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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Turnaround situations offer a great opportunity to lead.

I had one mentor whose tongue in cheek advice was, when considering taking a new job “always look for the one where the guy before you was an idiot.”

I get most excited when the situation is a big mess.

In such scenes there seems to be more political latitude to make dramatic change.

Rocking a sinking boat is more acceptable.

Even when things look broken on the outside, there is usually more going right than wrong.

The trick is to carefully assess the situation, and then pick the right things to change.

So you’ve been asked to turnaround something important. What do you do?

Here’s my thinking based on experience what would you add?

12 Turnaround Dos

  • Start slow and ask a lot of questions
  • Give the current team the benefit of the doubt
  • Find your “A Players” and ask what they would do
  • Talk with key stakeholders about what is working and what is not
  • Create a clear and compelling vision and values
  • Clearly articulate what will be different and what will remain the same
  • Understand the current “brand” of the team or organization and where it came from
  • Clearly define the skills needed for success
  • Assess the will and skill of the current team, and get the right people in the right seats
  • Recruit for missing skill sets
  • Identify the key behaviors for success
  • Consider re-branding the organization or project with a new name and/or logo (make sure something is really different before you do this)
  • ???
  • ???

Bonus: Turnaround Don’ts

  • Talk poorly about previous leadership or strategy
  • Assume everything needs to change
  • Assume your current team can’t be effective
  • Change everything
  • Assume you know what is best
  • Be afraid to make some bold changes
  • Become frustrated change takes time
  • Start claiming victory too soon
  • ???
  • ???

Every situation and every organization is different. I would love to hear what you’ve learned along the way.


Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Eric Dingler (@EricDingler)

    A turnaround do.
    Get the team in a new environment to talk about what’s been working and what’s not.

    A turnaround don’t.

    • Eric Dingler (@EricDingler)

      A turnaround don’t.
      Don’t talk about and compare the new organization with previous places you worked.

  2. letsgrowleaders

    Eric, yes! I have seen getting out of the environment work quite well… I think it opens up more creativity. You raise an important don’t…. I have seen many leaders do that and it backfires. People want to know you “get” what’s going on there… not that you have some plan based on what you did before. Thank you.

  3. Marcus

    Great post! Can you write a post that expands this idea? “Create a clear and compelling vision and values.”

  4. letsgrowleaders

    Thanks Marcus. I look forward to writing a post on vision.

  5. Steve Borek

    I’m with you. I always loved turnaround situations. There’s so much freedom and people are open to trying new things.

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks,Steve… we should share stories sometime.

  6. Ryan Setter

    I love big messes!

    Do: incorporate loads and loads of fun in the turnaround planning sessions – encourage positive, forward-thinking, abundance-based mindsets all around. I find it better to start change with positivity right from the start.

    Don’t: focus too hard on the past – take the lessons and run! Run forward and focus on the new, the not-yet-tried, the exciting…mindset and context shifts are often required, but old habits are hard to break, I found too much “dwelling” makes it even harder.

    Of course, advice milage varies depending on every unique situation, but that’s what makes it so fun, right?

  7. letsgrowleaders

    Ryan, thanks much for your comment. I agree with you that fun is vital. It helps when the leader thinks it’s fun…. all that is contagious! Glad you enjoy a big mess too. 😉


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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