1. A systems perspective to leadership and strategy

    November 25, 2016 by ahmed

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Harry Hertz

    I recently read a summary of an interview with Wharton Professors Harbir Singh and Mike Useem. The interview relates to their new book, The strategic leaders roadmap. In the book they contend that successful senior executives must be capable of integrating strategic thinking with strong leadership skills.Leaders who adopt the Baldrige excellence framework have already successfully addressed this integrative need because of the questions in the Leadership and Strategy categories of the Baldrige criteria. Indeed, the key considerations that Singh and Useem outline are contained in item 1.1 on Senior Leadership and item 2.1 on Strategy Development and are systemically interrelated in the criteria.

    Here are the key points I gleaned from the interview and how they relate to the relevant Baldrige criteria:

    • Leaders must inspire the workforce, and must also deliver strategic inspiration and discipline: The Baldrige criteria (item 1.1) ask how senior leaders create a focus on action that will achieve innovation and intelligent risk taking, and attain the organization’s vision. Item 2.1 asks how the organization seeks out potential blind spots in its strategy to avoid a senior leader’s bias or potential lack of realization that there is a changing external or competitive environment. Such bias may cause a disciplined approach to a poor strategy.
    • Leaders may be good at strategic thinking, but thin on making things happen, driving strategy and change through the organization: This is the very reason that starting with the Baldrige excellence builder, the criteria ask (item 1.1) how senior leaders set an overall focus on action and, in specific, in item 2.1 ask about the ability to execute the strategic plan and to achieve transformational change.
    • Leaders must realize that execution is not just about the workforce following orders, but that it is about creating and enhancing the value proposition to the client and getting ideas from the entire workforce: In item 1.1, customers and the workforce receive significant attention. At the Excellence builder level the criteria ask: “How do senior leaders communicate with and engage the entire workforce and key customers?” In the more detailed Baldrige criteria there are questions about senior leaders’ two-way communication with the workforce, and their actions to reinforce a customer focus, foster customer engagement, and create customer value.
    • Leaders must balance quarterly results with setting the tone of an ethical climate and a policy of integrity first: Here too, item 1.1 of the Baldrige criteria sends a clear message by asking how senior leaders’ actions demonstrate their commitment to ethical behavior and how they promote an organizational environment that requires it.
    • Leaders must create agility and adaptability in the organization: Item 2.1 specifically asks how the strategic planning process addresses the potential need for organizational agility and operational flexibility.

    While I have given some very specific examples from the Baldrige criteria, these are just examples. The systems perspective of Baldrige means these topics are addressed at appropriate places throughout all seven categories of the criteria to cause linkages wherever valuable.

    Professors Singh and Useem summarize their treatise by saying that senior leaders must be strategic in thought and lead well. I would assert that you can simply operationalize this unified concept (and more) by following the advice given in items 1.1 and 2.1 of the Baldrige criteria. And in the process, gain a systems perspective of all that is important in leadership and strategy.

  2. The Importance of Leadership and the “Best Kept Secret” for using a Baldrige application

    April 2, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    Dr. Katherine Gottlieb, president/CEO of Baldrige Award recipient Southcentral Foundation (SF) and recipient of the 2015 Harry S. Hertz Leadership Award, knows a thing or two about leadership. During her tenure, she and her organization have not only racked up corporate, program, and individual awards, but Gottlieb has received quite a few leadership awards, too, including the Bridge Builders of Anchorage “Excellence in Community Service Award,” the Alaska Public Health Association’s Alaska Meritorious Health Service Award, and an Alaska Pacific University honorary doctorate in public service.

    In preparation for her presentation on leadership at the 28th annual Quest for Excellence Conference, I asked her all about leadership.

    Why has leadership been important to you, your organization?

    The importance of leadership has been demonstrated in multiple ways:

    • first, in creating an organization that has an environment of trust and transparency, where customers and employees feel like they own the successes of the system;
    • second, leadership has guided the organization through systematic changes quickly, without causing fatigue;
    • third, the successful buy-in of leadership for the adoption of change, and the use of the Baldrige tools to drive systematic change and innovation; and
    • last, by leadership honoring customer and employee beliefs, values, and traditions.

