The Art of the Turnaround

The Art of the Turnaround

One of my most fascinating adventures was studying and practicing The Art of the Turnaround. Watching teams that had lost their mojo become winners again remains the most rewarding experience of my professional life.

I had no idea what I was going to do when I started, so I devoured every bit of information I could find about great coaches, executives and individuals who had built fulfilling, successful teams and careers.

The art of the turnaround is based on five simple rules. They work wonders whether you are implementing them with a team or using them to chart your own course.

And here they are:

Communicate what success looks like: What is the ultimate objective? How do you know when you are successful? What do you measure? What are the expectations? What are the habits of success?

“You measure success by how much good you do for others.” ~ Zig Ziglar

“Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us. We become what we repeatedly do.” ?Sean Covey

Provide the tools and training: Teams are inherently populated with C and B players that simply need to be polished into A players. And we all start every journey as novices. The art of the turnaround involves finding the tools that can promote learning and mastery. Don’t hesitate to invest in education, time saving applications and outsourcing non-essential skills.

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” ~ Albert Einstein

Ruthlessly but compassionately help failing players find a different opportunity: In other words, fire non-performers. Remove energy suckers from your relationship portfolio. And spend the majority of your time with people who can help you grow. This can be tough, because some non-performers are often well loved and long term team members or good friends. But pruning the deadwood is crucial, whether you are effecting cultural change or reinventing yourself.

“Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.” ~ John C. Maxwell

Keep the “crap” away to allow your team and yourself to focus on the job at hand: This is the ultimate role for a leader. Whether it be corporate bosses or recalcitrant customers, my role was to give the team the space and the time they needed to become stronger, more efficient, more confident. In the personal space, this means minimizing distractions, like the social media addiction and activities that don’t enrich your mind, body and spirit.

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.” ~ John Wooden

Celebrate small wins, encourage “failing forward” and keep your foot on the gas: This is often a “two steps forward, one step backward” game. You’ll make mistakes and some days it will feel like you are back-sliding. It’s also easy to slow down after you reach a milestone. Savor the good days and even the bad days. Both have things to teach you. But never take your eyes off the goal or stop pushing in its direction.

“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.” ~ Booker T. Washington

That’s it. My greatest discovery while pursuing the turn-around was how simple it really was. The hard part was setting the goals. It was having the will to execute, to develop and maintain the habits that could take the team where we needed to go.

Success, itself, became my greatest fear. It can lead to arrogance and complacency, to the incorrect belief that what worked for you today will work for you tomorrow. It can close the mind to the constant innovation and reinvention that are essential in a marketplace where the competition is doing precisely that.

As you analyze the world around you, try overlaying the five steps to the art of the turnaround on each situation. I bet you’ll quickly see what’s missing.

And do the same thing as you think about your own aspirations. A clear definition of where you want to go, pursuit of the tools and education that can help you see the pathway, creating a climate with few distractions, and a relentless determination to apply the habits of achievement will create an environment where just about any dream can come true.