Bywater Consulting Group, LLC
Liz Bywater, PhD

December 2008

Success strategies for tough times: How to stand up when the chips are down

There's just no getting around it. Times are tough. The economy is in crisis, businesses are struggling, previously secure workers are now fearful of losing their jobs. The emotional impact can be great, leading to feelings of anxiety and depression - and a concomitant loss of focus and creativity. The potential effects on work performance consist of reduced productivity, innovation, and overall employee morale.

Yet there is opportunity for growth in the midst of these economic hard times. While it might go against intuition, success in difficult times calls for holding true to basic tenets of effective behavior. With the proper attitude and approach, you can indeed thrive in uncertain times.

In the interest of full disclosure - and to give credit where credit is due - I have to thank my 5-year old son for the inspiration for today's tips. For it was during a delightful Sunday afternoon together - filled with game-playing, puzzle-assembling, artwork and general enjoyment - that my attention was drawn to the power of the basics. Here are a few tips I'd like to share with you:

Work as a team. Whether you're putting together a Spiderman jigsaw puzzle (as we were) or advancing a new product to market, there's nothing like the power of collaboration. Working together allows for faster progress and more creative solutions.

Be accountable. If you've made a commitment, stick to it. And while you're at it, hold those around you accountable, too. My son didn't waste a moment taking me to task when I tried to divert him from his much-loved game of Candyland. "But Mom, you promised!" And so I did.

Be supportive. When your coworker or report does something well, give him a well-deserved pat on the back. If he's uncertain and needs a little encouragement, offer it up. I can't tell you how lovely it was to hear my little guy comment on my drawing by saying, "Mommy, I love your work."

Share resources. Lean times can mean limited access to valued resources. The temptation might be to get what you can for yourself and your team, even if that means leaving others empty-handed. Yet sharing resources (in my case, taking turns with the yellow crayon) with others means they're far more likely to do the same for you.

Refresh yourself. Stressful times can take a profound toll on your physical and emotional well-being. Don't forget to take some time to refresh and reenergize yourself at regular intervals. Your approach to refreshment may differ from my 5-year old's (snacking on Cheerios and chocolate milk), so find what works for you. Then do it.

Be flexible. Challenging times call for flexibility and a willingness to do things differently. You may have to take on new responsibilities, modify your schedule, or work with a different set of people. Letting go of disappointment (for my son, that meant not finding his favorite program on TV) and being open to new opportunities will help you gain credibility as a resilient and cooperative team player.

Finally, at the risk of sounding rather Pollyannaish,

Be positive. Even the worst of storms passes with time. Remaining optimistic, grounded, and focused on the future will help you weather the hard times and move bravely ahead. I was so proud of my son, who had been feeling somewhat under the weather, when he declared, "I'm sick but I'm happy." Now there's an attitude that will serve him well in both good times and bad.

In the Press:


Incentives to Improve (Incentives Magazine)

8 Tips for Staying Stress-Free in a Tough Economy (Yahoo! HotJobs)

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Guest Columnist

Liz Bywater has been selected to return as November's guest advice columnist for You can submit your career-related questions to Liz on the message board at

Speaking Engagements

Liz will be the guest speaker for the Career Networking Group of Basking Ridge, NJ, on January 15, 2009. She will speak on the topic of Practical Goal Setting: From Intent to Achievement. The presentation will begin at 7 PM and is open to the public. For more information, please contact Liz at 800.845.4546 ext. 103 or send an email to

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