What To Do When Results are in the Toilet

I’d much rather take over a team with results in the toilet than one executing on all cylinders. Sure they’ll be some long days and sleepless nights, but there’s nothing better than the electric feeling your team experiences when they accomplished what no one (particularly them) thought could be done. Inspire results like that, and your “A” players will follow you anywhere, and you get to do it all again.

Approach 1: Redefine the Problem

At Verizon, my biggest turnaround successes came in jobs where I had the least expertise. Ironically, we didn’t succeed IN SPITE of my lack of technical knowledge, but BECAUSE of it.

Perhaps you’ve been there (or are here). You’re so entrenched in solving a big hairy problem, all your energy goes to solving that issue. The brainstorming and action planning leads to only incremental improvement.

On the other hand, when you have no freaking clue what to do to fix the problem, you begin looking for problems you DO know how to solve. When the results really suck, and everything’s been tried, solving the problem from a different angle is often just what will change the game.

Approach 2: Redefine Markets

When I took over responsibility for 100 or so Verizon Wireless stores our biggest problem was a saturated market. Everyone had a cell phone. It was all about “switchers” from other carriers.

I encouraged my team to redefine the problem. We didn’t need more retail customers, we needed to convert the small business customers that were already coming into our stores to manage their personal accounts. Look for muddy boots (contractors), ask every customer where they work (“Oh, I’m self-employed”) and we often found they had their business accounts elsewhere. Now we were switching not one line, but five or ten at a time. We quickly led the nation in small business sales which went from 1% to 20% of our revenue mix. Other regions came scrambling to understand our approach.

Approach 3: Redefine Assumptions

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I was tapped to transform our customer outsourcing channel, I didn’t even know that we outsourced calls. I was told the problem was, “How do we hold our outsourcers accountable?” But as I dug further, I was sure that the current approach was the cause of many contentious and frustrating relationships with mediocre results.

When we redefined the problem as “How do we get our strategic partners (we stopped calling them “outsourcers”) to care as much about our customers as we do?” the entire strategy changed. We worked on culture, training and understanding. We treated human beings as human beings, not outsourced gadgets. We reached parity with internal centers.

When you’re really stuck and your results really suck, back away, and try redefining the problem. Ask some naive people to take a look. Perhaps you’re solving the wrong problem.

Tune in on Wednesday for more suggestions on improving bad performance.

Leaders Weigh in on Achieving Breakthrough Results – A Frontline Festival

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. Our October Festival is all about Achieving Breakthrough Results.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Culture and Teamwork

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan

Organizations have many walls that hamper culture, development, and operations. Leaders can identify these barriers and work to break them down to create a more open workplace. Paul LaRue of The Upwards Leader shares How Leadership Can Break Down Walls.  Follow Paul.

Jim Bouchard of The Sensei Leader shares that leadership by example should be part of the culture at every rank. This expands the capability and power of every individual. Follow Jim.

Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services encourages us to throw out our judgments and assumptions about others. This will help us see their potential.  Follow Mary Jo.

Want to get the most out of your time and your team? Leadership Coach Julie Pierce of Empowered by Pierce shares the most successful approach to take.  Follow Julie.

All of us have a relationship or two that could use some attention. Unless you consciously and deliberately weigh in on the cost of that relationship and make a decision to improve it, nothing will change. Thanks, John Stoker of Dialogue Works.  Follow John.

Want to achieve breakthrough results? The first step is creating a great workplace culture. Abby Perkins of Software Providers discusses how to create a culture that breeds employees who are motivated, driven and dedicated to your company’s goals. Follow Abby.


“Sound strategy starts with having the right goal.” – Michael Porter

“You’re Just Not Strategic Enough for Me.” Have you gotten that feedback? Ouch! That’s almost as bad as “let’s just be friends.” But have no fear, you can learn to be more strategic! Dan McCarthy of About.com Management and Leadership shares How to be a More Strategic Manager to find out how.  Follow Dan.

We all need effective strategy to win. But that strategy is dead letter unless you put it into action with projects.  Learn how projects bring strategy ideas to life with this piece from Bruce Harpham of Project Management Hacks.  Follow Bruce.

