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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

9 ways to keep stakeholders confident in a tough economy

Here’s how to build business stamina and even increase alliances in uncertain times.

9 ways to keep stakeholders confident in a tough economy
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

When times are hard and business is slow, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and lose clarity about your purpose and position. On the contrary, that’s the time when you need to dig deeper and get creative to remind yourself, your team, and the external stakeholders who invest their time and money in your brand why you got into this industry in the first place.

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Be transparent, share your story, and come up with an alternative action plan that will get others excited again, paving the way for your company to secure a brighter and sustainable future, come what may.

Below, 9 experts from Fast Company Executive Board provide leaders with strategies they can implement today to satisfy their stakeholders with performance.

1. LEAD WITH CONFIDENCE AND TRANSPARENCY.

In uncertain times, the most important thing to do and the hardest thing to do is to lead with confidence and transparency. Instability makes people nervous and they look to you for answers. It’s ok to be wrong and to change your mind as the situation develops, but it’s not ok to let people feel like the situation is out of control. – Andrew Woessner, R-Path Automation

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2. CREATE A FLOW OF CALMNESS. 

Lower the stress levels across your company. Uncertain times often increase our response to threats, our fear, and our anxiety. Under such conditions, our cognitive abilities may decline to a point that we cannot find creative solutions to problems or think of a long-term fix. Creating a stress-free flow in the work environment will increase your team’s creativity and productivity, which will also fuel business performance. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

3. IDENTIFY YOUR STAKEHOLDERS’ NEEDS.

Communication is everything. Every stakeholder is going to be different, so the first step is to identify the needs of each stakeholder and develop a diversified communications plan in order to maintain a healthy relationship. – Mo Ghoneim, Arts Help

4. COMMUNICATE OFTEN. 

It’s best to communicate more often than less with your stakeholders. In uncertain times, they are struggling to find focus, achieve clarity, and make sense of the fast-changing dynamics. So, the more you can narrate the journey to them, the better. This includes being vulnerable and transparent about what you know, what you don’t know, and what gives you the confidence to have faith in the future. Trust comes from regular sharing and connection. – Michael Margolis, Storied

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5. BACK UP EXPECTATIONS WITH DATA.

Setting realistic expectations with data to fully back up and communicate your reasoning constantly is essential. Further, when there is uncertainty, such as the unstable economy we’re facing right now, things can change rather rapidly, so setting best- and worst-case scenarios regarding performance is paramount. Embrace reality, up the communication, and be ready to shift gears at a moment’s notice. – Richard RB Botto, Stage 32

6. TOGGLE BETWEEN DIFFERENT ALTITUDES.

Leaders need to be able to toggle between different altitudes. While it’s important to get out of the weeds and get more perspective, sometimes leaders need to operate closer to the ground where they can see and listen to the stakeholders they may not interact with on a regular basis. The agility to move between altitudes is especially important in uncertain times. – Camille Preston, AIM Leadership, LLC

7. DEMONSTRATE YOUR PLAN B.

As a former CEO of a fast-moving consumer goods company, I remember living in difficult times. What worked for me was creating a strong plan B while reducing all unnecessary costs. Unstable times invite us to use our capacity to extend cash flow. So, as a leader you have to demonstrate that you have that vision and can save funds for the things that matters the most – Fernando Anzures, EXMA Global

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8. BE HONEST ABOUT THE RISKS.

Communicate every known risk factor before it could happen. Then be sure to communicate the unknown risks as they occur. Running blind may not be the most dangerous, but it is the most fearful. – Cheri Beranek, Clearfield Inc

9. SHARE YOUR SUCCESS STORY.

Have a really compelling story to share that brings alive what is happening in the market. It should contain some real-life anecdotes and a message about why you are going to be successful. Good stories get retold by others, so everyone else does your work for you. This is particularly important if you are leading something new where people lack confidence. A success story builds credibility. – Andrew Binns, Change Logic LLC

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