Insights Blog

Performance in a Challenging Environment

By Joanne Graf

The energy industry is under enormous pressure. Several companies have already responded by announcing significant cuts to their capital expenditure. While cost-cutting no doubt offers a short-term fix, the long-term effects on the health of a business can be damaging. When faced with such challenging times, it is more important than ever to find ways to add unique value and deliver results that position your business firmly at the front of the pack.

Those who succeed focus on value

The tendency during these times is for leaders to focus internally rather than challenging themselves and their people to look beyond their organizations, and focus instead on the people they are in business of serving. Those who succeed keep their attention on the marketplace and seek new ways to create and offer value so that demand continues, and even expands. Volatile times require generating new ways to add value, part of which could include lowering operational and capital costs. But it is going to take more than that to succeed. It’s going to take you and your people to make it happen. Dealing with both the present and future impact the current financial environment has on you, your organization and your marketplace is a leader’s job.

From our 30+ years of experience, this is what’s required:

Create a Stand and Act from It

What will empower you and your people in today’s environment is carving out a place to stand, determining who you are going to be in the face of these uncertain times, and then acting from that stand. Without taking a stand, the only other option is to turn the business over to the “drift.” By that we mean the direction dictated by others and the current circumstances. As leaders, the choice is to either impact the drift or become part of it.

How can you recognize when you and others are caught up in the drift? People are internally focused, complain about what is wrong, appear pessimistic, seem powerless to make things happen and have become experts on why things are the way they are and why desired results are not happening. These kinds of conversations create diversions from the real task at hand.

What is needed is a different mindset. Market-focus, creativity, new and different actions, and short-term results are the strategy. It’s a leader’s job to act into the condition from a stand that gives people power. Leading from that stand has the potential to make a real difference to how you and those around you respond. And, how we respond to the circumstances makes all the difference.

Create a “Game” That Has People Win in the Face of the Circumstances

Deliver short-term wins. The circumstances might require reforecasting, refocusing and reprioritizing; that is the job of senior leaders. Once the parameters are set, it is important that teams focus on what they can do to capture opportunities. A period of concentration is required. Agreeing on short-term targets, taking focused daily actions, overcoming obstacles quickly and measuring daily progress is the concentrated effort needed. Show it can be done and build on each success to create a mood of “can do.”

Intervene through Action

Intervening requires generous listening and enrollment:

  • Let people complain and “empty their cup.” Sometimes people just want to vent. When they are done say, “Given our stand together, now what?”
  • Work with people to shift from being a “victim” of the circumstances to having a say in how this year turns out.
  • Discover and remove any “back doors” to succeed: You either have the results you want or the reasons why not. Make requests and bold promises for delivery and hold yourself and others’ feet to the fire.

Bottom Line

In summary, the top three steps we recommend leaders should take to impact their business are:

  1. Create a stand that has power for you and others and that flies in the face of the circumstances. Focus on answering the question: “What unique value can you add?”
  2. Deliver highly focused, short-term results that show progress and open people’s eyes to what is possible and creates a mood of success.
  3. Work in “Concentration”: Cause something to happen beyond the circumstances through concentrated effort and focused actions.

If you can get people to commit to a future possibility that they can all rally around in spite of the circumstances, it can yield incredible results.

At the end of the day, the oil price will be what the oil price is. People’s performance is what matters – who you and your people are about it all and how you respond is your access.

 “During ‘down times,’ most people slow their activities and put the brakes on providing value to the marketplace. But not you. You steadfastly continue on, finding ever-new ways to create more value than you take in payment. And by so doing at a time when value seems to be catastrophically shrinking everywhere, you stand out even more than you would in more robust times.”

Source: “Go-Givers Sell More” by Bob Burg & John David Mann