Issue 23 – Oct 2015


Issue 23 • Oct 2015

Leadership Lessons from David and Goliath

by Cornell Colbert

The transcendent leader meets those trusted to his or her care where they are and asks what systemic changes need to occur to enable them to be their best. Legitimacy is transcendent.

Gladwell’s argument regarding police relationships with the communities they serve is haunting in the face of the recent police shootings and racial unrest. The transactional leadership model that is traditional law enforcement – if you obey the law you will be treated fairly – in some ways lacks legitimacy to those in some of the communities being serve. This is not to say that the police shootings that we are witnessing are justified but it does illustrate a consequence of authority that is seen as lacking legitimacy.

In the business realm, the question of legitimacy also exists. Think of the young single mother who is trying to obey the company attendance policy but is confronted with low wages, the inability to find adequate and inexpensive child care and common childhood illnesses. Does the attendance policy seem legitimate to her? Or does it appear to be a system designed to make her chose between her children and work? – A system designed to make her fail? Legitimacy demands that we ask how our systems, processes and policies can be transformed to enable such employees to thrive within the work environment. Transcendent leadership requires the willingness to deconstruct conventional workplace mindsets to better enable and empower the workforce. It means removing the obstacles that prevent employees from doing their best work. Why is this important? The Goliath that today’s leaders face is one of legitimacy, a changing demographic and cultural dynamic, localized globalization and rapidly emerging technology. Consider the tech savvy generation now entering the workforce – are your company’s social media, cell phone usage, and texting policy designed to discourage the use of now common technology? Consider the 2020 workforce: these workers are looking for more flexible working arrangements, and work that connects them to the social good and that is purposeful. Their options for employment will include the ability to work as independent contractors through websites such as Upwork, Uber and Field Nation. To be transcendent means that leaders be able, as David did, to see the Goliath as it really is: an opportunity to turn disadvantage into advantage by being more agile and nimble in attacking these escalating conditions. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Start by investigating your system, policies, and procedures for opportunities to gain legitimacy with your employees – could the attendance policy be a barrier to retention in your company? What other system parameters may be seen as illegitimate?
  2. Be willing to change generational mindsets and customs concerning how work is done – instead of forbidding the use of technology,  outline the appropriate use of technology in the workplace
  3. Take time to remove yourself from the system. You can’t transcend the system if you spend all of your time mired down by it. Take time to reflect and then ask, “How can I gain more legitimacy as a leader?”

Malcolm Gladwell (2013) encourages us to think differently about advantage, power, and difficulty. In the process, he gives us an innovative view of leadership. Leveraging the story of David and Goliath, Gladwell launches into an examination of the innovations in the treatment of childhood leukemia, the legitimacy of police authority, the struggles in Ireland, the three strikes and out rule, and the Vietnam conflict. Gladwell’s questioning of conventional wisdom is a powerful commentary regarding today’s leadership mentally and the reasons behind the current violent social unrest within American culture.

Paramount to both leadership and the social unrest in America is legitimacy. In leadership, we talk a lot about authenticity but we have not talked, as Gladwell does, about legitimacy. There is a difference. A leader can be authentic without having legitimacy. Authenticity is an alignment of the leader’s behavior with what the leaders says he or she believes. It is walking the talk. Legitimacy means that the motives and actions are trusted by those being impacted by the decisions that leader implement. The problem is that authenticity does not equal legitimacy. In fact, a leader may demonstrate authenticity and still lack legitimacy with his or her staff. How is this possible?

Let’s talk a bit about three leadership models: transactional, transformational, and transcendent. The transactional leadership style is one of rewards for behaviors. This style relies on incentives, rewards and recognition to motivate behaviors. The transactional leadership style is a contract form of leadership: “if you do that, then I’ll give you this.”

At the core of the transformational leadership style is authenticity. The transformational leader is concerned with modeling the way, creating shared vision, challenging conventions, employee empowerment and effective communication. The transformational leader is the leader that says, “I’ll show you the way.” The transcendent leader sees the workplace and the world in an unconventional manner. They view power and leadership from the perspective of those that they serve and not from the view point of someone in authority.

Clear Roles and Responsibilities

by Ron Bercaw

Not every team gets the best results. There are a variety of reasons this occurs, but there is one theme I see more often than not when results end up sub-standard. That theme is unclear roles and responsibilities during the improvement cycle. There are many roles that are needed to ensure a high performing team, but I will start by explaining the three roles that I consider to be the most essential to having success.

The first role in the improvement process is that of the executive sponsor (or executive champion). The executive sponsor has the critical responsibility to remove the organizational bureaucracy and organizational obstacles from the improvement process. You will not get timely, breakthrough improvement without this role in place and operating effectively.

The next critical role is that of the A3 owner or process owner. This role has the operational responsibility to OWN the changes. This role will be accountable to own and update the standard work, train the team in the improved process, and measure and report on the results. These

responsibilities are frequently delegated to the improvement facilitator, who does not have the authority to follow through on any gaps uncovered in deploying the improvement.

The last essential role is that of the improvement facilitator. This role exists to teach the improvement team lean thinking, to challenge existing paradigms, and to ensure the team follows the scientific method. Common mistakes here are forcing a solution on the team, and letting conversations not related the improvement run on too long. Another common problem is performing the role of the process owner. Results always crumble when the lean facilitator operates as the process owner. Once the facilitator leaves the area of focus, the process owner will not be prepared to sustain the improvements and results are rarely sustained.

If your results have been subpar, start with the basics. Do you have a good business case, and good measures? Do you have the right team? Are you following a value stream approach to improvement? Are you following the scientific method? Have you stabilized the 4 M’s (Man, Method, Value Chain, and Level work)? And, have you clearly defined roles and responsibilities?

Lean Training – Improvement Advisor Skill Development

Due to the popularity of previous courses, Breakthrough Horizons is pleased to offer another public workshop on Lean Improvement Advisor (Facilitator, coach) skill development. The training is designed to facilitate group discussion and learn the fundamentals of lean improvement.

This workshop covers the following concepts: A3 thinking, Value Added, Non Value added, 7 Wastes, 5 Improvement principles, and the common tools to see and eliminate waste. The workshop will close with a new module on sustainability through visual management.

This lean training is integral to delivering and sustaining breakthrough improvement and is being offered as is a 2-day program on 25 and 26 January 2016. The workshop will be held at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto, ON.

The session will be limited to ~40 participants and will be filled on a first-come first-served basis.

  • Eligible individuals: individuals who want to advance their quality improvement knowledge and lead change within your organization.
  • The training will be delivered by Ron Bercaw, President and Sensei, with Breakthrough Horizons, LTD
  • Included in the cost of the training will be Training hand-outs, lunch and snacks. Training fees for the curriculum will be $600 CAD per participant. Participants are responsible for travel, and for their own lodging if required.

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