How can managers take an underperforming team and get them shooting for success? In Team Turnarounds (Jossey-Bass, July 2012), Joe Frontiera and Daniel Leidl, sports psychologists and managing partners of Meno Consulting, examine businesses — including sports organizations — to devise their the secrets. Here the authors talk to Profit about what should be in every executive’s playbook.
Profit: This month, Profit is focused on successful upgrades. Tell us: How can executives upgrade their workforces?
Frontiera: For low-performing teams, there’s definitely a component of getting rid of people who aren’t with the program and replacing them with people who share the values you bring to the table. But at the same time, people just don’t have the resources that they used to back when things were really booming, and executives have to more with less. So a lot of times, a turnaround is about taking that existing workforce you have and finding, creative ways of getting them on board. The first step is holding up a mirror to the workforce and letting them see what they’ve become.
Profit: How do get your team to talk about problems without making it open season for complaining and gossip?
Leidl: There is an element of allowing it to be open season. You want to provide people with an open forum where they can just talk. In the scenarios in our book, we saw the teams start to identify what was critical and what was less so, and that provided them with a foundation to let them move forward.
Allowing people to talk and explore, “How can we get better?” is a lot different then “What’s wrong?” Also, teams want to look at what’s going on the outside with teams that have it right. In the book, we write about Jeffrey Lurie, who bought the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994. In that particular case, he knew the San Francisco 49ers had established a gold standard for running a successful franchise. So by researching what the 49ers were doing, he could come back in house and say, “This is what we really are working towards.” That will help frame those conversations.
Profit: What are the common mistakes leaders make on the way to a turnaround?
Frontiera: A lot of leaders have that Type A personality. When they get into a turnaround situation, they need to check that impulse to act immediately and move forward gangbuster style. A turnaround is a process. Before they hit that proactive stride, they really need to figure out what they need to change.
Also, if you’re certain about what’s wrong with your team and you’re certain about your values and the plan that you’ve put forth, you need to stick with that when things get tough. Sometimes, organizations give up too soon, before they get past some of those hurdles. A lot of the successful organizations we talked to have a definite resiliency that they developed over the course of time.
Profit: What do you want leaders to takeaway from your book?
Frontiera: There’s this assumption out there that some of us are turnaround artists and some of us aren’t. What I learned from our research is this is no matter what level you’re at — whether you’re a frontline supervising manager, a CEO, or someone trying to run your neighborhood diner — if you come up with a plan, and you understand what your core values are, you can start to succeed and make things happen. It’s not a matter of who you are or who you were. It’s who you want to be.