Management & Strategy

Why leading a company into an upturn must mean business as usual

Good news about the UK economy is arriving thick and fast. According to figures from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the recent growth spurt in GDP reached 0.2% higher than the pre-recession peak of January 2008. Elsewhere, the manufacturing and services sectors are returning to growth faster than expected. Heartened by such positive signals, many managers are preparing to lead the charge for growth. But those of us who have led companies through such times before will know that boom times must be handled with care too.
As any seasoned business leader will tell you, managers and directors must keep a cool head and maintain discipline when entering a period of growth. It can be tempting to be distracted by growth prospects and put aside core business principles during a sprint for the finish line. But an ambitious business body should control the impulse to execute every idea that was placed on hold during the recession.
Your business instincts will urge you to move quickly in order to steal a march on your competitors, but doing too much too soon can easily put you at risk of taking a huge step backwards. Even large businesses need to focus and only the biggest organisations have the resources to do more than two or three things at once, and do them well. For the rest of us, branching out too quickly can erode the focus that made the business successful in the first place.
Ultimately, leading a business out of a recession demands the same management skills as leading a business into a recession. You need to define your new objectives, explain how you’re going to achieve them, and identify the milestones that everyone must work towards. It’s also important to remain focused on those objectives and recognise that you and your team are all in this together.
It’s often argued that a positive business culture reflects the company’s leadership. Therefore, if you want your staff to be clear-headed, motivated and committed you’ll need to direct by example. The principles of good leadership remain the same whatever the economic weather.


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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK