After 23 years in turnaround situations, I am offering my ultimate guide to being a transformative chairman. This will require from you a combination of exceptional leadership skills, strategic thinking, and the ability to lead and inspire others, and drive positive change whilst facing a seemingly impossible task.

Ultimate guide to being a transformative chairmanTurning companies around takes skill and a fair bit of daring. The company you are dealing with has got into difficulty. The directors have failed to act or the actions they have taken, haven’t worked. After attempts by others to stem the tide, it is down to you as the turnaround chairman, to pull off what others have failed to do. Furthermore, the company will probably be at a very much weaker position than when your predecessors were in charge.

Your investor brief will likely be, to save the company and recover their intial investment. Sometimes, if you can show quick recovery, investers may back a plan from you, for building the company to the original promise


Here is my ultimate guide to being a transformative chairman:

In the early stages you will have to assume the role of executive chairman. This is where you are running the day to day operations as well as leading the board. If you have a CEO in place, you need to work through them. Treat them like a partner. Use your people skills to make this a success.

Lead by example and be the energy and soul behind the turnaround. This is so important. When everyone can feel your energy and commitment, it will reinspire their interest too.

Make everyone at all levels, completely comfortable with your presence. Make everyone see that you are completely approachable. Show you are actively interested in thier opinion. 95% of the solution of what to do is already inside the company. It’s just that previous management have failed to seek out and heed this knowledge.

Deal decisively with directors that incessantly bring negative influence. There is nothing worse than the ones that undermine discussion and opinions and play political games. No one wants them among the team. Time for them to go.

Demonstrate the values and behaviour you expect from others. A lot of the time, people will have lost sight of these things because they have not had a positive framework to work within. Reassert how people must work without impacting your endevours to create a fun and rewarding environment.

Take yourself to the front line of the business. Most importantly, go and see customers. My president at Unisys always said, the best way to find out what to do with your company is to talk to enough customers. Go out with your salespeople. They will appreciate that. The customer will too. Sit within your customer services team and take calls from customers. Great for building team spirit.

Meet with all your staff in one-on-ones and seek their opinion. This is very motivational for everyone. Each of these meetings is not only a chance to hear their opinion but to re energise the employee’s interest in their job.

Be an effective communicator. Hold regular staff updates and involve your managers. Give updates and answer questions.

Assemble a high-performing executive team led by a strong CEO. Someone that can stand strong behind a difficult situation and pull off what has been deemed impossible.

Be a collaborative but decisive decision maker. Bringing the team into decision making is good but equally, they need to see that you are bringing all the right issues into discussion. Be prepared to take bold moves and take decisive action.

Involve your investors. Get their opinions, understand their expectations, and manage the relationship with honesty and openness to regain trust. Be the obvious force in their eyes, behind the transforming of the business.

Develop a clear and compelling vision for the organisation’s future. This must be realistic. First, a plan for consolidation and getting things under control. Then a new vision for the future. This time your investors will want to see a much more detailed plan which illustrates how. They will want to intricately assess your intended initiatives and programmes to underpin your vision.

Be the strategic thinker behind the transformation. Personally drive the construction of the turnaround plan. This means you must personnaly drive the pen.

Foster a culture of innovation within the company. Encourage employees to embrace change and think creatively.

Foster a collaborative and inclusive work environment. This must be right from the start. It is a great motivator when led properly.

Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success. These must be achievable. Setting goals that are impossible to reach is a real demotivator.

Be directly involved in establishing through the CEO, departmental Performance Metrics and Accountability.

Celebrate achievements and milestones to motivate and inspire the team.

Join in with review meetings at all levels of the company. This is another great motivator, It shows the teams that you are not above being involved at their level of work. It is important you find a peer position in these meetings and that it doesn’t become your meeting because of your seniority. This requires some skill.

Being a transformative chairman is not an easy one. Thanks to others that brought the company into difficulties, your challenge is made a lot harder. You will also have to manage investor relationships well. They will be sceptical and downbeat about the investment.

Much of your work will tread across the responsibilities of the CEO. This needs careful management.  As things progress, the time will come to more and more pass executive responsibilities solely to the CEO. Then it is time to move back into the conventional role of chairman.

Further readings re ultimate guide to being a transformative chairman are below:







Howard Schultz – a transformative leader