Turn Shit Into Sugar: The People Every Leader Wants On Their Team

Who are you going to call when shit hits the fan? Most of the time it’s yourself. You run towards danger with the intent of getting things under control. But putting out fires isn’t a leaders real job, nor should he / she spend her time doing so all the time. You need people who can help and not be so reliant on you.

You need people who can Turn shit into sugar.

The expression of “Turn shit into sugar” comes from the book The 50th Law by Robert Greene:

Every negative situation contains the possibility for something positive, an opportunity. It is how you look at it that matters. Your lack of resources can be an advantage, forcing you to be more inventive with the little that you have. Losing a battle can allow you to frame yourself as the sympathetic underdog. Do not let fears make you wait for a better moment or become conservative. If there are circumstances you cannot control, make the best of them. It is the ultimate alchemy to transform all such negatives into advantages and power.

I have an employee who I can parachute into any situation, good or bad, and she will make things happen. When I say any situation I mean it. Many years ago I was out of the office for two weeks because I was was looking for additional funding for Netek. On this trip I had an impromptu meeting with a company who was interested in affective computing and we needed to put together a demo for them. Frankly, we didn’t have a demo for what they requested; we had to build it in a couple of days.

I called her, told her about the situation and asked her if we could put something together in a day and a half. She wasn’t the CTO, but she was the Product Manager. And it’s not like she didn’t have work to do but she took on the challenge, worked with what she had and put together a demo for the prospect within a day.

I never doubted she could put it together. Rather, I was worried she would burn herself out doing so. No, she said; I will get it done. Rather than be stressed, she was enthusiastic about it.

As a leader, this is the type of person you want on your team. If I could replicate her I would in a heartbeat!

How do you find these people?

5 traits of people who turn shit into sugar

Here are 5 traits you can use to spot these people:

  • Grit. A person with true grit has passion and perseverance. Goals are set and followed through. A person who works really hard to follow through on commitments has true grit. It is not a word you hear very often.
  • Adaptability. A person who is adaptable is flexible and adjusts to changing factors, conditions or environments. Having adaptability skills means you are open and willing to learn new things and take on new challenges.
  • Fearless. A person who is fearless will take on anything that comes their way; they will run towards danger with a smile.
  • Resourceful. A person who is resourceful will find efficient and innovative ways to overcome challenges. Being resourceful also involves optimizing your resources to make something new or better.
  • Bias for action. A person with a bias for action will not wait for the right circumstances or for another person to act; they will take action. Having a bias for action means you’re not afraid to make decisions and take action, even when (especially when) you face uncertainty.

People who Turn shit into sugar are Impact Players because they make the most with what they have. They’re highly adaptable, are not intimidated by uncertainty. Circumstances don’t dictate what they do; they adapt. They’re resourceful, fearless and get things done with a smile.

Bottom line: As a leader, you want to have people on your team who can turn shit into sugar. People who are adaptable, and make things happen with what they have no matter the circumstances.