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The Midweek Motivator – Mastering the Turnaround

Sometimes the most thrilling moment in your life cycle as a leader may come when you’re handed a desperate situation with two options: “up or out”. It’s possible you may never be faced with a “life-or-death” professional crisis, though far more likely in today’s fluid Media universe.

True; some have traversed an entire career without catastrophe though unlikely for most Media people. Our Trades routinely describe the comings and goings of executives and talent. As for “turnarounds” if you’re not seeking it one will find you soon enough; you’ll inherit the broken pieces of someone’s plan with precious little time to accomplish “Phoenix Rising”.

When our firm began accepting programming turnarounds I found comfort in history’s accounts of those who were extremely good at it: books are rife with reversals of a brand, or a cause long ago given-up for dead!

For those of us who’ve specialized in redeeming a declining Radio brand or a Talent who lost their identity, some of our most rewarding moments have arrived with Nielsen advances showing managers and program directors unexpected recoveries under imposing odds. If history is at all relevant for you, consider historic reversals: in 1905 Japan’s small naval fleet triumphant against impossible odds at Tsushima Strait, Churchill and England alone in 1940, Lee Iacocca at Chrysler, Garth Brooks on the edge of failure, and the incomparable Lou Holtz, the only college Football coach to lead six different programs to Bowl Games and four different universities to a Top Twenty ranking!

What are the shared qualities of people who inspire seemingly impossible turnarounds? And what are the qualities that define these leaders endowed with the power to show a seemingly “ordinary” person how to accomplish something extraordinary?

  • Masters of the Turnaround manage their own fear; they’re aware of the potential for failure but never entertain that outcome.
  • They see things others miss and possess an aura of supreme confidence, demonstrating courage under-fire.
  • They take risks…but only where there’s obvious gain.
  • They are endowed with the “courage of a strategist”; unwavering in the belief that anything can be accomplished with a good plan and with good people.

Alas, for as many successful turnarounds found in the Wall Street Journal, failures are ten-times that number. The business of turnarounds in Broadcasting is seldom an easy path.

But… for a unique cadre of determined, confident people who fully commit to “leadership”, the air is rare and fresh at the summit; well worth chancing assuming we can live with the rules-of-play.