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Do You Have Great Leaders?

While effective leadership skills may come naturally to some people (they are born with these skills), we have many more people with leadership responsibilities out there then we have people who were born with these skills. Additionally, few people are trained to be effective leaders as part of their formal education. If you consider these facts as a set, you will quickly recognize that we have a significant leadership void in most, if not all, of our organizations. Whether we want to admit it or not, most leaders lead like parents - that is the leadership model they have seen demonstrated the most often and the one that they are most familiar with. Unfortunately, a parental leadership approach will not lead to sustainable, high performance results. It is a harsh reality that we are hesitant to admit - we have a high percentage of ineffective leaders in our organizations, and we are paying these people significant amounts of money in many cases to be ineffective.

If you want better leadership results, you have to change the leadership system. Fortunately, there are a few organizations out there who have figured this out. They have created leadership systems which produce the results they desire, communicate a consistent, shared mission and vision across the organization, and consistently develop the skills of each of their leaders over time. You cannot improve leadership effectiveness by simply sending your leaders to workshops or asking them to change - you have to change the existing leadership system which is giving you results which are less than desired. What percentage of your leaders are great leaders? How do you know? Does your leadership system need to be improved?.

How to Improve Your Leadership System

How value added are your leaders?
How much waste is in your leadership system?
Are your leaders 'lost'?
Would you benefit from a more effective approach to leadership?
What do leaders do each day?
What steps can I take to improve my leadership system?
How can the performance of supervision be monitored to ensure they are effectively supporting the leadership system?
How can Great Systems help you improve your leadership system?
Would you like to learn more about operational and process excellence tools and concepts?









How value added are your leaders? Back to Top

For years we have used tools and concepts such as lean thinking and six sigma to take the waste out of our front line systems, but we have in general neglected to use these tools on perhaps the most important and costly system in our organizations - the leadership system. Think about -- how much does your organization pay out in leadership wages and benefits each day? Are you getting what it costs from EACH of your directors, managers, and supervisors? If your leaders stopped spending time on what they spend time on each day, would your customers notice?

High performing organizations, such as those that have pursued the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, do make an effort to get high amounts of value from each of their leaders. They measure leadership effectiveness on a regular basis at all levels of the business, they make sure that each leader is developing over time, and they consistently evaluate the effectiveness of the various types of communication that leaders have with their people, both in meetings and on the job.

Most organizations however do not consistently evaluate their leaders beyond the use of the traditional job description. They may have used a 360 degree feedback tool on occasion, but few companies have linked the use of this tool to their leadership development process (if they have formally defined one). Why do we avoid searching for (demanding) measurable leadership performance? Why are we content to assume that the monthly departmental numbers each leader is responsible for give us enough feedback to determine if a leader is actually doing their job or not?

Safety System Weaknesses

How much waste is in your leadership system? Back to Top

Face it - the personal decisions and actions of a given leader are not accurately reflected in the daily, monthly, or annual performance numbers of a department or site. Many teams are willing to produce fair or good levels of performance in spite of their leader's performance. Worse yet, most leaders are allowed to do the same thing each day from both a behavior and a task perspective - they don't have to learn to make better and faster decisions, they don't have to get more out of each of the plethora of meetings they hold and attend, and they get away with making up excuses for why their projects were not completed on time. Compared to a lean manufacturing process, most leadership processes contain lots of waste.

What's worse is that I have come across leadership teams who don't want to measure themselves. For some reason, they think it is okay for them to ask others who make a lower wage than they do to measure their performance each day, while the leaders themselves spend time of a higher dollar value daily in a manner that is not measured at all. Even when I ask these leaders to simply measure and improve the effectiveness of the meetings they regularly attend I am met with resistance. I've done the math and research on the process waste which exists in our daily leadership processes. I have been a leader myself - I know how to waste my valuable management time, just as I know how to spend it in a more effective manner.

As for the daily cost of leadership ... I stopped thinking a lot about it once I saw that we were easily wasting a million dollars a day. For example, 50 managers working at a $35 hourly wage rate and receiving 8 hours of pay each day cost a location $14,000 a day, or $3.5 million a year! It is safe to assume that the level of waste in those jobs is minimal? I sure hope that those 50 managers are really making a positive difference. How much waste is in your leadership system?

Are your leaders 'lost'? Back to Top

When your leaders perform on the job each day, are they sending a consistent message about performance expectations? Are they behaving in a manner that is consistent with the desired culture of the organization? Are they spending their time on those activities that will benefit the company the most? If not, you probably have some lost leaders. In other words, they have lost their way relative to the mission, vision, and values of the organization - their daily behaviors are largely inconsistent with the organizational roadmap which has been defined.

We would like to think that the strategic planning notebook that we give out each year provides enough direction to make sure that each leader knows where we want to go. We hope that the monthly meetings we hold tell everyone where we are going and why. Unfortunately, the daily behavior of each leader on the job almost always overrides the contents of a notebook or the message stated in a meeting. When leaders act lost, the hypocrisy is obvious, and this hypocrisy affects personal performance contributions at all levels in the organization.

Most organizations do not have a formal approach for measuring and improving the daily job performance of their leaders. Many leaders act one way when their boss around, and totally different when they think no one above them is watching. The resultant impact on team morale, focus, and performance can be devastating. Lost leaders can do a lot of damage to an organization in a short amount of time.

What kind of direction are your leaders giving to their people each day?

Would you benefit from a more effective approach to leadership? Back to Top

I have learned over the years that the front line supervisor is the key leverage point for making any improvement effort work, or for making sure that the organization’s plans are executed as they are designed in general. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed on too many occasions how most businesses, schools, and hospitals tend to discount, if not completely ignore, the effectiveness of these people. Rarely do they participate in planning efforts, development activities, or good performance feedback processes. We fail to include those who really make the most difference, good or bad!

