Turnaround Success Starts with i3K!

Having been recruited to lead several organizations where it was said a “turnaround” was required, I have learned that organization-wide overhauls seldom work. In fact, some would argue that they’re often not necessary. Organizations are often not as bad as some would say when results are poor, just as they are not as grand as some would say when results are great.

The truth is that dramatically improving results in under-performing units most often involves “adjustments” when working with the same employees. The existing organization. It is key to create a culture where employees excel, and it starts with i3K.

i3K is a short-hand for Intelligence, Intensity, Integrity, and Kindness. I have personally used this standard successfully for years to determine if we have the right people on the bus. In his book Good To Great, Jim Collins offers a view that organizations would be well served if they adopted a “First Who…Then What” approach. i3K answers the question “How do I select the Who?”

Everyone wants to work with smart people. Most people don’t need a high IQ to perform well, but they do need to be able to anticipate and adapt to change. Within i3K, intelligence also includes EQ or emotional intelligence. It is important for people to be able to perceive, use, understand, and manage emotions to work well in teams.

In addition, people need to be willing and able to work hard. Many have linked success to a combination of inspiration and perspiration. Intensity can be sustained when people are productive and growing, while being supported, recognized, encouraged, inspired, and well-managed.

Cultures that support excellence are also based on absolute integrity. Honest and direct communications must become the norm. People need to be open and willing to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of reprisal. Everyone has to seek the complete, “all-in” truth in all situations as they collectively build a reputation for reliability.

Finally, while it is important to completely commit to the value statements provided by most organizations, my experience has taught me the single most important value to look for in team members is compassion. This quality is heralded and reinforced in many different places. The Golden Rule says “do unto others…” and the Talmud asserts “the highest form of wisdom is kindness.”

Utilizing the i3K standard, organizations can assemble teams of smart, hard-working, and compassionate people who trust each other. Once assembled, these teams self-regulate and can deliver incredible levels of speed, innovation and results. With the right people, sustained exceptional performance creates a really successful turnaround. It is true that depending on past execution, this level of performance may be referred to as a turnaround. In other instances, it’s simply called good leadership.