On a gorgeous fall morning in New York City, I sat down with one of my favorite people, the Division General Manager of a technology firm. Terry has a hard-earned reputation as a turnaround master in a field that’s super-fast moving and competitive. He’s taken a number of businesses from red to black, and he’s done it fast.
The year he assumed his current role, he led his team from a $17 million loss to a $2.5 million profit.
I asked the obvious question, “How do you do this?” He thought for just a second, put down his coffee cup, and rattled off this list:
- “First, you’ve absolutely got to listen to people. Beyond the facts, listen for feelings, experiences, and values. This gives you some of the best information about how to work with people. It also makes them feel heard and supported and encourages them to keep moving forward with you.”
- “Know what the powers that be expect of you so you’re not overly impressed with yourself. Our parent company wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by our initial turnaround. They’d always considered this a high potential business, kind of a sleeping giant. They were looking for more than a turnaround…a higher return, consistently year after year.”
- “Focus on numbers and define success for your team in terms of their individual performance—their personal influence and contribution. And stay focused; do not take your eye off the numbers…and don’t let them do it either.”
- “Have regular conversations about your team’s peak achievements. Keep these stories top of mind to remind yourselves that you know how to create success.”
- “Nurture your critical partnerships: customers, employees, contractors/vendors, media contacts… For each one you’ve got to know—
When is our partnership at its best? What are the qualities that make it work at the highest levels?
What can we do to foster these qualities consistently?
What trends and changes in this partnership excite us and give us a sense of confidence in this partner’s ability to support our goals this year?”
- “Never forget that your most critical partnership is each other. I ask every member of my team to complete this sentence: ‘You can count on me to _______________. I will not let you down.’”
- “Listen and celebrate the sounds of teamwork, like when you hear people saying things like: “It’s become really hard to let my teammates down. I find myself working harder to deliver for them.’ ‘It’s getting easier for customers to do business with us…our processes are no longer visible to them, and our service is seamless.’ Recognize and encourage this type of thinking.”
- “Never try to change someone’s mind by arguing with them. It just doesn’t work. Instead, lead by example. Be the change you’re trying to bring about.”
- “After every major achievement, it’s a new game. The score is zero, and you have to recreate your prior level of success…plus more. We do a lot to celebrate our success, but we don’t stop there. We also renew our commitment to reaching the next level.”
Finally he said, “Don’t expect it to be easy. True success never comes without struggle, sometimes intense struggle. Expect struggle, be prepared for it, and success will literally chase you.”