How do we solve this problem? How do we make sure that all of our leaders, and especially those that work on the front lines, are acting and performing in a manner that is consistent with what we want to be and where we want to go? The answers are simple, but they involve letting go of some belief systems that tend to be pretty deeply entrenched. Beliefs drive personal behavior on the job, and in turn, plan execution and systems design.

The greatest failure of most organizations, outside of neglecting front line leaders in general, lies in failing to ensure that desired high performance behaviors are practiced consistently and that key skills exist, or are being developed, as time goes by. For example, how many of your leaders continue to improve their computer skills to keep pace with changing technology? How do you ensure that each leader is maintaining a consistent focus on the needs of both your internal and external customers? In the simplest sense, how are you making sure that each you person you pay to be a leader is consistently treating each of their people with respect and dignity, and in turn building stronger personal relationships with those people they depend on to get the job done each day?

Who are Your Leaders?

What do leaders do each day? Back to Top

If you accept the fact that 'all work is a process', the challenge of defining what leaders actually do each day becomes a little more easier. The types of repetitive behaviors that leaders perform each day can basically be assigned to two possible categories - (1) physical and mental activities and (2) processes and projects. I admit that it is pretty tough to directly measure the effectiveness of the physical and mental activities that a leader performs, but it is possible. The Leadership Index provides a bottom up means of gauging leadership behavior consistency. At a minimum, leaders can measure the cost, effectiveness, and waste that results from each meeting that they hold through the use of an end of meeting survey and a performance summary spreadsheet.

What we seem to have lost sight of when it comes to gauging leadership effectiveness is that our leaders are the ones who are responsible for making the system changes which are needed for higher levels of performance. I have found that if we do a better job of requiring leaders to prove how their system changing choices and projects have actually affected performance, we can also more effectively gauge individual leader contributions. If we are content however to simply assume that a shift in performance is the result of a leader's actions, then we are really not practicing what we preach when it comes to promoting sound high performance work practices.

What Do Leaders Do Each Day?

What steps can I take to improve my leadership system? Back to Top

Safety System Improvement Steps

How can the performance of supervision be monitored to ensure they are effectively supporting the leadership system? Back to Top

As with any type of supervision or process ownership, a balanced set of metrics and reporting should be used to track leadership behavior and task effectiveness.  A ‘bottom up’ Leadership Index should be provided to each supervisor by his direct reports at least once a year as a behavior effectiveness metric.  The process owner should also be held responsible for the safety, cost, quality, and people metrics that his or her processes produce over time (in the form of trend lines and a balanced scorecard) and for proving how he or she has changed work systems or develop their people to produce better results. A key mistake, which is made in most organizations, is related to expecting an external department, such as Safety, Quality, Engineering, or Human Resources, to manage the process results in these areas across multiple process groups.

As a plant manager, I expected each of my process owners (and myself) to provide the following each month – a key project list for their processes, a monthly summary of their key accomplishments and challenges, and a performance summary spreadsheet that shows DAILY process inputs and outputs.  Because I expected my supervisors to spend 30-60 minutes a day on these items and use a spreadsheet to compile and organize them, I could review their progress at any time by simply looking at the spreadsheet itself, the results trend lines posted in their process areas, and/or their hard copy monthly report (or intranet web page). My "Process Excellence From the Inside Out" workshop is specifically designed to help you install a similar process for your process owners in your organization.

How can Great Systems help you improve your leadership system? Back to Top

Over the past 30 plus years, I have helped design leadership systems in a variety of organizations - both small and large - in the manufacturing and service arenas. This experience has helped me discover value added, simple ways to set up systems for measuring leadership effectiveness, linking the results of this regular measurement to a formal leadership development process, and making sure that all leadership communications are both coordinated and value added. Lost leadership is the primary power restrictor for this power system - these tools help you both eliminate that barrier and move forward more rapidly towards higher levels of performance.

If you are interested in the leadership systems and tools that I have to offer, send me an e-mail at Better yet, give some thought to working further with me to help you improve your leadership system via these avenues:

Process Excellence From the Inside Out workshop - If you really want to accelerate your organization's pursuit of process excellence, this workshop is for you. This one day workshop is designed to help each participant (all leaders) define the key processes they personally own, the waste streams that these processes contain, and the measures and actions that are needed to reduce process waste and increase customer value.

Stop Management Madness workshop - In this workshop, you will learn techniques for measuring meeting and e-mail communication effectiveness and costs in the same manner that we analyze the performance of front line work processes.  You will also learn how to define typical meeting defects and rework, and how to make process improvements that will reduce that waste.  Examples of systems that can be used to increase meeting process owner accountability, meeting alignment, and skills for leading effective meetings will be also be shared. Finally, you will learn how to significantly reduce e-mail waste and improve the overall effectiveness of your organization's communication processes

How to Improve Your Leadership System workshop - This one day workshop is designed to accomplish three goals - define and evaluate your existing leadership system, learn about best practice approaches to leadership system design, and make key choices regarding how your leadership team wants to improve your existing leadership system for better results.

Would you like to learn more about process excellence tools and concepts? Back to Top

Click on one of the following links to explore other ways you can accelerate the pursuit of process excellence in your organization:

Process Excellence From the Inside Out Workshop
Using a Leadership Index to Measure Leadership Effectiveness
Leadership Performance Improvement Articles
Process Excellence Certificate Process
Other Great Systems workshops
Other Great Systems workbooks
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Last Revised - February 25, 2015
For more information, please contact me at:

Great Systems!
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