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RISMEDIA, Dec. 26, 2008-While always important, effective execution and a culture of accountability are even more essential when a business is faced with challenging economic conditions. “Our research on top performing companies points to four actions critical for success in the current environment,” says Rick Lepsinger, president of OnPoint Consulting.

Keeping individuals and teams focused and engaged during tough times requires leaders to:

– Be optimistic, but realistic. It’s important to be positive about the future without appearing naive. The key is to set realistic expectations and find the right balance between resources, time, and desired outcomes.

“People have confidence they can succeed, even in a difficult economic period, when they feel that objectives are realistic and adequately resourced,” says Lepsinger.

– Hold everyone accountable for results. Tough times demand that everyone bring their “A” game and pull their own weight.

“Therefore,” asserts Lepsinger, “it is important that everyone understands what is expected of them and when. Then monitor progress, celebrate successes, and recalibrate or coach people to get back on track when necessary.” It is also important to create an environment where people can raise problems and admit mistakes, rather than “covering up” or “pointing fingers,” which is more likely during challenging times.

– Involve people in decisions. When times are tough, you want everyone’s best thinking and full commitment.

“Now is not the time to close people out of the decision-making process in order to protect them or to ‘speed things up,'” says Lepsinger. Involving people in decisions increases decision quality and acceptance, and enhances engagement.

– Ensure plans and actions are coordinated across departments and levels. Don’t let uncertainty or ambiguity push you into a day-to-day mindset, as this is not the time to “wing it.” However, even the best plan will fail if everyone is not pulling in the same direction. “During difficult times,” efficiency is critical and coordination is king,” says Lepsinger.

– Even in a weak economy, there are winners and losers. “By consistently applying the four key actions,” says Lepsinger, “you increase the likelihood that you and your team will end up in the winner’s circle.”