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Adapting to Change: Your Leadership Survival Kit for a Looming Recession


Employees today are seeking the maximum in terms of benefits and opportunities, while companies are making cuts and looking to save money. It’s a teetering place – there is a shift in the market and one side hasn’t heard the news yet to catch up.

That was the gist of an article I recently read from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which tracks trends and shifts in the workplace and shares their findings with HR professionals.

The Ups and Downs of the Real Estate Market

Leadership | Real Estate MarketI liken it to when there are market shifts in real estate.

A couple has been searching for the perfect house for their family. Finally, they find one.

They put in an offer about $10,000 below the asking price. The sellers declined their offer and the house is sold. They lose their dream home.

Later on, they learned the buyer paid $10,000 over asking price for that house, and would have paid for it – but they didn’t know the market had shifted. What happened?

They were used to making an offer and negotiating it out. The shift had already happened. It’s a new reality that must be adjusted to – or you won’t win.

It works the other way as well. The neighborhood has been hot recently and the owners of 123 Maple Street want to cash out and move on. They list the house and immediately get an offer $10,000 below the asking price.

The sellers feel slighted, knowing that their neighbors recently received over their asking price when they sold their house. They counter back – and never hear from the buyers again. There were no more offers or even a showing for months after that.

What happened? The market shifted.

And the adjustment period is certainly uncomfortable.

6 Steps in the Leadership Survival Kit You Need to Know

Step #1: Always Be Aware of Where You Are in the Cycle

Whether with real estate values, the labor market, costs of materials, everything.

Be cognizant of shifting and tightening markets, such as the financial outlook, labor and talent, material costs, interest rates, and everything else that applies to your industry today.

Awareness is key here, to avoid the standard “it’s not fair” or “why did this happen” comments.

How can you best maneuver knowing the reality of what it is now, or where it’s going? Follow Step #2…

Step #2: Accept Reality

You can settle into knowing that it’s just a cycle. Know where you are now and accept that it, too, is not permanent. This allows you to make better qualified decisions for how to handle it with strategy and planning.

Step #3: Adapt, Reprioritize and Reset

I ask myself these questions for the company:Adapt, Prioritize, Reset Leadership

  • What is the objective and what can we control?
  • What are the most important things we need to focus on right now?
  • When we get through this correction or adjustment, what do we want it to look like on the other side?
  • What do we need to do differently to get where we want to go?
  • How have the ways that we’ve been doing it prevented us from accomplishing the goal now?

When we ask great questions, it allows us to create an objective plan and strategy for getting there. The key is to be willing to answer them with an open mind.

Remember, just because it’s the way we’ve been doing it, doesn’t mean it’s the way we need to keep doing it. In fact, I would suggest the opposite: that it is NOT the way to keep doing it.

As a leader, be deliberate in strategizing what needs to happen. This will allow you to make your best decisions. It shapes the messaging and conversations that allow for high quality communications with your team, following the strategy being put into place.

Step #4: Sharpen Your Leadership Skills

Now that you have accepted the reality for where things are and have begun to strategize on the new objectives, it’s time to have high quality conversations with the key players on your teams.

Sharing where things stand can help them reset their mindsets as well.

This is also the time to listen to:

  • understand where they are coming from
  • know what’s important to them
  • learn what they most fear
  • their idea of the worst-case scenario

Gain feedback from them on what they see from their perspective.

Ask your team:

  • where they see opportunities, successes
  • ways to improve and reset to new directions and priorities.

Help them be a part of the long-term solutions that are determined.

Here’s an example:

My marketing manager and I frequently have great discussions about what’s working and what’s not. I let her know that revenues would be down next year due to the downturn, so her percentage of sales that she uses for her marketing budget needed to be reduced.

I asked her: “What are the first things to come to mind to reduce or remove when I say that?”

She answered immediately: the closing gifts we gave were too expensive and needed to be cut by 50%. I agreed. Trust your people to know what makes sense and be sure to listen when they tell you why something doesn’t.

