The best business advice I ever heard came from Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso, former underboss of the Lucchese crime family, “Do the big things. Forget about the little things.”
Make a list of tasks.
Two categories jump right out. First, the defensive things you must to do try to avert or repair a catastrophe. Second, the offensive moves you can make to stretch the envelope of future capabilities and possibilities. Often, as when you inherit a broken organization, the focus has to be almost entirely on defense until the swamp is at least partially drained. Don’t beat yourself up about this, but (a) make a careful list of the potential “good stuff” you would do if you had the bandwidth and (b) be alert for the right times launch a few exploratory patrols in that direction.
Sequence is (almost) everything.
As a change agent leader, if you do the small, easy wins first you can build credibility and momentum to tackle the risker, most costly and more controversial things. But if you focus only on the easy tasks, you can become a lightweight. Just as with the offense/defense decision tree mentioned above, balance is all.
Surround yourself with winners.
People who want to achieve things, people who are not fear-driven, people who emit can-do confidence, people who have actually done serious things. Their aura, example and skills will diffuse into the rest of the team. You don’t need all “A” players, but you need enough bell-cows to get the herd moving in the right direction.
Spend your time with top performers, challenging them, teaching them, supporting them. Spend your time with bottom performers. Work to get them to improve and if they can’t or won’t, say goodbye. You can safely bypass the middle performers much of the time, since whatever you do, most of them will stay in the middle.