At the start of a turnaround project, one thing is for sure: you are never given extra resources to work with.  The art of the turnaround is to get different results using what’s already to hand.  To do that you need to assess the resources available with a fresh perspective: what’s the quickest change you can make that will completely contain risk and deliver an immediate big improvement?


In most cases, by far the most powerful resource available is your team.  If they’re engaged and accountable, they multiply your power and influence almost as well as money does.  If they’re not: is there a simple change you can make in order to get them there?

  Often we interact with our team members in an unstructured way.  We give them taskings, guidance or decisions based on the perceived needs of the moment.  This can be effective in the moment, but it can very easily lead to a dependency model between us and our people.  We can end up with a team whose de facto purpose is to escalate issues to us, not handle them for us.

To combat this, I developed a simple model I use to delegate and lead reviews.  It uses four questions:

1.  “What progress have you made so far?” 

This is a vital question: it’s normally skipped in order to get to the “here and now”.  Asking it allows you to gain vital context and insight into the problem, and gives you an opportunity to deliver targeted praise.  Skipping it deprives the person of the opportunity to explain their efforts so far, implying that you take them for granted.

2.  “What issues have you identified?” 

Ask for their analysis before you perform your own.  This shows respect for their opinion, and gives you more information.

3.  “What actions do you propose taking?” 

Encourage them to develop their own solution.  This raises their engagement and accountability, and gives you more information.

4.  “What decisions do you want me to make?”   

Some decisions – for example, allocation of budget – can only be made at a certain level.  Accept responsibility for these to make it clear that your people will not only be challenged but also supported.

Try using the four question model for yourself.  It allows you to interact with your team in a way that demonstrates respect for them as individuals, every time.  If you use it and be consistent, you’ll be surprised at how quickly team members swing from disengaged to engaged, from unaccountable to accountable.  It can result in a very quick multiplication of your personal effectiveness.

Regardless of how tough your challenge may be, remaining structured frees you to fulfill your role as a leader.
with best wishes,
Tom Pickering

Winner 2015 Global Turnaround Firm of the Year