Organizational Turnarounds Start With the Leader

You don’t want to hit a plateau. The last thing you want is to see your organization or your impact start to wane.

So what do you do? Of course, you start by addressing the organizational challenges that you face. This is always the first step to organizational turnarounds. You look at core values, mission, strategic direction, measures, leadership development, and ultimately vision clarity.

But for some reason none of these appear to be hitting the nail on the head in terms of what you and your organization want and need.

I get it. I really do. I’m living it this week. You read that right. I’m living it.

We help navigate the complexity of organizational turnarounds. We help others to orchestrate plans for breakthroughs in their sphere of influence. We help people to clarify their new vision for the future and highlight how they will break through each of the growth barriers.

But what about us? What about me?

I spend all my time helping others to break through their growth barriers and rarely spend as much time as I should on my own. I know. I need to work on that one.

A colleague of mine recently recommended that I assess our organizational trajectory and apply our process to ourselves. I knew he was right. It wasn’t fun to admit that I needed to work as hard as my clients to stay off the plateau.

But he was wrong.

The greatest need wasn’t for organizational change. It wasn’t that we lacked clarity throughout the organization or that everyone else needed to isolate some problem of theirs.

The greatest problem was me.

Here are a few steps you need to take before engaging in organizational turnarounds:

organizational turnarounds

1) Acknowledge Your Need to Change

If others perceive that you lack a willingness to change, they likely won’t change either. You can easily find a myriad of reasons for not taking the time to work on you but the longer you wait to change yourself, the longer you will wait to see results in your organization.

Here’s a few of the areas you might need to change:

  • How you spend your time
  • How many phone calls you make per day
  • Your workout plan (or lack thereof)
  • The way you speak with your employees or colleagues
  • The approach you take to prioritization
  • Your communication with new hires
  • The amount of time you spend on leadership development
  • How often you spend intentional time networking
  • The frequency in which you look at the bottom line

2) Redesign Your Routine

Chances are that you will not ever make any significant changes in your life or career until you make significant changes in your routine. It sounds simple and almost trivial but working more hours at some point will come back to bite you or you will run out of hours or both.

When you reshape or redesign your routine, it enables you to think through why you do all that you do. You likely have an innate ability to keep doing the same things and expecting different results (hint: we all do). But why should you expect different results from others if you won’t take the time to reengineer some part of your routine in such a way that you increase the likelihood of success for yourself, your career, or your organization.

3) Release What’s Non-Essential

Take time to sit back and identify the things that fall into either of these categories:

A: Things I need to release because I know someone else that could do it.

B. Things I need to release because it isn’t yielding the result I had hoped.

You may know enough things to make a mini-laundry list of items for each of those. But I like to see people start small and begin to see incremental change that results from releasing things and focusing on what matters most.

4) Rest

When you rest, you think clearer, smarter, and more creatively. This morning when I woke up, my mind was full of ideas. It felt like I wrote something down every 5 minutes and Siri couldn’t keep up with my mind.

Don’t worry. I don’t have that problem every day (I wish I did). But when is the last time that you had that issue? Are you getting enough rest? Be honest. If I asked your spouse, would he/she say that you routinely get enough rest?

I work hard. If I’m not careful, I work far too much. But I’ve realized that I work so that I can do the things that matter most to me. Not the other way around. But if I don’t spend time with the people that matter most and spend time resting, I rarely work near as well as I should at work. This creates a vicious cycle of overwork and little rest. Avoid that!

5) Focus on Fitness

Look around at those leaders that you admire. What do they do well? Ever noticed that many of them exercise regularly? Ever noticed how they eat?

You probably don’t want to start a massive new fitness routine that puts you at the gym for 2-3 hours a day. I get that. But don’t expect to have the energy required to turn your organization, much less yourself, around if you don’t focus on maintaining your personal fitness.

I have small kids and time to exercise or do anything “extra” is a commodity these days. I’ve found that an easy way to enjoy time with them and with my wife is to exercise after work and before we put them to bed. You may find that getting up early (something I often do as well) is particularly beneficial for you because it gives you time to exercise before others are awake.

In case you are wondering when I was going to finish the story I mentioned earlier, here you go. As I looked at the changes that needed to occur, I found that I needed to change before I could ask others to do so. I needed to walk through each of the steps mentioned above in order to see different results in my life and in the lives of others.

What about you? Which of these 5 steps do you need to take in order to be the change yourself that you want to see in others?

No matter what, please don’t read this post and then do nothing. Information without application won’t impact your life or organization. But information turned into application will create new patterns in your life as the leader that you and others will point to (and hopefully emulate) when organizational turnarounds start to occur or be discussed.


Take a look at some of my other posts related to Personal Leadership or Organizational Turnarounds:

How Leaders Navigate Change
10 Reasons You Need to Get Up Early Every Day
10 Coaching Questions Every Leader Should Ask
9 Public Speaking Tips for Leaders
7 Ways to Isolate the Pain Points
9 Characteristics of Standout Leader

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