Sam Silverstein Blog

The recession-proofing step too many leaders overlook.

There’s a lot of talk now going around now about whether the world economy is going to plunge into another recession because of the possibility of major loan defaults in Turkey.

Here’s a prediction: Whether or not there is a recession, your organization will thrive over the next few years … if you as the leader recession-proof your team by making and keeping your own personal commitment to the right values.


You as leader will either define and model the values that do the most to strengthen your team and protect your organization from external challenges like an economic downturn … or you won’t define and model those values. If you do, I predict your ship will pass safely through any and every storm. Unfortunately, most leaders overlook this responsibility.

You, as an accountable leader, cannot tolerate any action that goes against your values. Your values, as lived on a day-to-day basis, are what will tell everyone in your organization how they will act, what kinds of decisions they will make, and what kinds of results they must produce, whether they are facing a huge opportunity or a huge challenge. And the very best time for you to define and reinforce the right values is now … before there is a major crisis for your team to respond to.

It is only your own personal commitment to identify and live the right values – in your personal life first, and then extending into your professional life — that enables you to inspire the people you lead to live by those same values, during both good times and bad. To make it through the tough times, you must do what most leaders don’t … by identifying and living the right values, day in and day out. Identifying those values and committing to everyone on your team that you will live and protect them, each and every day, is at the very core of being an accountable leader.


If you really want to recession-proof your team, focus on the things you can control, not the things you can’t control.

You and I can’t control what’s happening in Turkey, or the valuation of any international currency, or how European banks will respond to challenges they may face, or what the global economy does six months from now. We can only control what we do. We can only control the commitments we make … the commitments we choose to keep … and the relationships we build as a result of those commitments. We can only control our own actions in building up and sustaining those relationships. That’s all. But that’s enough.

Now is the time — before the next recession hits, whether that’s early next year or a decade from now — to assume full responsibility for what we truly can affect in our own organization. Heading that list of things we can affect should be our personal commitment to our core values, and our communication about those values. As accountable leaders, that’s what we need to be focused on, and help others to focus on.

Let’s face it. When things start to go awry, it’s easy for people to slip up. But if our people know exactly what our values are, if we have been consistently teaching and living and modeling those values for them, then our people will be prepared for tough times when they come. They will know that if they make decisions based on those values, they will always be making better decisions.

I have seen it time and time again. If the values are created properly, and if they are meaningful for the organisation, the organization makes it through periods of major challenge – and emerges from those dark periods even stronger.

Our values are worth making a priority, for ourselves and our organization. They are our legacy, and our compass during hard times. They are what we will be known for. The right values enable us to make a better set of decisions.


There is a big difference between a policy in an organization and a value. I once had a client that wanted some help articulating their values and establishing those values inside their organization, so that they would have the organizational culture that they really desired. We facilitated this process, and as we sat around the table and talked with the company’s leadership about its values, there came a point when the president of the company said that community service was a core value of theirs. He went on to say that it was so much of a value that in the company’s policy manual it stated that all employees could have up to two days off, with pay, to perform community service.

My assistant, Sharon, asked the president how many days off with pay in order to perform community service had actually been recorded the prior year.

After a little thought, and after checking with the bookkeeper, who was in the room, the president acknowledged that the answer was zero!

A silence fell over the room.

I broke it by saying, “Right now, Community Service is a policy for you. Let’s make it a value.”

And that is exactly what we did. Leadership defined exactly what community service was to them, articulated its importance to the rest of organization on a regular basis, and constantly delineated what the upcoming real-time opportunities were for employees to go about living that value, just like the president did in his own life.

Within a few short weeks, we started to hear stories about all of the community service their team members were providing. They were painting houses, helping the elderly, and even “adopting” a homeless family in transition from one part of the country to another to help them get back home.

This is what happens when a policy becomes a value. The team is transformed.

A value must be identified, understood, and lived. You have to see the value showing up in your life or in your organization for it really to be a value. When you start living it, no matter what, it becomes a value. And when you live the right values, guess what you’re doing? You are strengthening your team, making sure your people are ready to respond effectively to anything and everything the world throws their way … and, yes, recession-proofing your business.

The Power of Commitment

Sam Silverstein Blog

I recently gave a speech in Long Beach, California. I arrived early the day before, which meant I had time to enjoy the nice weather, beautiful views, and great food of that fair city. A friend of mine happened to mention that I should visit the Queen Mary cruise ship, a beautiful reminder of an elegant way to travel the world, now retired in Long Beach and used as a hotel. Hearing the ship’s name brought on a strange wave of emotions. Before my friend had finished speaking, I knew I had to go.

A quick online search confirmed that daily tours were available. I walked to the pier.

The tour guide shared various historical tidbits about this famous ship. One was that the Queen Mary, along with the Queen Elizabeth, is credited with shaving between one and one and a half years off of World War II because of the number of soldiers they were able to transport speedily to Europe from Canada, Australia and the United States. Another nugget of information the tour guide passed along was that the last Atlantic crossing before the Queen Mary was converted to a military transport begin on August 30, 1939 in Southhampton, England.

What the tour guide didn’t know was that my grandfather and his family had a role in that final transatlantic sailing.

This was well after the infamous Kristallnacht in Germany, the night windows were shattered, buildings were burned and destroyed, and people were killed. My Grandfather took Kristallnacht as his cue to protect his loved ones. He smuggled his family into Switzerland. Initially was only able to get his wife and two children out of Germany — not himself. After three tries, and using a passport that he had personally forged, he eventually made his way to join them in Switzerland. Then, after significant bargaining, he was able to transport his family across France to Cherbourg where in the summer of 1939, they boarded the Queen Mary and, after a long ocean voyage, came to safety in the United States on the final Atlantic civilian crossing before the vessel was converted to military use.

That’s the ship I was visiting that day in Long Beach. The ship that saved my family’s life.

Whenever I think of accountability, I think about my grandfather.

I look back on what he accomplished nearly eighty years ago and I think, “That’s what real commitment looks like.” He was totally committed to doing whatever he had to do to ensure the safety of his family. He was absolutely locked in on that outcome. There was simply no other alternative to success … which in this case meant getting his family to America. He was committed to leading them to safety, and then to positioning them to achieve their fullest potential and live their lives successfully.

Do you know what else comes to mind when I think of that ship my grandfather made his way onto nearly eight decades ago? Some big questions about business and the power of Commitment. For instance:

  • What would it be like if you felt that your boss, your leader, felt that same level of commitment to you as an employee that my grandfather felt for his family?
  • What would happen if the leader of your organization was just as committed to you as an individual as my grandfather was to his family?
  • What if the leader of your organization was just as locked in to protecting and caring for people as my grandfather was?
  • What if that leader was willing to be 100% committed to your safety, to your growth as a person, and to your success as an employee?
  • Why does that level of commitment have to be limited to the family?
  • Why can’t it be that way in a business?
  • What if the leader of your organization decided there were simply no alternative to giving you what you needed to succeed?
  • What would be possible for you, for your team, for your company, if the leader was 100% committed to each and every one of its employees, at the level my grandfather was committed?
  • What would you commit to accomplish for such a leader?

It is only the commitment from the leader to their people that creates accountability in the leader. That’s what creates the desire to be accountable in the people they lead: 100% commitment from the top. That’s what inspires people to thrive, grow to be their best, and, in the process, help the organization to grow to be its best. Commitment is what makes the greatest journeys possible.