    Can you share a story of leadership that has shaped your current success?

    There are so many stories to share. Trust can be earned through building relationships and creating an environment of trust by building an infrastructure based on a Vision and Mission, which is built on goals, objectives, and operational principles; this is what ties together all of SCF. And this includes governance, executive leadership, and all employees.

    What are your top tips for using Baldrige tools to support leadership?

    The Baldrige Excellence Framework as a tool doesn’t tell an organization what to do—it asks questions that drive systematic improvement and change that may be adapted to the culture of an organization.

    When an organization believes it has reached the top of successful change, Baldrige encourages the people to take even more steps through suggested opportunities for improvements. By following these steps to improvement, an organization may develop a means for delegation of authority, leading to higher employee and customer satisfaction.

    Baldrige is a journey, a tool that may be used for years after an award is won. It is universal and may be used for all types of businesses to reach for best practices and succeed.

    What else might participants learn at your conference session?

    We are choosing to attend the Quest for Excellence® conference to continue to grow and keep up with the latest innovative ways for improvement. We continue to interact with and visit other organizations that have won the Baldrige Award.

    We have hired and placed people on our organizational development team to continue to remind us of those things learned while instructing and teaching others.

    And I believe SF has found the best kept secret on how to utilize the Baldrige application—we plan to share this at the workshop.

    What are a few key reasons that organization in your sector can benefit from using the Baldrige Excellence Framework?

    It is all about the strengths of the tool and putting it to work:

    • Systematic change with innovation equals sustainability for the organization.
    • Utilizing a tool that is more than “words”; Baldrige drives innovation.
    • Baldrige ensures that all staff members use the same language and continue to grow one with another toward best practices.

  3. The Baldrige Guide to Overcoming Poor Leadership

    November 29, 2015 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Blogrige by Jacqueline Calhoun and Dawn Bailey

    Much has been written recently on the cost of poor quality that leads to recalls, loss of customer confidence, and of course much worse scenarios where customers’ lives and health are at risk. For example, recent recalls in the automotive, food, electronics, and pharmaceutical industries have led to plummeting stocks and even government investigations. And if you search for “corporate greed,” you can find editorials from all industries across the U.S. economy, including in the health care and nonprofit worlds.

    In many of these cases, it’s brand-name businesses behind the scandals/recalls. Are these simply cases of the corporate greed of senior leaders and their questionable ethical decisions? Could leadership itself be at fault?

    Leadership is paramount in the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Criteria; the leadership category can be summarized as asking how senior leaders’ personal actions and the governance system guide and sustain the organization. The Baldrige core values also have a distinct focus on leadership, especially in the core values of visionary leadership, ethics and transparency, focus on success, societal responsibility, valuing people, management by fact, and managing for innovation. These core values are the beliefs and behaviors embedded in high-performing organizations.

    In the concept of an organization’s ongoing success, taking intelligent risks is also included in the Leadership category. Intelligent risks are opportunities for which the potential gain outweighs the potential harm or loss to an organization’s future success. One might wonder if some of the decisions made by leaders come out of thoughtful and measured intelligent risk, guidance for which can also be found in the Baldrige framework, but others might wonder if some decisions are made purely for the potential profits.

    When it comes to our leaders, Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, writes in his book, Leadership B.S.: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time, that although many of us would like our leaders to exhibit attributes such as authenticity, modesty, transparency, truthfulness, and benevolence, the reality is that some of the most successful business leaders actually exhibit other characteristics: narcissism/dominance, self-promotion/energy, self-aggrandizement/confidence, and self-confidence/charisma–traits that have often proven to be instrumental in building and promoting a brand.

    However, these latter traits often lead to decisions that don’t last–or recalls and costly decisions both for the business and the people it impacts. When there are questionable values of visionary leadership, ethics and transparency, societal responsibility, and the valuing of people, among other core values, can leaders really lead their organizations into a sustainable future?

