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Key Leadership Insights from Role Models in Performance Excellence

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Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Published May 27, 2015

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

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Jessica Wishart
Senior Product Manager at Rhythm Systems

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2015 Quest for Excellence Conference in Baltimore, MD, where the Baldrige National Quality Award recipients from the previous year share their learnings and insights with other organizations who are on a journey to improve quality in their own companies. It was a fascinating couple of days for me, and one of the most interesting sessions was the leadership plenary in which the senior leaders shared their insights from the journey of taking their organizations from good to great.

Here are a few key takeaways from each of the 4 Baldrige winners:

  • Scott McIntyre, Leader of PricewatershouseCoopers Public Sector (McLean, VA)
    • The role of the leader is to cultivate the company's vision, grow other leaders, and ensure a sustainable business for the future.
    • While it is important to reward top performers, it is also key not to overlook what Scott called “top producers.” Producers are the people who have visionary ideas or see the next important trends. They are the innovators in your organization, and it is just as important to recognize, reward, and cultivate the producers of future innovations as it is to incentivize and promote people who are delivering on the current business model. If you don’t do this, you are at risk that a disruptor in your industry will take market share from you.
    • Culture trumps strategy, and changing conditions are always impacting strategy. Rather than developing a perfect strategy, it is best to practice rapid development of strategy based on changing conditions and to be able to adjust and be agile.
  • Jayne Pope, CEO of Hill Country Memorial (Fredericksburg, TX)
    • The role of the organization’s leader is to serve the people who serve the people. Her leadership system is all about doing right, innovating as the market is changing, modeling transparency, and holding other leaders accountable.
    • Determining and focusing in on your core competencies, your strengths that will carry you into the future, is key to building a great organization. Once you have your core competencies, deliver consistently on them in unique ways to differentiate yourself from the competition and get you closer to achieving your organization’s vision.
  • David Huffstutler, President and CEO of St. David’s HealthCare (Austin, TX)
    • Key factors in their success included leveraging core competencies, applying operating discipline to prioritize opportunities, developing action plans, allocating resources, and tracking progress.
    • He adopted a performance dashboard to ensure departmental goals align to the organization’s strategy. (For those of you familiar with our Rhythm methodology, this should sound like a familiar way to achieve performance excellence!)
  • Gerry Agnes, President and CEO of Elevations Credit Union (Boulder, CO)
    • Elevations made the decision to invest time and resources in implementing the Baldrige framework in 2009 - in the middle of the recession. They believed that a journey of continuous improvement and the pursuit of excellence would help them build a sustainable company even in the midst of the economic downturn. Also fans of Jim Collins, they set a BHAG to win the Baldrige Award.
    • As a leader, Gerry also emphasized the importance of setting a core strategic foundation; they began their journey to performance excellence by revamping their Core Values, which nobody at the time knew (even the senior leadership).
    • A key element of their leadership system is creating a high performance environment; they invested heavily in training and engaging their employees, which in turn resulted in increased member loyalty and enabled them to achieve inspiring results, like 79% increase in their net worth.

I hope that these takeaways from the leaders of performance excellence role model companies will inspire you to continue in your own journey of building a great company.

Good luck!