Department head managers will be on the lookout for anything that threatens the satisfaction of their teams. Help them understand the shifts: this will help them set the tone with the changes that will begin to be necessary with their teams. Their passion to protect and support their teams will be exactly how and why it can be a successfully executed adjustment that is well communicated.

Step #5: Sharpen Your Pencil After You Sharpen Those Leadership Skills 😉

Re-Budget | leadershipThis doesn’t mean that there aren’t people behind the scenes going through the exercise of re-budgeting, cutting, and evaluating what can and/or needs to happen to meet the objective with your strategy.

But it does mean that as you go back in for the actual final decisions on what you choose, that you have already taken everything into account.

You have:

  • heard and gained the facts and data, from all perspectives
  • shared this info and lead those around you through the decision-making process as you make each one

Your CFO may tell you that you have to cut one line item, but you will be able to see the value of that line item remaining in the budget and choose to remove another one that you now know is far less valuable than you once thought.

Do not underestimate the power of this process as a Leader.

This positioning will gain you far more in the long term in the form of morale, loyalty, retention, and acceptance through the hard times than any thoughtless strike through a budget line can possibly ever gain.

Agreeing to someone else’s perspective who only has one view will not reflect Leadership on your part. As leaders, our job is to allow each person in their role to bring their high-quality expertise to the table to solve the problem and then to understand all the perspectives in order to make final decisions.

Sometimes, nobody feels like they got everything they wanted. They might even think for a second that “it’s not fair”. This is not the time to worry about pleasing everyone. Make strong decisions with all the information and expertise you have available to you. Then you can stand strong as a leader from there to help them see how this is what is necessary to protect them, the business and the long-term objectives of the company.

Step #6: Do What Artificial Intelligence Can’t Do… Be Human

AI | leadershipAI is a hot topic right now for what it can do. There will be jobs that are at risk since AI can do many of our tasks for us.

These technologies allow us to be more productive and efficient. Yet, this is the perfect time to remind ourselves what it CAN’T do.

Humans are emotional beings: we are all longing to belong and be understood more than ever. These are the perfect ingredients, ripe for the recipe of leadership. Those who recognize that motivating people and relating to them being vital will have the biggest advantages right now and the near future.

The leaders who listen and seek to understand, who create relationships, and who are connected with their teams will be the biggest winners.

Those who know how to communicate with the person and the goal in mind, hand in hand, will build the crowd willing to join them. Those who embrace the chance to be the role model and show those under them, who may have been brought up in a different generation and haven’t learned it yet, can be an example for those who will come after them.

Key Leadership Skills Are Lacking at Every Level

Why is this so important?

These skills are lacking at every level of leadership and in every industry right now. Creating the following you want to take you to the levels of success you can achieve, will only happen now when you decide that you genuinely care about the people who will be along your side to get there.

Remember: “People quit their managers, not their companies”.

Difficult decisions need to be made. These resets are an opportunity to run leaner, learn more, gain efficiency, and most importantly, to create a team of solid people who will support and follow these decisions with you toward the goal.

When the Going Gets Tough, Real Leadership Gets Going

These times give us the opportunity to grow more closely, learn from each other and better ourselves as teams and companies.

We all face difficult times. During one such time, we hadn’t had a sale in 3 months with no prospects in the near future, either. We were stressed and I was sure I would be looking for a new job soon. The market and the company were at its lowest point.

We sat in front of our trade partners and said, “We can’t keep building homes if we aren’t selling them.” We could no longer pay our partners if we couldn’t reduce prices more. Even that was no guarantee.

Working as a Team in The Trenches

We got together, and by the time we left that day, we came up with a plan to reduce costs by another $12,000 per home, together with what our partners could. We were in the trenches together and we were going to fight together. It worked.

Over the next month we sold 3 homes, then 4 the following month. Things had finally restarted. And we did it together with the same goal in mind.

How you do it will reflect who you are and what you are capable of doing. These are the times when leaders truly rise. This is your opportunity. Not only is it waiting for you, but there are people depending on you to become exactly the leader you were meant to be. It’s yours for the taking. Do what AI can’t do. Be human.

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