I mean it. No matter what kind of mess you step into as a leader, something good in going on in that mess. There’s a pony in there somewhere. And that good thing is the starting point. For you as a leader, or for that key employee promoted/brought in to improve things.
While I don’t have quantitative analysis on this, my history, first as a business executive and now as a business coach, confirms this.
My first 20 years in the business world, I made my name as “fixer.” My career was a series of opportunities to “turnaround” or “fix” something that was broken. A sales territory, an office, a market, a region, each one progressively more complex than the previous one. One of the opportunities was a “manager killer” or so said a peer who advised me not to take the promotion because the last 4 managers in the job failed.
The past ten years as a business coach I’ve worked with executives and executive teams to”fix” or “improve” the operation. The leader always felt something was broken.
I every case, large and small, something good was going on. It might have been just one good employee, or one good customer, or one good process. Usually there were a couple of things going right amid the confusion.
In every case, both as an executive and as a coach, I made the good things the starting point. There is always something good going on. It’s always the starting point.
Find the starting point. Build from there. It’s your foundation.
IF you don’t, you’ll almost certainly make things worse or only make a cosmetic change that will go away.
If you don’t, you just end up making things worse.