    Of course, no business path is guaranteed, but the Baldrige Excellence Framework does provide a guide. Think about some of the leaders and the alleged examples of corporate greed in the news. Now consider the thoughtful questions in the framework, for example, for the following categories:

    Category 3 asks how you engage customers for long?term marketplace success, including how you listen to the voice of the customer, build customer relationships, and use customer information to improve and to identify opportunities for innovation.

    Do some of the leaders that we read about really listen to their customers and build relationships? How? (These leaders might learn something from reading about the innovative ways that Baldrige Award recipients accomplish these tasks.)

    Category 4, the “brain center” of the Criteria, covers the alignment of operations with strategic objectives. It is the main point within the Criteria for all key information on effectively measuring, analyzing, and improving performance and managing organizational knowledge to drive improvement, innovation, and organizational competitiveness. Knowledge of such data and information would be instrumental in making intelligent risks.

    Category 6 asks how you focus on your organization’s work, product design and delivery, innovation, and operational effectiveness to achieve organizational success now and in the future.

    Could leaders learn from considering the questions in these categories, as well as the other Criteria categories? Of course! The Baldrige Excellence Framework provides a road map. Now leaders, with all of their traits (the traits of narcissism/dominance, self-promotion/energy, self-aggrandizement/confidence, and self-confidence/charisma may be good or bad depending on your perspective) just need to consider the answers to the Criteria questions to ensure that their leadership is appropriate for their industries, their challenges, and their people (the Criteria are not prescriptive).

    With the Criteria as a guide, they can then move their organizations forward toward sustainability–and hopefully regain some of the customer confidence that can so easily be lost.

  4. How Do We Acquire Contagious Leaders?

    August 9, 2015 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Work Force by Alan Preston


    How do we recruit (or groom) “contagious” leaders – people who spread their skills and develop more leaders? I know it won’t be easy, but give me some idea how to go about establishing this type of leadership culture.


    Recruiting and grooming people who will perpetuate a contagious leadership culture must start with support from the C-suite. First and foremost, senior leadership will need to prioritize this effort and supply the financial resources necessary. But money isn’t the only driving factor: What’s most important is providing leadership by example.

    To spread the types of leadership behaviors you desire, there must be a visible demonstration of this commitment at all levels. A mentoring program, for example, is a great way to demonstrate what you value, so that’s where you should begin.

    Start by selecting a small group of leaders who exemplify the behaviors you want to replicate, along with a member of your senior management team to serve as the sponsor. Generally speaking, you’re looking for extroverts with strong communication skills and genuine enthusiasm for leadership development in themselves and others.

    Be specific when you tell this team what their mission is, how they can contribute, and what the payoff will be. Everyone is doing more with less these days, so it’s important to remember that even the most dedicated among us are not likely to carve out time for activities that bring no reward. But for many, the reward is simply the recognition for doing something important and the opportunity to contribute at a higher level.

    Mentoring can be formal and structured or informal and loose, but it must happen with regularity. Leaders who volunteer to be mentors should be responsible for making it happen and for talking up their efforts around the company. Additionally, your corporate communications team or HR should publicize your mentoring program and include supportive comments from senior leadership. What’s important to the C-suite will become important to everyone else.

    Mentoring that fits your company culture and is publicized properly will go a long way toward demonstrating what you value. But even a strong program is not enough by itself to transform your organizational culture. In addition, you’ll want to build leadership performance, evangelism and the development of others into performance appraisals. Nothing gets attention more than objectives that have an impact on salary at review time.

    After institutionalizing expectations around contagious leadership, you’ll want to recognize and reward it. It can be quite inspiring for leaders and individual contributors alike to see others get recognized for their successful contributions to company culture. We tend to emulate those who are successful, and often people will look to those who are recognized as the examples they should follow.

    As we know, actions speak louder than words. By dedicating time, resources, recognition and senior leadership involvement, you will create a contagious leadership culture and propel your organization toward higher performance all around.

