My latest challenge is to manage a company through a critical phase of turnaround and rebuild.  They already have a good name in their industry and a very high profile and, when I was asked to step into the leadership role to build a strong and profitable company I saw the potential.

My original training was as a civil engineer so I know how important the foundations are.  Buildings with poor foundations don’t survive.  It appeared that this company’s foundations were already well-developed and I looked forward to building on the groundwork that the former team had put down.

I spent 100 days confirming my design for the magnificent new commercial structure we were about to build – only to find that as I stood on the footings they sank, and then they sank again.

The question is should we cut our losses and strip things back to rebuild the foundations or try to carry on gluing things together with duct-tape and hope they hold up?

Any engineer will tell you that the second option is not really an option and any good leader will agree.  We could make the company look good – but at the first sign of pressure the structure would come tumbling down.

There were expectations to be met.  In the short term the shareholders wanted to see a return on the investment they had already made, the staff wanted to see the fruits of their labour rising up to become the shiny new structure we’d planned.

The shareholders don’t want to hear that their shiny new structure needs the foundations rebuilding and the staff are keen to see progress from all the hard work they’ve been asked to put in.  They don’t want to hear that the whole enterprise will collapse if we simply shore up the foundations and start building upwards.

With many people’s futures dependent on the strength, resilience and flexibility of the organisation we had no choice but to dig back to the foundations and resolve the weaknesses. Slower, more difficult and very challenging to encourage the digging team to dig again, but ultimately it’s the right thing to do.