Are You an Inspirational Leader?
The theme of the recent Baldrige Fall Conference in Milwaukee was “Inspire.” Every speaker, panelist, and keynote speaker seemed to touch on the theme but in a way that I hadn’t expected. They spoke about the role of leaders in inspiring their workforce and its particular importance in the time of the Great Resignation and the Quiet Quit.
Nearly every industry is facing recruiting and retention challenges. Staffing shortages have brought many healthcare organizations to the brink of a crisis. What were the lessons we learned at the conference that could help you in your organization?
The first is to think about what words come to mind when you feel inspired. We heard, “energized,” “confident,” “excited to participate,” “curious,” “eager,” and “involved.” How would you like those words to describe your workforce all the way to your front-line staff?
Transparency with Business Results
Dr. Bryan Williams, formerly of the Ritz Carlton, recounted his days as a busboy and how he knew from their daily huddles what the previous day’s revenue, profit, and occupancy was and the forecast for them for the current day. What did sharing that information mean to a busboy? It meant that he was entrusted with the knowledge of important business metrics. In doing so, Bryan was empowered to act like a steward for the organization’s assets. We have a client in long-term care whose longest tenured certified nursing assistant (CNA) came up with the slogan, “Work like you own it!” That resonated with the rest of the staff so much so that they ordered t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan which they proudly wore during state surveys, quality award program site visits, and tours of their center. As a result, their organization’s culture was critical to their winning the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award.
Don’t Be Stingy with Recognition
Sincere appreciation for a job well done, for a can-do attitude, and for going the extra mile can pay big dividends. This is part of the power of rounding on employees, which has become a hallmark for employee engagement in health care. And recognition doesn’t have to be costly or elaborate. Another client of ours in long-term care was trying to address employee turnover and dissatisfaction showing up on their annual satisfaction survey. One root cause was a perceived lack of appreciation and respect by supervisors and senior leaders. The senior leaders came up with a program they call, “If you see it, say it.” This is a reminder that if they observe an employee doing a good job or being extra caring with a resident to stop and provide genuine recognition in the moment.
Dan Heath, one of the keynote speakers, is coauthor of the New York Times bestseller, “The Power of Moments,” says in his latest book, “Defining moments shape our lives, but we don’t have to wait for them to happen. We can be the authors of them.” What moments can you “write” for your employees?
Excite with Excellence
Another keynote speaker, Horst Schulze, co-founder and former president of the Ritz Carlton, described how it was able to outperform the hospitality industry with its significantly lower turnover rate by attracting employees who were attracted to working for an organization with a reputation for excellence. Although the Ritz Carlton received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award twice, other organizations without that distinction can attract employees with leaders who paint a vision of excellence. Most people are not inspired by mediocrity or even being a bit better than average, but many are proud to work for organizations that are on the path to performance excellence.
Connect People with Purpose
This topic shows up regularly in white papers, articles in business journals, podcasts, research conducted by Great Places to Work, the Gallup Organization, and others. It features prominently in our book, “Leading the Malcolm Baldrige Way: How World-Class Leaders Align Their Organizations to Deliver Exceptional Results” having been cited by nearly every executive we interviewed. The speakers at the Inspire-themed conference were no different. They described the intentional ways they ensured that every employee in their organizations was connected to a higher purpose. In Simon Sinek’s best seller, “Start with the Why,” he says, “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” Ah, there’s that word again, “inspire.”
Are you yourself inspired? If not, you may need to seek out something that resonates with you to resurrect your own inspiration – counsel from a trusted mentor or advisor, a heartfelt discussion with a loved one, perhaps even a book or Ted Talk. And once you’ve regained or tapped into your own inspiration, seek out ways you can inspire others. As we heard from the speakers at this incredible conference, it’s possible to be an inspirational leader in any industry, in any setting, at any time. All it takes is a willingness to be intentional about engaging your employees. Where will you start?