Recession Proofing: Your Company is as Strong as Its Weakest Link


The whispers of a coming recession have turned into shouts just as the leaves have accelerated their fallrecession-preparation from the trees. Before we know it, the 4th quarter, and the year, will be over and we will be facing much uncertainty as we enter 2023. Many business leaders and experts are predicting a significant recession hitting us soon and it seems inevitable that there will be a downturn in the economy.

The best companies are preparing today. They are preparing by assessing their talent and developing plans of action to close the talent gaps that are required to navigate through turbulent times. It’s at this point that leaders should be recognizing they have issues with people who can bring the entire company down as every company is going to be only as strong as its weakest link.

As a talent development professional, I know from decades of experience that every company is on a spectrum of weak to strong based on its weakest links. As you prepare for the inevitable recession, where do you think your organization falls on that spectrum and what can you do to support and develop the weakest links in your organization?

The importance of team strength

Companies with strong and aligned teams will succeed. This week, I conducted a virtual global business acumen workshop for leaders focused on developing their skills heading into the recession. In the session, participants run a simulated company to practice “flying” their business into the storm. In addition to picking a strategy that had them playing to win, they also focused on teamwork and alignment to an equal extent.

In their summary of the week’s key learnings, they shared the following actions they are taking back to their “real” jobs today:

  • Create a common focus and winning aspiration so that even the weakest links understand the vision and expectations
  • Create the perception of unity and teamwork to all customers as customers are going to appreciate vendor partners who work together well
  • Succeed together and not alone; there is strength in numbers and by working together companies can be more agile, quicker, and can protect the weak links
  • Recognize that 1+1=3 when it comes to providing coaching and feedback to weaker performers in a crisis
  • Lead a culture where everyone on the team has the back of each other

What is the impact of weak links on the team?

By not proactively planning to address the needs of the weakest links you will create problems for your company and teams that are much greater than the impact of the pending recession. In the just-completed business simulation workshop, I had a team go bankrupt for the first time this year which includes more than 10,000 participants going through simulation-centric learning exercises.

The problems of the team that went bankrupt were obvious to me, but as a facilitator, I wanted to see if they could recognize the issues and learn from them. Here is a summary of their key learnings:

  • Poor decision-making leads to failure; if you know a weak link can’t do the job, hope is not a strategy
  • Too much focus on energy on trying to lift up the weakest links detracts from the execution of the strategy and having a focus on customers
  • A lack of alignment breeds resentment and jealousy
  • You can’t play favorites and have different rules for different people
  • Success from an innovation that has you in the right place at the right time in a market is not sustainable when you have weak links trying to maintain or duplicate a success that it doesn’t understand how it occurred
  • There is no place for team drama when you are fighting for your lives; those team members who create  drama create a toxic environment that will end up destroying the company

Action Steps to Address the Weakest Links

As the leaders of your business, you are responsible for setting the tone and creating the culture. Building strong teams that are able to navigate through difficult times like a recession is hard work and takes rigor and discipline. Based on the key learning of all the successful teams from the simulation workshop, here are a few takeaways:

  • Be aware of your leadership style. People will follow your behaviors. Remember, you are being watched at all times both on and off the job.” Be sure your actions demonstrate being humble, authentic, and driven for business success in a fair and equitable environment that is psychologically safe for all.
  • Embrace differences and challenges and work through them – in today's diverse work environment, you need to value everyone who works with and for you.
  • Have clearly defined roles and responsibilities – everyone needs to fully understand what they are supposed to do, and it is your responsibility to create clarity.
  • Embrace and culture of coaching and feedback. Hold each other accountable for all actions all the time.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate failures and successes equally. Reward people and teams who demonstrate they are doing the right things to help you reach your aspirations, goals, and objectives


The weakest link can destroy your company. You must do everything possible to assess and identify the weakest links and then do everything possible to strengthen them.

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Robert Brodo

About The Author

Robert Brodo is co-founder of Advantexe. He has more than 20 years of training and business simulation experience.