If you are going to get Street Smart, it means you have to dive into many different real world situations.  You have to take on some really tough challenges to test and prove the “strength of your mettle”.  In doing this you will have great wins and some disappointing losses.  If you are to grow, you must be able to deconstruct each of those battles and understand the actions, the decisions, and the ideas, that made the difference one way or the other.  Understand the crucial factors that were in play.

Years back, I ended a job situation without feeling satisfied.  Shortly after taking over this company, it became clear the Owner and I had different values and different ideas as to what and how things should be done.  With our entangled differences we failed to develop and execute a cohesive plan to turn the business around. I left the business better than I found it, but still plagued with issues.  I put it on track where the Owner was able to sell it  the next year for a very good price.

Still, I wasn’t happy with the overall results from my time there.  For me, this was a loss.  Since I expect Accountability from everyone, all the time, on everything, it was a time for me to step up and determine “what could I have done better” to achieve the goals I had set. Although I had moved on to another position where the new turn-around was going great, I carried this weight on my mind.  Why couldn’t I make the difference I had wanted to and why couldn’t I get the Owner to see my different Vision?

Then one day, about a year later, my Eureka Moment hit me.  There was a bunch of bananas sitting on the counter in our kitchen for several days. As I walked back and forth past them, they looked really appetizing: bright yellow, firm, fresh smelling. So one morning I woke up and decided I was going down to the kitchen to eat one of those fantastic bananas, and really enjoy it.  I arrived at the kitchen and went for the bananas only to find a bunch of black soggy lobes.  How could this be!  They had been sitting there for days looking great and now all of a sudden, over night, they were gone.  At that moment I solved my problem and realized what had gone wrong almost a year before.

I realized deterioration does not happen on a straight downward angled slope.  It runs down the slope for a while, but then somewhere it drops straight down as if falling off of a cliff.   Where you are on the “deterioration curve” makes all the difference as to what actions you need to take.  I have since called this Halter’s Law of Deterioration.

If you think about it, you have had this happen to you many times; maybe not with a banana, but with relationships for example.  Where for years everything seemed fine and then almost overnight things fall apart and you can’t stand each other anymore.  Or maybe with a car which runs great for the longest time and the suddenly seems to have one breakdown after the next causing thousands of dollars in repair.  Or how about that five-year employee who hasn’t been doing so great lately, but now has totally tanked and you are considering firing him.  These situations have all been affected by the Law of Deterioration.

The most important part of this discovery is to realize exactly where you are on the deterioration curve.  Because wherever you decide you are, will create the mindset for the actions you need to take.  And the wrong actions can be disastrous either way.  Examine the chart below and see the difference between being at point A and point B.  They are really close to each other, but they require very different responses if they are each  to be turned around.

 

If you are on point A, you would typically apply an approach such as Continuous Improvement.  Set improvement goals, have meetings, communicate tactics, and establish metrics to measure you improvements.  Good basic turn-around type stuff.  And if done well, you should expect the results shown in our next chart – A “force of action” leading to a gradual but timely return to success. Big drastic steps at Point A are likely to cause new problems, more skepticism, and shut down progress.

 

Now look at the situation from point B.  You are in a free-fall towards disaster!  You do not have time for Continuous Improvement.  An incremental improvement program will just get dragged down with the gravitational force of the freefalling deterioration.  You will need to exert a strong opposite “force of action” against the deterioration in a very short period of time if you are to turn-around a bad situation from here.  This is time for decisive and drastic action.  If you are to win this battle, you must take “no prisoners” and make the tough decisions that need to be made.  And then act on them as if your personal survival depends on it.  Because it does!

 

In my earlier situation, I was blocked by an Owner who never wanted us to do anything with people, processes or structure that was too drastic at any time.  He wanted to take small steps and not upset anyone too much as we made changes. He thought we were at Point A.  My failure was in not getting him to see the free-fall.

If you begin to examine under-performing situations and people using my Law of Deterioration, you will have the ability to develop and execute a proportional attack plan that will be successful.  A great leader knows “Who he is”.  A great Street Smart Leader also knows “Where he is”.

Once you understand where you are at, you need to get everyone on your team to also see it clearly.  Then you can approach your turn-around challenge with the proper mindset for success. You can fight the battle and win!

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