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In 2009, were you a proactive, experimental future leader or a reactive, butt-covering also-ran?

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If there is one good thing that came from this year’s commercial carnage, it’s the liberating affect the economic downturn had on our collective ability, as entrepreneurs, to speak openly.

It can be a lonely journey growing a company. It’s often difficult for family and friends to truly understand the game of 3D chess we play each day. And, when things go bad, sympathy is no substitute for empathy.

But this year, the global financial crisis afforded us a break from the usual monosyllabic response that comes, almost as second nature, when posed that most common of courteous commercial queries:

Q. “How’s business going mate?”
A. “Great mate, great.”

Yup, that’s the expected response, even when things are less than great.

In 2009, however, things changed.

Empowered by our collective woes, suddenly, somehow, somewhere along the line, it became acceptable to say:

“Things ain’t so great. But we’re adapting.”

Conversations with staff also became more transparent and honest. Many employers even opened their books to employees for the first time. Radical transparency became a necessary management philosophy for some small organisations. And experimentation became a thing not to be feared, but applauded.

Importantly, two types of company emerged:

  1. Proactive, experimental future leaders
  2. Reactive, butt-covering also-rans

As a result, it became easier for us all to discern who we should be choosing to work with in 2010. If you come from the latter group, I wish you well in your future endeavours (and other dismissive sentiments). If you come from the former, I don’t need to tell you what we think.

In these respects, 2009 was a good year.

The challenge now, as the economy recovers, is finding ways to maintain these positive commercial behaviours, born out of necessity, after the ‘necessity’ has gone.

But I’m left wondering, is this type of transparency something that can be fostered for the long-term? Or will it simply evaporate under the warm rays of economic recovery?

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