Managing Corporate Turnaround Strategies through Servant Leaders
Joel Rood, president of the Global Oil and Gas and the Industrial Equipment divisions for LORD Corporation, is no stranger to successful corporate turnaround programs. In fact, he has led five of them in four different countries over the past several years using a clear, proven method.
Rood explains how Situational Leadership® II (SLII®) from The Ken Blanchard Companies® plays a major role in this process:
“I’ve always believed that a strong, supportive corporate culture is a competitive advantage for an organization. I also believe it is the role of the leadership team to establish that culture by defining a clear strategic vision, creating a set of shared values, providing efficient structures, systems, and processes, and developing leaders who create motivating work environments for their people. The executive team sets the vision but the leaders and their frontline teams are the people who make it come alive. SLII is the perfect leadership model to help leaders work with their teams to set smart goals that operationalize a strategic plan.”
In each turnaround situation, Rood brought his team together to take a hard look at the current state of business, then challenged them to think about how they could do things differently. They looked at existing strategy, profit and loss statements, how the organization was structured, how people were held accountable, and what capabilities they needed from staff members to move the organization forward. Once the strategy, vision, and mission were clearly defined, they developed operating plans to implement the changes. Each time, it became clear that leaders all needed to know how to put plans into place to bring the strategy to life by developing cascading goals for teams and individuals.
“I know in many situations the hard work happens on the front line, so leaders need to ensure that goals are met at every level of the organization,” says Rood. “To do that, they need tools that will help them build trust, manage difficult conversations, improve communication, and create energy within their teams. That is exactly what SLII does for us. I don’t know how a company could manage a turnaround without using SLII.”
Providing Leaders with the Right Tools
LORD Corporation uses a combination of trainers from both The Ken Blanchard Companies and the LORD human resources team to facilitate the training sessions for SLII. Leaders go through the training first, and it is then rolled out to managers and staff. Rood lets people know the training is not a one-time fix—it’s a new way of conducting business in the organization.
Participants learn that each of their direct reports needs a different level of direction and support depending upon their development level on a task. SLII provides a common language so that employees can ask for the right amount of direction and support from their manager, and the manager can do what is necessary to help their direct reports reach their goals. For example, if an employee is operating at a development level 4 on a task—the highest potential—but is being micromanaged, the employee will be able to use SLII language to let their manager know they don’t need to be watched so closely. If that same employee is operating at a development level 2 on a different task—still learning the task and not quite sure how to make progress—they will know how to safely ask for help without feeling inept. “Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. SLII gives people the language to ask for what they need from their managers. Managers learn how to set smart goals with their team members and then determine their development level in order to offer the right leadership style to help the employee achieve their goals.”
The learning is sustained easily because it is built into the performance management system. Leaders use one-on-one meetings and quarterly updates to measure progress toward goal achievement. The leadership language they learn in SLII training allows them to have powerful conversations in a safe environment, which not only builds trust but also improves communication and performance.
Repeating the Experience
Rood has personally trained 3,000 people in the concepts of SLII and is responsible for influencing the training of an additional 32,000 people. “I remember sitting in the SLII class and having that aha moment when I realized this was a leadership model I would use the rest of my life. I knew it would help me be a servant leader. I still get a thrill watching people on my team go through the training and experience the moment when it all just clicks.”
Over the years Rood has noticed a consistent pattern of results. “I’ve noticed three things in every case:
- The turnaround happens quickly—we saw measurable improvement in the first year.
- Engagement scores improved across all levels of employees.
- The improvement continued even when I wasn’t in charge anymore—proof that this isn’t a one-time event, but a sustainable program.
“It’s all possible because SLII is a time-tested, proven leadership model that provides leaders and managers with the skills to give their people the right amount of direction and support exactly when they need it. I’ve watched time and again how productivity and results improve.”
A Recap of Quick Results
Rood was hired by LORD Corporation in 2015 to stimulate their European business. The strategic vision was clear, but the region was operating under plan and customer relations were tenuous. He realized employees were having difficulty translating strategy into action. He knew from experience that providing a clear framework for setting short- and mid-term goals that were linked to the strategy, along with a process for achieving them, would get the European region back on track. So Rood rolled out SLII training to all leaders and managers to create the high performing culture he needed to lead the region to sustainable profitability. The results speak for themselves: Rood’s team finished 2016 with a 30 percent increase in profits and a significant improvement in their Net Promoter customer satisfaction score.
Rood’s next challenge brought him back to the United States headquarters of LORD. The Global Oil and Gas division was experiencing low sales and diminishing profit. He implemented the same process described above to bring his team together to clarify the strategy and develop the operating plan. “As I always do, I rolled out SLII training so that the team would have the skills to create smart goals and drive them through the organization. This year we have grown profits over $10 million, and we are just starting this improvement journey.”
“My words of encouragement to every servant leader are these: Even in the most difficult situation, you can create positive energy with your employees by using the skills and tools of SLII. That is really the goal. Once you do that, your people perform at higher levels and your organization thrives.”
Note: LORD Corporation is a 93-year-old diversified technology and manufacturing company that develops highly reliable adhesives, coatings, vibration isolation devices, and sensing technologies for the oil and gas, aerospace, defense, automotive, and industrial markets. With world headquarters in Cary, North Carolina, LORD employs approximately 3,000 employees in 26 countries and operates 18 manufacturing facilities in 9 R&D centers worldwide.