How are you holding up?

by Steve McKee

JobsWell, Labor Day is behind us, autumn is upon us, and we’re about to come up on a year since the fall of Lehman Brothers.

The recession itself is almost two years old, having officially started in December, 2007. Most companies began to feel the slowdown early last year, followed by an unanticipated shockwave that rippled through the economy in September. Since that time there has been a steady drumbeat of bad news, and businesses have had to find ways to cope with and adjust to continuous uncertainty about what’s going to happen next. Washington hasn’t helped, taking on one of history’s most consequential and divisive arguments about the role of government at a time when the economy needs rest. No one has any idea what the outcome–or the consequences–of the argument will be.

So how ya doin?

It’s not a trivial question. When the story of this recession is written with the benefit of hindsight, I believe we’re going to see significant analysis about the psychological effect the protracted downturn has had on corporate culture, and particularly corporate leadership. Fatigue makes cowards of us all, as the saying goes, and as business leaders we’re nothing if not fatigued.

As a consultant I’m seeing an increasing amount of decisions made based on emotion, many of them ill-advised. The kindling of internal conflict is dry and dangerous, vulnerable to the slightest spark of insult or dissent. Longstanding customer relationships are weakened as tensions rise and trust declines. Managers are struggling to manage not only the financial challenges at work, but those at home as well.

There’s no easy way out. There’s only a way through. And we have to get through it together. The good news is that, like most things in life, recognizing the struggle is the first step towards overcoming it.

Take a minute today and reset your perspective. Determine to persevere. And offer a word of encouragement to someone you know who needs it. It might just make you feel better too.


Steve McKee is a BusinessWeek.com columnist, marketing consultant, and author of “When Growth Stalls: How it Happens, Why You’re Stuck, and What To Do About It.” Learn more about him at www.WhenGrowthStalls.com and at http://twitter.com/whengrowthstall.

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