Lisa Kohn of Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents, “The Magic of Butterscotch Ripple” where she shares that great results often come from tremendous effort, especially when time is taken to remember that more than just effort is required to make things happen. Follow Lisa.

Bob Whipple of the Trust Ambassador suggest that If you are tired of poor performance, you might want to try less control. Sounds backward, but it really works. Read on…  Follow Bob.


“Changing the game is a mindset.” – Robert Rodriguez

Contrary to popular wisdom, leaders who focus exclusively on results aren’t likely to achieve them. David Dye of Trailblaze provides advice on how to manage your focus so that you achieve results, get to the top of the mountain…withoutbreaking your ankle. Follow David.

While we love our “bottom line” tangible measures of results, Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited shares that some of our efforts cannot be recorded–and that’s okay. Follow Beth.

Too often, we make life more complex than needed. The simplicity of life embraces making good choices and taking the extra effort,  a simple life formula,says Jon Mertz of Thin Difference. Follow Jon.


“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” – Lao Tzu

Whether you’re at your wit’s end with your job, your boss, or your business, you can change your results by uncovering, evaluating and breaking the rules that dictate what you, and others, can and can’t do. Alli Polin of Break the Frame gives you five steps.  Follow Alli.

The world is changing rapidly with decisions, challenges and pressure coming at us from many different directions. Leaders are expected to step into the fray and provide the right direction to the organization.   Scott Mabry of Elumn8 presents Six Attributes of Proactive Leadership. Follow Scott.

Do you wish senior leaders would change your organization? Instead of waiting for them, you can create the break-through you desire. Jesse Lynn Stoner of Seapoint Center shares that change can start wherever you are. Follow Jesse.

Jeff Harmon of Brilliance Within shares that what got you here won’t get you there. If you want something to change, something must change and upgrading how you lead provides the largest opportunity to upgrade the results you get. Follow Jeff.

Susan Mazza of Random Acts of Leadership says “Change doesn’t just happen – it is a response to being challenged. So if you want to make a change in yourself, you need to take on a challenge big enough to change you.” Follow Susan.

Personal and Organizational Growth

“We occasionally stumble over the TRUTH but most of us pick ourselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” Winston Churchill

Chery Gegleman  of  Simply Understanding asks, “Are you as a leader stumbling over truths that are limiting your results?”  Follow Chery.

If you want to do something great, be prepared to work really hard. That’s what Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership wants you to know. Follow Wally.

Linda Fisher Thornton of Leading in Context reminds us that we are the beacons of trust in our organizations. If we want to create productive high-trust workplaces, we must start with ourselves, remembering that what we do, others will follow.  Follow Linda.

Chantal Bechervaise of Take It Personal-ly suggests going first is summoning up the courage to step outside your comfort zone and try something new.  Follow Chantal.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog believes breakthrough results are rarely due to one great insight or new tactic, but are instead created by organizations that continually improve their organization’s management system. Follow John.

Achieving breakthrough results begins with understanding your personality type. This process will aid you in enhancing your team building, project management, listening, and communication skills. Thanks, Artika Tyner of Planting People, Growing Justice  Follow Artika.

To make the leap from successful to very successful, there are four things you must learn to do. In studying the most successful people in history, I’ve found that each of them clearly learned to do each of these. Thanks Matt McWilliams of MattMcWilliams.com.  Follow Matt.

Bill Benoist of Leadership Heart Coaching reminds us that  when we stay inside our box, we limit our goals to what feels comfortable for us. Even when we raise the bar, we are doing so within the constraints of our box.  When we create big hairy audacious goals, we get rid of the box.  Follow Bill. 

Each person can focus on their own personal growth and help their company achieve breakthrough results at the same time. This article shows why the win-win situation of people choosing joyful work ALSO contributes to the bottom line. Thanks Lisa Hamaker, of How Good Can You Stand It? Follow Lisa.

Call for Submissions. November’s Frontline Festival is about Worklife Balance Integration. Please send your submissions no later than November 14th. New participants welcome.  Click here to join in!

Focus On The Fundamentals

I walked into the call center training room and the team was all working on the call center equivalent of a basketball “3 pointer”. Even the rookies. Figurative basket balls were bouncing off the rim and the walls and one another. Every now and then one would go in, and the coach would go wild, “see YOU CAN do this woot woot!!!”

