This week I’ll be in Jekyll Island at the Turnaround Management Southeastern Conference, where I’ll be on a panel called Titans of the Turnaround. I chuckle about being called a Titan, as I was for an article written about my book, “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes.” I never played football for Tennessee.
But it has me thinking about the skills that I have found to be the most useful in my career in the turnaround business. These include the ability to communicate, negotiate and delegate.
I’ve written several times about the need for communication, because it doesn’t matter how smart or visionary you are, if you can’t communicate to your employees you will not be a successful leader. As Lee Iacocca said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”
When I am hired as interim CEO or consultant at a company in trouble, I stress the need to senior management to communicate openly and honestly about the situation. I often have to work hard to open up lines of communications with employees at all levels, as they may have become accustomed to being kept in the dark.
Some employees work night shifts and may feel particularly left out of what’s going on. At one company, I hosted a midnight barbecue and chatted with the employees as I grilled hamburgers. In addition to enjoying my superb cooking skills, they left feeling listened to and informed.
As a “Titan” I also have to communicate effectively with everyone involved with the company, including lenders, vendors and customers.
I’ve written about my need to negotiate as the Turnaround Authority, which has earned me the nickname the Monty Hall of business. Every day is a game of “Let’s Make a Deal” for me. You cannot be successful in the turnaround field without the ability to negotiate effectively with all interested parties.
In the negotiation process, I employ communication skills while always searching for creative solutions. Because I have not been involved in the company as it began to suffer financial difficulties, I can clearly see the situation, while the CEO has often become too emotional to determine and handle what needs to be done.
I worked with one company that had lost control of its brand and entered into licensing agreements with substandard manufacturers. It was embroiled in trademark issues and meanwhile had accumulated large debts.
I was able to renegotiate licensing agreements and default substantial licenses, getting the company back on track and focusing on its fantastic design department.
To read more about negotiation, please see my previous post, “A Key Ingredient to a Successful Negotiation.”
I’ve seen it more times than I can remember in companies in crisis. A CEO who should be focusing his time and talent on getting his company back to financial health is instead working on tasks that could easily be handled by someone else. Usually it’s because he has not learned to properly delegate and let go of tasks that are not the best use of his time.
This inability to delegate is often one of the reasons the company has ended up in trouble in the first place. The CEO did not know how to let go of tasks or was micromanaging those that he had delegated.
All CEOs and business owners have to learn the art of delegation. That involves giving clear instruction on what needs to be done and when the deadline is. Another key is making sure you delegate the task to the right person.
The CEO needs to see himself as the catalyst to get the job done. He also needs to have the skills to communicate, negotiate and delegate.