  5. Leadership Performance

    June 28, 2015 by ahmed

    Originally posted on Linkedin by Jim Gilchrist

    We all have experienced ineffective ‘leaders’ at some point in our careers. Many people are mistakenly referred to as leaders simply because of their title or the position that they hold in their organization. But just because a person occupies a ‘leadership positon’ does not mean that they actually perform as an effective leader. Just like any other business activity, the measure of leadership effectiveness must be based on actual performance. Effective leaders experience performance success because they have willing followers, they possess attractive leadership characteristics, and they actually use their leadership skills.

    Leaders have willing followers

    A leader without followers is simply not a leader – after all, without followers, who are they really leading? And since leaders and their followers need each other, their objectives and interactions must be mutually supportive. They both want something, and they rely on the other party(s) to help them to acquire it. On the one hand, the leader wants to achieve an outcome, and after they determine an appropriate direction, they will need their followers to complete activities that will bring forth their desired result. (This is why leaders try to surround themselves with the right people). And followers will support a leader who will satisfy a common collective need or desire, therefore they will be attracted, and their support will be retained, based on their confidence in the leader’s ability to accomplish this.

    But the most effective leaders don’t just have followers; they have willing followers. The commitment given is totally different between a follower who is required to support a leader and one from whom the leader has earned their willing support. Leaders who have followers simply because of their title, or position, will never have the same effectiveness as those who attract and retain truly loyal followers based on their actual leadership performance.

    Since people are by their nature different, their expectations of what a leader can do for them, and therefore their willingness to follow, can be different as well. Despite the fact that many leaders may obtain initial support from core ‘groups’ of similar people with similar desires, their real success will depend on their ability to make a connection with as many followers as necessary despite any differences that exist among them. And while it may be easier to lead a group of homogenous followers, who have some common characteristic, a greater challenge exists for the leader who is required to bring together very diverse followers in order to achieve some higher goal that is beyond their initial commonality.

    You cannot lead if you don’t have the leadership characteristics that are necessary to attract followers

    How would you answer this question; the main characteristic of an effective leader is…….?

    I can assure you that we would see a great variety of responses based on what is most important to individuals when they are deciding whom they should or should not follow. In many instances people will default to a person’s high technical competency as a key leadership characteristic, but relying only on technical competency is a too frequent recipe for ineffective leadership performance. Many of us have experienced the frustration that occurs when a highly technical person takes on a leadership role, yet still fails to achieve effective performance results.

    And while various levels of technical capability are important (depending on the situation), for effective leadership performance to be experienced, significant personality based non-technical skills need to be present as well. In contrast to the previous example, I am sure that we can find many cases where performance success was realized when non-technical people have lead technically superior followers. I have experienced this with many of my clients, so I am comfortable in saying that effective leadership is not rooted in technical competency, but really requires the presence of some combination of suitable non-technical personality-related skills.

    So what are the essential skills for effective leadership and what is their right combination? It depends on the situation. Despite what many people want to hear, there is no one desirable leadership model. The great variances in people, as well as their changing needs within dynamic environments, creates a level of complexity that no one form of leadership can consistently respond to. Failure to recognize, and respond to, this fluid complexity is why so many people perform poorly in a leadership role. And as a result, truly effective leadership is quite rare. Similarly, leadership development programs that fail to recognize the dynamic and individualistic nature of leadership are really only sharing information about possible ‘desired’ leadership traits, a process that later results in poor leadership performance when there is a mismatch between the education and the application. In other words, since one leadership ‘shoe’ does not fit all, unless development programs are adaptive to individual needs they will generally be informative but ineffective.

    Come on, there must be some common performance characteristics of effective leaders

    Effective leadership involves adapting any number of appropriate non-technical performance characteristics to a given situation. However, beyond an individualistic approach to effective leadership, we can say that there are some broad categories of performance-related characteristics that most effective leaders will have covered.

    -Invariably, effective leaders have a vision of what they want to accomplish. Whether on a societal, organizational, departmental, team or individual level, the most effective leaders can visualize a realistic and obtainable goal, or solution, that they want their followers to satisfy at a specific point in time in the future. This ability to visualize is based in their individual cognitive capability which enables them to organize and evaluate complex information in order to develop solutions to problems that will be effective within a given time horizon. The farther into the future that a leader has to contemplate, and plan for, the greater will be the complexity of the information involved, the strategies to be developed, the solutions to be formulated and the contingencies to be considered. Higher levels of cognitive capability help to shape the strategic focus that leaders use to guide their followers.