They were all concentrating on our hardest call type, the one that’s getting all the executive attention. Clearly they had heard my message loud and clear. Everyone was breaking a sweat. Bless their hearts, the stress grew more intense with each missed shot. Sadly, their efforts didn’t show in their results. In fact, not only were they not shooting 3 pointers, they were missing the lay-ups.

“I wasn’t real quick, and I wasn’t real strong. Some guys will just take off and it’s like, whoa. So I beat them with my mind and my fundamentals.”
~ Larry Bird

In the next room the coach was calmly talking fundamentals. He had a few in the corner practicing their 3 pointers and coaching one another, but the rest were focused on the basics: sounding friendly and empathetic; really listening to the customer; using their tools. Sure, they talked about what to do when you must shoot from the outside, but that wasn’t the focus, until they were ready. Here’s the crazy part, not only was this team out executing the first group in all metrics, they were nailing more 3 pointers.

Why We Ignore the Fundamentals

As leaders it’s easy to assume our team is ready for more. In fact, over-all results can be deceiving. We see trends improving, and we start teaching Harlem Globe Trotter stunts. It could be just a few superstars influencing the trend.

Plus, fundamentals are boring. Your team is tired of practicing, “one more role play and I’m going to barf.”

And then there’s the pressure from folks like me. “Come-on, the other centers nailing 3 pointers why not you?” Great leaders tell overly zealous leaders to chill down, and focus on the fundamentals.

 How to Nail the Fundamentals

  1. Know what skills matter: First figure out what fundamentals are really driving your performance
  2. Don’t assume winning means they’ve got it: Congratulate the win, and dig deeper into each skill
  3. Encourage teamwork: Find ways for the team to help one another, pair them up for skills drills
  4. Understand each player’s performance: Customize a development plan for each team member
  5. Teach in confidence bursts: Build confidence through the small wins
  6. Constantly refresh: Develop a regular cadence of back-to-basics practice
  7. Don’t grow too fast: Be sure you have a critical mass nailing the fundamentals before you rapidly grow the team

Great Leadership Produces Great Results. But…

Great leadership produces great results. But, sometimes leadership qualities that should work, don’t.

 “Good” leaders with weak results,

  • spend so much time on people, they forget about the plan
  • are over-using positive strengths
  • worry too much about being liked
  • give up too soon, and revert to command and control
  • (what would you add?)

I want you to lead with compassion, empathy, transparency and love. I want every human being you touch to be better because you led them. But, that’s not enough.

4 Signs of Great Results

Results make your brand and impact your team’s reputation. Great results are more than graphs trending in the right direction. Build results that meet these criteria.

  1. Make a DifferenceCreate an inspired vision. Find the sweet spot between passion and purpose. Pick projects that matter to you and the company. If you’ve got 10 priorities, nail the ones with the biggest impact. Create change. Turnaround problems. Leave positive footprints wherever you lead. When you start a new job, identify what you want the team to be known for, and lead toward that legacy.
  2. Can Be Replicated – Results that can’t be replicated are luck. Understand your success. Isolate the variables. Share your secrets and teach your approach to others. A helpful post, Unintended Consequences: Fix This, Break That.
  3. They Last – The true sign of leadership is what happens when you walk away. Teach while you lead. Build confidence and competence. Establish a vision that outlasts your leadership. Build passion and engagement. Get specific about needed behaviors, and develop them. Adjust as needed. Create interdependent success. Leave a remarkable successor.
  4. You Can Explain Them – Identify the most important metrics and understand the trends. Isolate and correlate the variables. Get good at powerpoint, and positioning your story. Teach your team to talk to executives. Some posts that will help: Teaching Your Team Executive Presence  and Teaching Your Team to Talk Strategy

Side Effects of Great Results

Lead well, with great results and you’ll be unstoppable.


  • greater responsibility and broader influence
  • freedom to lead creatively
  • top talent looking to work with you
  • satisfaction
  • fun

Real leadershipTune-in tomorrow to hear more about being tough on results, gentle on people. In fact, why not subscribe, so you never miss a post.