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3 strategies for recession style leadership

I don't know which is worse, losing your job or being the one who has to make the cuts. Yes, I know there are still some heartless execs out there slashing jobs and burning while taking huge bonuses and sleeping soundly in custom sheets.

But there are also millions of business owners lying awake at night wondering how they're going to make payroll. Hardworking people who are tapping retirement savings and credit cards just to keep their businesses afloat, who after making heartbreaking layoffs, are now working 16-hour days to make up for the people they had to let go.

There are also corporate managers who are desperately trying to keep up morale and get the job done, knowing tomorrow everyone in their whole department could get canned.

So how do you keep yourself from being paralyzed with fear?

Take a deep breath, here are the three most important things leaders and managers can do today:

Be honest. Your employees aren't stupid, they know if the business is doing poorly, so just level with them. You don't have to share every gory detail, but until they know the facts, they can't be part of the solution.

So if you need 5 (or 5,000) new orders a week to keep making payroll, make sure everybody knows it and ask for suggestions on how to get them. If the company is experiencing massive layoffs, talk to them about how you can make your team more valuable. Most people would much rather be involved in trying to improve the situation, than sitting around worrying about it. The more they feel like they have the power to affect the outcome, even just the slightest bit, the more productive they will be.

Leverage what is working. Yes, your business might be down, but are there still some areas that are doing OK? Or are even up? Maybe people aren't buying your new products, but they're calling your service department to fix their old ones. Or perhaps you have a lower priced line that is selling well.

Maybe people aren't doing huge projects, but they're still willing to contract small jobs. Now is the time to look at what is working and figure out how to leverage it. You can sit around wringing your hands about how the sales of your $20,000 widgets are down, or you can figure out how to boost your market share of the $200 make-do option that people are buying instead. Now you know how a recession affects your business, so now it's the perfect time to create a new business model that can outlast one.

Be grateful for today. Yes, the future is uncertain. But the reality is, it always was. We're just more conscious of it now. If you have somewhere to go on Monday morning, be grateful. You have a job today, you have a business today. You have co-workers today and you have a family today. Now is the time to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and it starts with the leader. Feeling grateful for what you have will not only see you through the tough times, it will help you create a better future.

So don't let fear get the best of you. You're a leader, I know you can handle this.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect." Contact her at www.forgetperfect.com.