    If a person does not have the cognitive capability necessary

    for their specific leadership requirement

    they will fail to lead effectively.

    For example, leaders of countries or societies will require significantly higher levels of cognitive capability due to the far more complex and inter-related issues that they need to understand, and contend with, and the farther into the future that they will have to plan. Because of the larger number of potential followers, and thus a greater degree of diversity, the complexity of issues they face becomes substantial.

    Beyond the influence of organizational size, at any leadership level, anyone who does not have the required cognitive capability to perform in their respective leadership role will spend more time protecting their position than they will spend leading. Without cognitive capability there will be no vision, and without vision there will be no direction and no progress.

    • High performing leaders can effectively communicate their vision to their current and future followers in a way that is understandable, relevant and motivating. Again, recognizing diversity, they adapt their communication to the communication needs of their followers in order to get their message across most effectively. By doing so they are much more capable of influencing, attracting and retaining current and new followers.
    • They create rapport with their followers through their strong interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. By establishing rapport, effective leaders gain trust, credibility and loyalty among their followers who, as a result, are more willing to follow, to listen to the leader’s vision, to commit to the vision, and to actively perform in ways that will fulfill it.
    • While leaders want to be personally successful, they understand that this requires their follower’s help (no one is an island). Having a true team perspective, they are motivated to help their followers to be successful as well, knowing that when they do everyone’s needs will be satisfied. It is not surprising that true leaders are not afraid to surround themselves with talented people, and that they devote time and energy to the development of future internal leaders.
    • They embrace and facilitate change. A leadership vision is never about maintaining the ‘status quo’, as it always involves some degree of change. Effective leaders consistently have a growth-oriented mindset and the ability to encourage similar change-oriented thinking in their followers. By personally embracing change they act as a role model for change in the people around them, and they use their interpersonal and communication skills (building rapport) to influence their follower’s comfort and trust in change as well. Similarly, like all top performers, the growth-orientation of effective leaders translates in their commitment to life-long learning and they likewise encourage career-satisfying ongoing learning and development in their followers.
    • Effective leaders are self-aware. They are aware of their general performance capabilities and their leadership-related strengths and weaknesses (accurate third-party assessment is valuable here). This self-awareness helps them to understand their leadership ‘comfort zone’, their natural reactive tendencies, and when their preferences will be effective in given situations. More importantly, self-awareness enables them to determine when their preferences will not be effective in a given situation. Doing so will help them to adapt, and thus perform better, when situational leadership demands, and the diversity of their followers, are outside of their specific comfort zone. Finally, individualized self-awareness enables them to identify specific performance-related gaps, to then develop specific performance enhancement activities and thus to develop a broader, more all-encompassing leadership capability which in turn makes situational response and adaptation easier.
      You won’t keep your followers if you don’t use your leadership skills effectively

    Leaders actually perform. It’s really that simple.

    Effective leaders don’t promise to perform, they don’t claim to have performed when they have not – they simply do what they say they will do. And, as humans will, should they make a performance mistake, they admit it, they learn from it and they correct it. We can say that, in addition to their actual performance, effective leaders gain credibility with their followers due to their honesty and integrity and their willingness to accept responsibility for their actions.

    Leadership is essentially an action, not a title, or a promise. It is one thing to know about leadership, but it’s totally another to actually be an effective leader. There are numerous books and leadership development programs that will tell people how to be a leader, but they are relatively useless unless the education is translated into practical individualized application (this is where performance coaching can help). We all have various degrees of leadership characteristics and the potential to enhance our leadership skills. The key is to consistently grow and expand our leadership capabilities by using the skills that we have, and being aware of, and developing, the skills that we are missing. Doing so will expand our ability to perform and to engage larger numbers of diverse followers by adapting to all of their needs. The benefit is that people will be attracted to a leader who they believe will help them, and they will stay with a leader whose performance proves it.