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Wednesday, May 26, 2004Companies win or lose the battle for market share during the tough times, not the boom periods, says Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers.Successful leaders must build change into their organizations, be extremely attentive to market transitions, and react quickly, he said.Cisco, a world leader in networking for the Internet, has increased its productivity 18 percent in the past six months. But things have not always been this good. The 2001 crisis struck Cisco so hard that in 45 days it went from 70 percent growth to minus 30 percent.As soon as Cisco executives realized that the crisis Chambers described as "a hundred-year flood" would last for a long period, they designed a strategy to lower expenses, focus on future opportunities, and increase productivity, and implemented it in 51 days. Then, Chambers and his team "got ready for the upturn" that brought them back to normal profitability in only nine months.The Cisco experience shows that it is not during the good times that companies lose or gain market share but during the tougher times, Chambers said. That is why a leader has to be so attentive to market transitions. How does he do it? Mostly, by listening. "If you ask people what are they going to do, they will tell you." And what the executives of big and small companies around the world have been telling Chambers in the past year is that "confidence is starting to build." Chambers adds, "The number one ingredient of successful leadership is the quality of the team you build."
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