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The 10 percent turnaround Featured

10:08am EDT July 22, 2002
Carolyn Horner is president and founder of Pinnacle Solutions in Hartville, a consulting business that helps corporations and businesspeople eliminate obstacles to their goals; fine-tune their attitudes; and improve their interpersonal skills. Horner holds a master's degree in education and certification as an employee-assistance professional and chemical-dependency counselor. She uses her background as a teacher and therapist in her work.


You have a particular emphasis on teaching people to change. How did that become a priority for you?

People forget, as they're caught up in the day-to-day, that there are options, that there are changes that can be made. Sometimes somebody from the outside needs to come in and say, "Let's look at the options. Where do you want to go? What's keeping you from getting there?"

Do you know that for something to be considered brand new, it only has to be 10 percent different? So we're not asking businesses or people to make a 90 percent turn. We're talking about 10 percent.

Ten percent sounds easy.

If they're already hunting, what's 10 percent? If they're already going in the wrong direction, 10 percent is not going to make that much difference. But if they're already going in the right direction, 10 is going to make a big difference.

If your situation is such right now that you're not happy and content, what makes a difference if I suggest a change and you give it a try? Are you going to be any worse off? Probably not.

What kinds of problems are your clients bringing to you? Are you drawing a particular audience?

It could be sales are down. It could be turnover. It could be low morale. ... It could be there's all this infighting going on. It could be a hostile takeover coming.

Is your approach the same for specific and general problems?

In companies, what I find interesting is to ask the CEO, "If you had a magic wand, what would you change?" And, of course, most of the time it's productivity, it's turnover, it's morale. And those are very important issues. "I'd have more profits. I'd have more productivity. I'd get rid of this person. There would be better communication."

Now, you don't have that magic wand, but you have the most important resource available to you to make those changes. And that is the people. People have leadership. What CEOs don't like to hear is that they create the culture of the organization.

That implies a change from the top down.

We don't expect CEOs to come into the office the next day with flowers and chocolates for everyone. But simply a "Good morning" when they didn't make one before, holding a glance with someone, actually listening to someone, stopping, paying attention to that person. And what's interesting is you ask the CEO to make that kind of a change and they come back with, "I cannot believe what a difference that made."

How much of an obstacle is it to admit to clients that you're a former counselor?

That helps a whole lot, because people automatically think of counselors as listeners, as people who care. There's an empathy there already.

Is there an example of how that counseling background relates to your work with improving businesses?

In alcohol counseling, the families would come in with an alcoholic. It's so typical, it's very, very normal to come in and say, "Fix our alcoholic family member and then our lives will be fine." We have to ask them, "If that alcoholic does not change, how do you want your life to be different anyway?"

Businesses can be different even if some people's attitudes don't change. Employees can have a different outlook, improve their productivity, have better interpersonal skills even if a co-worker doesn't. ... They do not have to be dependent on what other people are doing around them. They can do that themselves.

How to reach: Pinnacle Solutions (330) 935-0644