Monday, December 1, 2008

December 2008

The economy is currently an important topic of many discussions. A local Business Journal asked me to write an article and I include the article below. I called it

Ten tips for leading your business through turbulent times…

What happens on Wall Street unfortunately has an effect on what is happening here in the Cedar Valley, whether we prefer it or not”, according to Dr. Ronelle Langley, President of Executive Coaching International.

Dr. Langley facilitates various management workshops through the College of Business Administration, Executive Development Center to help businesses maintain efficiency and effectiveness through changing times. She shared some strategies that local small business owners can consider to lead their businesses through the current uncertain times:

  1. Cut costs, but don't drain your lifeblood. You need to cut cost, but do that in clear understanding what makes your organization unique, what keeps your people engaged, and why customers do business with you. Don't follow the lead of a publicly traded DIY home improvement store chain that decided a few years ago to cut down on full-time experts who gave customers advice and replaced them with part-time workers without experience. Their rationale was to cut cost, but it came at too high of a price.
  2. Watch your cash. Why do some companies survive during downturn while others fail? A CEO of a trucking company in Iowa stated a major survival strategy during a previous recession was that all his trucks were paid off at the time when the downturn started. He did not to have a monthly lease or payment to make, like most of his competitors – some of them eventually bowed out of the game.
  3. Communicate knowledge exchange. In tough times it is natural to withdraw and resort to some kind of a cave to reflect on strategies. Don't cut out meetings and communication with your employees. Call on the collective wisdom you have in your organization to find solutions.
  4. Stay flexible and agile. It may be less expensive to buy or build a new building as you expand your new business, but in the short run it may be wiser to rent instead. If demands drop, your flexibility will allow you to be more adjustable. A local up-and-coming business leader explained recently it would be great to have a new building for his growing company, but he would rather play safe and continue renting for the moment.
  5. Stay true to your core. Protect your core assets – tangible and intangible. Have a passion to protect the heart and soul of your company. What is your core asset? It may be a strong focus on a personalized service and a friendly atmosphere for your customer. It took a long time to build it up – protect it.
  6. Be proactive with Plan B. Build strategic contingency planning into your core. Ask yourself “What would I do if sales drop 10% or more?” Develop a plan of action now. Read the signs well and react to it.
  7. Be innovative. Innovation does not only mean to come up with a new product or service. Innovation during troubled times may be to come up with new, innovative ideas for solving everyday business problems and improving the process. It could mean finding better, cheaper, or faster ways to get products to the consumer. Companies such as John Deere are working hard to manage their supply chains better. You can do the same with your company. The often-forgotten everyday innovation is as critical to long-term business success as the more exciting and concrete product or services.
  8. Keep your team focused. There will always be external factors out there that will influence the success of your organization. Your employees have a choice to waste a lot of time bemoaning how tough times are and what they cannot change or focus on what they can do. As a leader you can help them to focus on that. During meetings ask your team: “How can we make the best contribution to the future of our company?” United Fire and Casualty in Cedar Rapids recently lost their offices and had thousands of clients to serve during the natural disasters. Their managers shared with me that it was exactly the approach they decided to take to help their teams move forward – focus on what they can do to improve their company's future.
  9. Be a positive leader. Positive leaders can learn and grow from all kinds of circumstances and emerge from adversity even stronger than before. A leader from a global company recently said to me that he is surrounded by people who are reacting in different ways as a result of the current financial crisis. Some react by being scared and not ready to take any risks, while others are paralyzed and not ready to act. He is one of a handful of global experts in his specialized field, and instead of feeling overwhelmed, he feels challenged and ready to find solutions for a positive vision and outcome. When adversity strikes, positive leaders stay hopeful, are more confident in themselves and generate confidence in others, are more connected to their employees, and remain committed to their cause.
  10. Remember you are marketing to customers who are concerned about their finances. Customers are more cautious in their spending. Recognize it is human to retreat to the ‘home base’ or roots when times are tough. Marketing will then focus on family values. Look at the products you offer and see where you can cut down on extras and frills. Customers will rather go for fewer options if they can pay less for good value.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November 2008

On February 10, 2007, Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States in front of the Old State Capitol in Springfield Illinois. Later that same evening my husband Jon, who is a mayor here in the United States, and I had the opportunity to meet him for the first time. We met with him several times during his campaign and I was impressed with his authentic leadership style and his ability to be present in the moment. On one occasion I introduced a little boy to him who went through a difficult time without explaining anything. Barack showed very sincere kindness that meant a lot to this boy and the boy expressed a greater sense of hope for the future.

Professor Jonathan Haidt, an expert in Positive Psychology from the University of Virginia in the United States, researched the effectiveness of Obama's public speaking and concluded that part of his excellence is because he is good at inspiring the emotion of elevation, the desire to act morally and do good for others. Many people view him as a natural orator and believe that speaking is happening very naturally for him, but I saw on several occasions that it is still taking a lot of energy from him to do so!

We followed Obama's campaign with interest and celebrated with millions of Americans and people from all over the world on November 4 when Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States of America.

Above is a picture that was taken on the evening of Barack's announcement of his candidacy to run for President. He asked a photographer to take this picture and I will always be glad that he took the initiative to capture this moment!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

About Me

I view myself as a visionary academic leader with a strong global vision. I enjoy balancing my business interest with academia as a university administrator, professor, scientist, author, and a practicing consultant. I have more than 25 years of academic and research experience. My academic experience includes being a tenured professor, adjunct faculty member, and administrator at higher education institutions in the United States, South Africa, and Australia. During my research career I was leading national and international research projects and also awarded the President's Medal of the Human Resources Council in recognition for my international contribution to the field of Career Development. I worked on longer and short-term projects, or presented at national and international conferences in Australia, Japan, Israel, United States, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Czech Republic, Egypt, South Africa, and Brazil. I have more than 20 publications with articles in international peer-reviewed professional journals and books. I am a people- and results-oriented executive coach who worked with more than four hundred professionals and executives representing a variety of industries in global and national companies during the past 15 years. In my different work environments I positioned myself as a strategic thinker and team builder with strong core values of integrity, compassion, growth, and a global vision. My graduate qualifications were obtained on three different continents: I received my Masters' in Business Administration from the University of Iowa in the United States in 2006; my Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Johannesburg in South Africa in 1989; and my Masters' of Science in Psychology from the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia in 1984.

I love being a wife and mom! My husband Jon is also a busy professional and the local mayor. We enjoy supporting each other in our respective careers. We know not to take ourselves or each other too seriously, and remember the importance of just having fun! My oldest daughter Lindi is the Executive Director of Economic Development for a local county in the United States, my daughter Rouxle is finishing her studies to qualify as a social worker, and my son David is in his first year of high school. He does not know yet what he wants to do one day but loves Mathematics, American football, South African rugby, and wrestling. I don't know about a job yet that will combine all his interests!

A few years ago I took about three weeks to formulate my purpose in life. I started off writing numerous pages, then condensing that into a few paragraphs, an eventually ending up with three key words. My purpose in life is something that I bring to anything I am doing, whether I am at home with my family, in the community with my husband and other people in town, in the classroom with my students, as executive coach at a company, as the president of American City University. My purpose in life is to love, learn and grow. Also to encourage, coach, mentor, teach, advise those around me toward the same purpose.

I look forward to share some of my daily professional and personal experiences with you as an virtual, global ACU community and look forward to read what you will share as well!