Sometimes things go horribly wrong. You lose your mojo. You find yourself in a slump. You miss your number. It feels like the end.
It’s not the end. Here’s how to execute your turnaround.
One: Control Your Thoughts
The first thing to do when you need to turn things around is to control your own thoughts and beliefs. When the arrow is pointing down, it’s easy to believe that things will continue to go in that direction forever. They won’t always be trending downward, just like they won’t trend straight upwards forever.
What you tell yourself when you need a turnaround is critical. You cannot afford to go negative. You can’t panic (or create a panic in others). Panicking (or creating a panic in others) doesn’t lead to improvement. It leads to chaos, a lack of focus, and the hopeless search for magic bullets. The turmoil, the distractions, and the wasted time will prevent you from doing the real work you need to do to turn things around.
The most important thought that you need to control is your belief that a turnaround is possible, especially if you are in leadership. You aren’t the first person to find yourself in need of a turnaround. Others before you have turned things around, some of them far less capable than you. You can find the way forward, but you have to believe that you can find the path out of Hell.
Be positive and hopeful. You can find the way.
Two: Get Back to Fundamentals
Most of the time when you need a turnaround, it’s because you have in some way failed to execute the fundamentals. As seductive as new ideas, new processes, new methodologies, new tools, and new people might be, none of these will do as much for you as returning to the disciplined execution of the fundamentals.
It’s difficult to implement something new under the best of circumstances. Implementing something new while you are trying to turn things around only costs you your focus.
Don’t think new. Don’t think quick fix. Think disciplined execution of the fundamentals.
Three: Create a Sense of Urgency and Mission
It’s important to create a sense of urgency without creating a sense of panic. You do this by laying out the path forward, by creating close milestones that must be reached, and by creating a sense of mission.
By laying out the path forward, you provide a vision of how the turnaround will be achieved. You give people an idea of what needs to be done to get where you are going. You share with your team what’s a stake, but you do so in a way that provides confidence that you will turn things around. You create a sense of mission instead of a sense of dread.
The status quo will work with all it’s got to prevent you from creating a sense of urgency. By creating close milestones to be met and measured, you force action on the fundamentals. You ensure that people know what they need to do to execute the turnaround.
Urgency and mission provide the path. You know where you are going. You know how you are going to get there. You know what you have to do today.
Four: Change What Needs to Be Changed (Fast)
If something needs to be changed to make your turnaround work, change it, and change it fast. Change it even if it’s disruptive. It’s better to do what needs to be done quickly. Tear the band-aid off quickly.
If there is something that you are doing now that is going to prevent you from making the turn, you have to stop doing it and you have to stop doing it fast. Change it and change it in a visible way, cutting off any possibility of continuing to take that action. Make it visible. Make it clear.
Sometimes someone on the team needs to be changed. Prolonging these changes make it less likely that you achieve your turnaround. This is especially true of individuals that aren’t willing to play their part in the turnaround. You can’t afford to have anyone on your team that doesn’t share a belief in the mission or who isn’t willing to play his or her part.
Do what must be done quickly. Make sure your team is full of true believers.
Five: Focus on Close Wins
When you need a turnaround, it’s easy to get lulled into the false hope of the big, this-will-solve-all-of-our-problems win. You need to avoid the must win deal; it’s like going to Vegas and putting all of your money on a single hand of black jack. Sure you might win, but if you don’t, you made your play and lost, and now you are on the Greyhound back home.
Even small wins build your momentum. They build morale. They build hope.
By focusing on close wins, even small wins, you build the momentum towards larger wins. The key is to make progress. Build wins on top of other wins, regardless of the size, and keep moving towards your goal.
Six: Take Actions to Build the Long Term
You didn’t get into the position of needing a turnaround overnight. You won’t get out of overnight either. The one reason it is so important to focus on the fundamentals is because it’s the fundamentals that lead to success in any endeavor.
Instead of getting lost in the urgency of today, keep your focus on actions that will return you to greatness over the long term. If your focus and actions are designed to help you survive this quarter, you are likely to survive the quarter only to find yourself in need of massive action in the following quarter.
Do the work that leads to future results. Build a better—and safer—future.
Seven: Enlist the Help of Smart People
Don’t go it alone when you need a turnaround. There are smart people in your organization that can help you. You have to engage them and gain their commitment to help, and the sooner the better.
Build a turnaround team. Get the entire organization to rally around the turnaround mission (not just the sales team). Find a way for everyone to play his or her part, to share in the mission. By engaging the entire organization, you grease the skids and kill the bureaucracy that slows your progress. Your team makes exceptions. They work faster because they know what’s riding on the outcomes.
Aligning the organization creates a unit cohesion that is a force multiplier. Enlist the help of smart people.
How do you execute a turnaround?
How do you prevent all call to arms from creating a panic? How do you keep your team positive and optimistic?
Is it a good idea to change too many things when you need a turnaround? Why focus on the fundamentals?
How do align your whole organization around a turnaround? Why is this critical to your success?
Subscribe to my weekly podcast In the Arena.