meditate, listen to Chopin, sit in the park for an extra
hour at lunch ("what lunch?" you laugh, but I'm being
dead serious here.) Whatever it takes.
- Send out love. I'm not preaching. You don't
need to use the "L" word. But once you take care of
your inner state you need to communicate it to the
world. Customers will want to be around your
peacefulness, even if they can't buy from you right
now. If they're acting out of fear (squeezing you, for
instance, or treating you impolitely), your centeredness
will calm them down.
- Show leadership. This concept is bandied
about so often today it's almost become meaningless —
yet businesses are crying out for it. If you're managing
people, start with simple things: kindness, generosity,
straightforward communication. If you're not in
management, you can show leadership by lending a
helping hand even when you yourself might be feeling
threatened, by refusing to engage in politics, and by
being careful of what you say.
There is no safe place to stand, there is only this
moment, and the next and the
next, until it's your turn to take the podium and sing
your own version of "My Way." In the meantime, you'll
be much more effective if you're moving, internally at
least, to a smooth groove of your own choosing than
doing a reactive dance to every new tune that blows in
See you on the road!
To learn where Ram Dass stands when there are no chairs left, click here
||About Jim Schaffer & Associates
Jim Schaffer & Associates helps management teams &
salespeople stay focused, get results and keep high
morale — regardless of what may be going on around
Copyright 2003 by Jim Schaffer & Associates.