This article by our Founder and CEO, Chris Pollinger as published by Inman News shares insights on five secrets to a successful turnaround.
I typically am brought in when a company or a team is in a crisis mode. As a seasoned turnaround leadership consultant I can tell you with authority shifting negative momentum takes dedicated effort. There are few things more challenging, or rewarding than turning around an organization’s negative trajectory. But, it is possible. It is worth it. These are the five steps I have found consistent with each of the successful turnarounds I have been involved with.
Step one in a successful turnaround. Take an honest evaluation.
Honestly evaluate the situation. You must first observe, learn and face reality. Teams and brokerages that are in trouble share some common characteristics. If you see any combination of the following, the team is off course.
- Lack of trust. Trust is the foundation of team relationships. The level of trust each person has with one another will dictate not only what the team can achieve, but also how fast it can achieve it. When the people on the team don’t really believe that the others have their best in mind, you have a problem. When the team doesn’t trust the leader, the problem becomes an epidemic.
- Avoidance of accountability. It starts with letting the little things slide. Like a festering wound, lack of personal responsibility erodes a team at the core. Teams are held together by shared values. When people stop caring about the shared standards, the ties that bind them together dissipate.
- Inattention to results. Progress thrives in areas which are measured. When we aren’t paying attention to what the results are, the team is in trouble. When we don’t define them to begin with it is a recipe for disaster.
- Lack of commitment. This starts with the leader. It is unreasonable to expect anyone to be more devoted to the team than the owner. When healthy delegation degrades to apathy the team will wither and eventually die.
- Fear of conflict. Procrastination is born out of fear and laziness. When there is a fear of conflict, inevitably it is a sign that trust is thin or non-existent.
Step two in a successful turnaround. Actively rebuild trust.
Rebuilding starts with changing behaviors. Leaders must model behaviors before they have the right to teach and reinforce them in others. The hardest truth? The leader responsible. To change, it takes a swallowing of the ego and putting people over profits. Your goals aren’t more important than the humans you serve with. Own your part. Apologize where and when appropriate. Rebuilding trust takes dedicated effort.
In a service business, 20% of your value is based on your competence. 80% is their experience. Neither are measured by the service provider by the way. Their experience starts with the care and concern you bring to the table. It then continues with the level of obsession you put into meeting and anticipating their needs.
To many times, I see leaders treat their clients with one standard and their staff and team with another. To actively rebuild trust, obsessively focus on caring about your people. This extends beyond the work space and seeing people as people.
Step three in a successful turnaround. Commit to a Measuring Stick.
In step one we clearly define the starting point. Step two is about fixing the foundation. Step three is where we look to where we want to go. Leaders must launch the vision, embrace guiding values, establish plans, and set goals. Building on the foundation of trust and care, they then clearly and collaboratively define roles and responsibilities.
For each person, have a single metric which represents the most meaningful contribution they make to the team. This is usually a following indicator such as closed transactions, service quality scores or files processed. Then pull out two metrics that offer the greatest contribution to their metric. The triad of these three numbers become the person’s Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).
Step four in a successful turnaround. Nurture a Culture of Excellence.
Excellence starts with accountability. Participation trophies strip the meaning out of the ones awarded to the winners. Gold stars for showing up only apply to little kids in kindergarten. In the real world, there is a significant difference between those that show up and those that come to win.
Accountability to KPI’s should be transparent. People should be celebrated when they hit or surpass their targets. For those that don’t, the team can be engaged to have everyone help those who are struggling.
Nurturing a culture of excellence is a team effort. Keep the metrics simple. Engage everyone to do their part. Transparently track the KPI’s. Celebrate the wins and address the areas where improvement is needed.
Step five in a successful turnaround. Embrace the Suck.
I often get asked what is the one quality which is the greatest predictor for success. While there are dozens of attributes which contribute and worth listing, the single greatest one is grit. Grit gets it done. It may not be elegant or efficient. But the person with grit won’t be denied.
Turn arounds are hard. They don’t always go as planned. There are bumps along the way. Leaders will find themselves facing difficult decisions. Turn arounds force people to face their inner demons and failures. Turning a team’s negative momentum around isn’t easy. But, it is worth it.
Leaders must turn challenges into growth opportunities. They must demonstrate and build resilience. Those who really want to excel don’t look for ways to make things easier. They look at problems as opportunities to get stronger and better. The best leaders know the stronger they are, the higher they can climb.
Leadership is the game changer for any organization. The leader’s skills and ability define how high the team can go. Their character defines how long they can stay at that height.
Turning around a team’s negative trajectory is possible. But it isn’t easy. It starts with a leader who is committed to taking an honest evaluation of the current situation. They then have to be committed to the hard and humbling work of admitting mistakes and rebuilding trust. Once the foundation is rebuilt, then committing to the measuring stick and a holding to a standard of excellence come into play. But to finish the job, the leader has to embrace the suck and continue the lifelong journey of growth, both personally as well as for each person on the team.
Need some help implementing the secrets to a successful turnaround? Contact us today for a free consultation.
A Parting Thought
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