Leading in Difficult Times

Blog Post created by famous on Apr 12, 2009

It's challenging out there and almost everyone is feeling the pinch.  The depressing news about the global economic situation can be tough to hear day in and day out but I try to keep a glass-half-full perspective and there are some advantages to the current environment if you look at it as an opportunity.


When faced with difficult circumstances, organizations suddenly become much more malleable.  I look at these downturns (and we've been through them before) as a chance to rethink how my team is working.  Cutting expenses can be the trigger but the opportunity is about so much more then taking x% out of your operating costs.  These situations present an opportunity for leaders to implement change.

An example of a Cisco sacred cow that's recently been changed is bottled water.  At Cisco we've always had bottled water in our break rooms, free to all employees.  This was a nice convenience but it came with a large cost in terms of expense, waste, and the environment.  I believe the estimate is that we disposed of 20,000,000 bottles of water per year.  Even with recycling, that's a huge environmental costs and oh yes it cost the company millions of dollars too.


We recently put in filtered water machines at our site.  We carry around their own cups and fill them from filtered water machines.  My wife purchased me a SIGG.  It's a little too fancy for my taste but it's a very fine vessel.  I call it the "Cadillac of water bottles".  I'm probably dating myself with that description.


There was a few gumblings about the transition.  Some people are dubious of any change.  Some people felt that washing out their own cup once and a while was too much inconvenience and would hurt their productivity.  Well, I guess that's true.  I'm not sure how to argue with that other then say, "you're lazy".  Well, we've made it through the transition and the result is less wasted water (There used to be half-finished bottles of water everywhere around the office), less garbage for landfills, and there are even some unexpected benefits.  The 20 seconds it takes to fill your cup is perfect timing for the break room water-cooler interaction.  People get a chance to show off their personality with their vessel of choice.  I saw someone using a very famous Vodka bottle for their water the other day...at least I hope that's what was in there.  So kudos to whoever suggested this change.  I know they took some heat for it but it's good for the company and good for the world.


How does this relate to you?  I'm suggesting is that you use the power created by the current economic situation to propose changes for the better in your organization.  That may be implementing a new process or leveraging a new technology to accomplish something in a slightly different but more productive and cost-efficient manner.  As a leader, this is your chance to shine and make an impact.