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The waning days of this recession pose three particular problems: absentee leadership, changing cultures and underperforming employees.

Three problems, three solutions:

1. Paralysis: Right when you need to be walking around, you may be stuck in meetings, invisible, your phone on vibrate mooing with a hundred crises.  

John Mack of Morgan Stanley fought the temptation to “hunker in the bunker” during the financial meltdown in 2008. Instead, he raised his profile, talking with customers, employees and the public about what he was thinking—he didn’t claim to have all the answers—and announcing the first downsized bonus plan on Wall Street.

Solution: Stand up. Consult, decide and act. Warren Buffett raised his profile during the darkest days of the recession, reassuring investors and calming markets.

2. Fossilized culture: As the economy stirs, it’s time to look around for opportunities, but many organizations still aren’t adapting. One HR manager says she’s going crazy trying to change her company’s emphasis from cost-cutting to growth. On the other hand, the venerable publisher Thomson decided in 2000—the best year in history for newspaper ad revenues—to dump print and go digital.

Solution: Keep your people loose with “there at the creation” stories, usually about how your leaders moved nimbly to make something out of nothing. Southwest Airlines has always celebrated using its wits (smart and funny) to help customers.

3. Entrenched employees:
While you’d think a recession would be a great time to take a swim in the talent pool, it may be harder to shed underperformers than you thought.

James Kilts took over at Gillette only to discover that although sales had stagnated for years, 74% of managers had the highest performance ratings while only 3% had the lowest. What do you do when everybody’s a genius?

Solution: Raise the bar for hires and promotions. Emphasize honesty in performance evaluations, starting with yourself.

— Adapted from “Leading during a downturn,” Geoff Colvin, CNNMoney.com.

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