James Steinberg / www.rappart.com

What tactics did Confederate general Robert E. Lee employ to inspire his troops to fight so successfully against a Union army that was better trained and better armed? How did coach Herb Brooks convince his team of relatively unknown college hockey players to believe they could beat the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics? How will you manage your sales, admin, and yard staffs to find success in the economic and housing recession?

Perhaps more than any other time in your managerial career, your leadership and ability to motivate others are being put to the test. As revenues and profits drop, you likely have already taken steps to reduce costs, from layoffs or across-the-board salary cuts to shuttering an underperforming division. Such actions can depress, worry, and further burden the workforce that remains. Meanwhile, the dragon of economic doom remains outside your gates, still breathing fire. You need to manage thoughtfully what's left of your operation and your work crew so that your yard can withstand the flames.

Your first step is to ditch the old ways of motivating workers, which frankly never proved effective in the long term. The traditional, top-down "carrot-and-stick" and "club-and-whip" approaches to getting subordinates to straighten up and fly right have been replaced by a "caring-and-supportive" model that is much more collusive and collective. Still, your role as a leader in setting expectations, recognizing accomplishments, and providing support is even more important than it was when you held the carrot and stick.

This new-age style, designed for lasting success with a new and fundamentally different generation of workers, isn't easy or quick. It takes constant action, time to implement and earn trust, an ever-positive attitude, and a sincere commitment to change the culture. The old ways are easier, but in this economic climate they'll prove to be deadly to the business.

And there's no better time to take the leap. With your workforce honed in recent months from a bloated payroll, you presumably have a right-sized and skilled staff in place that will most likely respond to (and maybe welcome) change if it results in a new definition of success and sustains the company. You also have a smaller number of people to lead and time on your hands to set a new course.