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Defining Growth (#10)

The Confident Leader

“Flat revenue is the new up and to the right.” Said one of the CEO’s in the monthly leadership group I facilitate. Is flat really the growth potential we can accomplish? This was the question the group pondered.

How should leaders think about growth for their business while navigating a pandemic? Five different perspectives on pandemic growth were offered by these leaders who refuse to accept anything less than their best effort.

In this world, you’re either growing or you’re dying, so get in motion and grow.
— Lou Holtz

This Week’s Edition

Traditional performance indicators such as year-over-year growth may not be an effective measure device in the middle of a crisis. A rally cry of “We’re only down 11%” is not motivating. Therefore, how should you define growth in the middle of a pandemic?

Clarify Your Thinking

“Robin, 2020 was supposed to be our best year ever,” exclaimed Chris, a generally resilient leader. In April, as a result of Covid-19, he downgraded his initial revenue forecast. And, now in October, looking down the barrel of the remaining three months of the year, he wasn’t even sure he could hit the adjusted numbers.

Chris questioned the CEO group’s discussion topic for the month: Growth in the Middle of a Pandemic. “How am I supposed to think about growth when I’m down 23% year-over-year?”

Chris’ current thinking about growth was planting seeds of doubt about what was possible – even in a pandemic. While it’s important for Chris to live in the reality of the current crisis, he was ripe for redefining what growth means for his business going forward.

“Growth can mean different things at different times,” Michael, a fellow CEO, chimed in. “Our traditional growth measurements are not useful. Comparing Fall 2019 to Fall 2020 doesn’t motivate me or my team. Can’t you just hear us: ‘Woohoo! We’re only down 11%. We’re killing it!’”

“Then, how do you define growth?” Chris asked.

“I liken it to our first year in business. Back then we had no historical comparisons. We just measured everything and asked ourselves: ‘Did we perform better today than we did yesterday?’ We just played to win.”

“Does that work?” Chris asked. Michael shared his rationale:

1.   We can’t manage what we don’t measure. Keeping a log of what we do allows us to see the growth/improvement however small – even 1% better.

2.   When we see that our actions produced growth, we strive to repeat it and improve it.

3.   When we grow, we celebrate success. As a result, the overall mood of the team is elevated. When people are having fun, they are more resilient. We need that resilience in a crisis.

In the realm of growth, if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right! To redefine your thinking about growth, Download the Clarify Your Thinking Worksheet. 

post pandemic vision

Thoughts Lead to Actions

It’s one thing to redefine how you think about growth, it’s another thing to actually pursue that growth. We continued our CEO group’s discussion by offering five distinct views on growth in a pandemic.

Choose one that works for your business and pursue the growth you desire – even in a pandemic.


Keep a short-term view. Determine if you performed better today than yesterday. Be on the lookout for wins no matter how small. They are the key to creating momentum.


Comparing your team’s growth or performance against another group allows for competitive benchmarking. Ask yourself, how am I doing among my peers. 


Traditional KPI’s may not be relevant in a crisis. Pivoting to other indicators may be a better measuring tool: Number of new clients added (even if associated revenue may lag).


Growth in the short-term may not be available. Turn your attention to activities you can do today for future revenue. For example, open a new store, add a new team member, etc…


Your company’s business model or marketplace may not always allow for traditional or historical revenue growth. Instead of sitting on your hands waiting for it to be over, you can fortify the foundation by making investments that solidify the core of the business, i.e., purchasing a new project management software, etc… 

As a result of the conversation, Chris was emboldened by his growth options. He reached out to his investors and brainstormed about adding some additional non-organic revenue. This led to the evaluation of purchasing another company. Where there is a will there is a way to grow.

 Complete the coaching assignment to identify options for growth in a crisis.

Boost Your Performance

Everyone wants to win. Being beholden to an old definition of growth can hamstring even the most confident leader. Take this approach to reframe your thinking and propel you forward to grow – even in a pandemic.

What’s Your Opinion?

Email me the performance indicator you are using during the pandemic to measure growth.

Don’t let Doubt count you out. Do your leadership part and commit to a hearty restart. Have a confident week!

robin pou, chief advisor and strategist

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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