Recession funk got you down? Then, choose not to participate!

Posted in Careers, Leadership, Mentor Minute

Recession funk got you down? Then, choose not to participate!

Globe and Mail Careers Section, C2, Wednesday Feb 4, 2009



Across the cubicles, in the cafeteria, walking through the parking garage … it seems all people want to talk about these days is the recession. I, for one, have grown weary of it, and at times find it debilitating for getting work done. How can I tune it out and instead focus on helping our company remain viable?


I, too, am dismayed at the constant focus on our uncertain economy. Yes, we know that the economic storm that is brewing seems unprecedented, but I can’t help but feel that the relentless hammering on the negative is only making things worse. Print Edition – Section Front

Section C Front Enlarge Image The Globe and Mail

About 10 years ago, when I was starting anew as a career coach, British Columbia’s economy was in a downturn. A colleague told me a story about one of her clients that I have never forgotten. A chief executive officer brought his staff together and bluntly told them: “They say that there is a recession going on. Well, I choose not to participate!”

And how did this affect his staff? It rallied them, and their sales subsequently grew, rather than contract.

Imagine the impact on our economy if everyone simply took that same frame of mind: “I choose not to participate.” Just think about how you show up at work when you focus on growth, opportunity and possibility, versus how you show up when you think that no matter what you do or say or try, things are only going south.

Of course, this may seem like viewing the world with rose-coloured glasses – but surely getting out there and working a bit harder is a whole lot better than sitting and stewing in the negativity.

So how do you rise above the doom and gloom? Either stop the conversations, or at least refuse to be a part of them. Either walk away, or shift the focus of the discussion to the positive – make the choice right off the bat or you’ll quickly feel yourself spiralling down into the pit of despair.

Personally, I have wavered bet ween fully absorbing the gloom, and ignoring it. When I listen, I am beat. Because I start to believe everything I hear and feel. I start to argue (with myself) that a profession such as coaching will be one of the first to suffer. In turn, this has me shut down, withdraw and stop calling prospective clients. And if I follow this route, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. My little enterprise would be in a recession.

But I choose not to participate. Instead, I choose to look for the opportunities. All I have to do is to imagine who my future clients will be: Perhaps it will be someone who wants coaching to ensure that they get to the top of their game so they never end up on the lay- off list. Or it’s a corporate leader who wants coaching to boost morale and get staff moving, inspired and galvanized again, so that the organization as a whole can choose not to participate in this declining economy.

So, if you want to tune it out and instead focus on helping your company remain viable, look for the opportunities:

Who are your next clients?

What do you need to stop doing to get in line with the new economic reality? (Stop pining for the boom times of the recent past; stop waiting for the phone to ring and make it ring; stop “wishing” things were different).

What do you need to start doing to take advantage of this changing landscape?

U.S. President Barack Obama challenged the world in his inaugural address when he said: “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.”

Recession? Depression? Armageddon? If we choose not to participate we will lessen the impact and speed the recovery.

Katie Bennett is a leadership coach and speaker based in Vancouver and head of Double Black Diamond Coaching.
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To read the follow-up article I wrote in february 2009 to demonstrate the results that are possible when you choose not to participate in the recession and choose instead to look for opportunities, click here:

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