How leadership consultants can drive new business in a recession

98% of CEOs in the US are preparing for a recession and by some definitions, we’re already there

Are you ready?

There are two sides to every coin, and recessions[i] present fantastic opportunities for leadership consultants to grow their businesses and empower their clients to thrive through change.

Where we’re at today

Here in the U.S., even after expected contractions in the labor market, employment rates will remain historically high meaning no end to the labor shortage in industries like technology, retail and hospitality[ii] (this despite recent tech layoffs – it's all about specializations).

That means HR leaders have a tall order this year; they must streamline operations, as we’re already seeing, while retaining their best talent.

With the right approach, leadership consultants and their counterparts in HR can leverage these challenges and come out ahead.

There are three areas where agile L&D consultants can drive new business with new and existing customers:

  1. Engagement and retention
  2. Team effectiveness
  3. Employee wellness

Employee engagement and retention

The challenge: People are unhappy in their roles.

A study by Gallup found that 60% of people around the world are emotionally detached at work (and 19% are downright miserable[iii]).

Leaders who subscribe to the idea that it’s better to let the disengaged go (get rid of the dead wood, so to speak) may be short sighed considering a continuation of the global labor market shortage.

Even after labor market constriction, the Conference Board expects unemployment rates to settle in the US at around 4.5.%. In historical context, this is low and suggests that those expecting former employees to come knocking may be disappointed.


How leadership consultants can support their clients with engagement and retention

The adage, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ rings true.

Those organizations that enter the recession with a fully engaged workforce will come out of it stronger. The earlier you can get in there and support your client, the better.

At Insights, we are already experiencing an increase in the delivery of programs that empower teams to connect and communicate better, enhance training, and increase strategic collaboration.

The ability to scale your programs to suit more streamlined budgets is necessary. Just as decision makers may understand the heightened importance of investing in their people during this time, they will simultaneously be asking service providers to sharpen the pencil.

What is usually a full day session for executive coaches may become two half-day sessions delivered six months apart, and so on.

Agility is key, and leadership consultants, leadership coaches and executive coaches are advised to invest in programs that work in tandem with either your or your clients’ existing programs (should they exist), and to avoid services that are stand-alone.

Products that can integrate with existing programs, support different parts of the company or address different challenges within all functions, attract greater investment.

Action: It’s time to audit the products and services you offer based on three criteria

  • Are they scalable and blendable
  • Are they part of a larger ecosystem of products
  • Are they credible in your marketplace


Team effectiveness

The USA leads the world in hybrid work, but the downside is that middle-managers (think: high-potential leaders of tomorrow) are more stressed out today than during the pandemic[iv].

This means a growing vulnerability around team performance. Chances are, your clients are well-aware of which teams are most vulnerable but may not know how to have those conversations.

How leadership consultants can support their clients with team effectiveness

Team effectiveness starts with the individual.

Many programs focus on the team as a single unit, but each team is made up of complex individuals who bring their own talents, preferences and biases to the table.

Products that address individual complexity offer long-term value to clients and are more likely to result referral work and greater client penetration down the road.

Successful team effectiveness products come down to three aspects:

  1. A focus on individual strengths and weaknesses and how they bring value to the team
  2. A focus on understanding the value diverse preferences and skills bring to the team
  3. Creating a structure e.g., a common language or accepted process, to support communications and build productive relationships

Action: Have a conversation with your favorite client, and ask the following questions:

When it comes to boosting team performance, how do they plan to:

  • Empower teams to identify how different skills and preferences impact their performance over a given period
  • Understand their team’s collective strengths and challenges and identify ways to fill gaps
  • Establish awareness of the impact of individual preferences within the team, and identify actions for the team to start, stop and continue

If you’re already an Insights Partner, this language will be familiar to you as it’s drawn from our Team Effectiveness program, but even if you’re a leadership consultant, executive coach or human resources consultant with your own programs, these key questions will ensure your clients get the most out of their teams.


Employee wellness

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace for 2022 found that “employee wellbeing is the new workplace imperative”.

These findings put to rest the idea that wellbeing is something that happens outside of work and reveals that employee wellness is closely tied with engagement rates.

For example, employees experiencing burnout are more likely to experience trouble at home and more likely to visit an emergency room (23%).

This is relevant, because 61% of employees who “are engaged at work but not thriving” have a higher likelihood of ongoing burnout than those who are engaged and thriving.

Businesses that address this issue open the doors to massive and untapped growth potential that’s currently being stymied by stress, anxiety and quiet quitting.

These stats add up to a single question. It’s not, can you afford to invest in programs to support your teams; rather, can you afford not to?


How leadership consultants can support clients with employee wellness

Leadership consultants will want to ensure they offers products that support individual awareness like psychometric profiling, etc., but it’s important to remember that self-awareness is rarely enough of a motivator to win the engagement.

It’s that next stage of awareness, awareness of others, when applied in a team environment, that can transform toxic behaviours into healthy behaviours, dysfunctional teams into effective teams, and underperforming teams into profit centers.

If your product roster falls short of that critical second step, you may find yourself shut out of a tight recessionary market. But if you can add that next step that links employee wellness to tangible results, you’ll be well-positioned to leverage this opportunity.

Action item: Questions to ask yourself and your clients

  • If you offer psychometric profiling, how do you integrate those profiles into creating high-performing teams?
  • Are your clients/your managers aware of the impact of burnout on engagement levels? If so, what are they doing about it?

Recessions are never easy, but there are still opportunities out there to grow your business. True, you may have dig deeper to make a sale and empower a new client, but remember: seeds grown in the dark blossom into forests. Now is the time get planting…


To learn how Insights can help you grow your business (even in a recession), download our free Insights Partner Guide today.



[i] https://www.conference-board.org/topics/ceo-confidence

[ii] https://www.conference-board.org/topics/ceo-confidence

[iii] https://www.gallup.com/workplace/349484/state-of-the-global-workplace.aspx

[iv] https://fortune.com/2022/10/03/hybrid-work-hurting-middle-managers/