29 January 2018
On August 26, 2016, New York Times Op-Ed Columnist David Brooks shared an article entitled “The Art of Gracious Leadership.” While his article was primarily directed towards presidential candidates, his observations regarding some of the most revered leaders in history provided a strategic opportunity for CEOs in all settings to reflect upon how they lead.
According to Brooks, “If you treat the world as a friendly and hopeful place, as a web of relationships, you’ll look for the good news in people and not the bad. You’ll be willing to relinquish control, and in surrender you’ll actually gain more strength as people trust in your candor and come alongside. Gracious leaders create a more gracious environment by greeting the world openly and so end up maximizing their influence and effectiveness…. Such people have a gentle strength. They are aggressive and kind, free of sharp elbows, comfortable revealing and being abashed by their transgressions.”
At the time it seemed ironic to hear this particular call to action for Gracious Leadership as I had held deep convictions for many years regarding the imperative to lead with grace. In fact, earlier in 2016 I had made presentations about Gracious Leadership at the request of leadership development organizations.
As a veteran C-Suite leader within the healthcare and financial services industries, I learned early on from blue chip mentors the importance of displaying confidence and humility. I learned that in order to hold my teams accountable, the buck started and stopped with me as I was responsible for being crystal clear with my staff in advance about performance expectations. I learned that accountability and compassion were not mutually exclusive, and I also learned that employees were starving for feedback because they wanted to understand the true impact of their work. In fact, I saw employees’ eyes “light up” when I thanked them for a job well done and how they listened in earnest as I shared direct, yet kind candor regarding how they could be more effective.
As the chief executive of my organization with almost 2,000 employees, I had to own leading the way by consistently role modeling the attributes of fully respectful, peak performance leadership. I also had to ensure a positive, ripple effect throughout the organization as my leaders were expected, not only to emulate gracious, accountable behaviors, but they were also to teach the same principles within their respective spans of control.
Early in my tenure as a hospital president, I encountered resistance from cynics who believed Gracious Leadership was “soft stuff.” Quite frankly, they were wrong! Through practicing the grace and tough love that are integral to Gracious Leadership, we transformed a struggling, community hospital into an award-winning, high performance regional medical center ranked within the top 5% of hospitals nationally. We had highly engaged employees, physicians who happily collaborated to achieve excellence, very satisfied patients, outstanding quality and great financial results. Gracious Leadership is not soft stuff. Indeed, it’s strategic!
The application of fully respectful leadership has also served other corporations well. As an example, the turnaround several years ago at Campbell’s Soup was grounded in then CEO Douglas Conant’s conviction that “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” Conversely, organizations such as American Apparel and Uber have suffered costly reputational damage and value deterioration because the toxic behaviors of their CEOs were permitted. And seemingly on a daily basis, we are bombarded with stories of high profile, toxic leaders. Sometimes it makes me wonder that if, without intervention, we could be approaching a crisis of leadership.
I believe that teams of all types, within any industry, can reap great rewards by displaying respectful behaviors as they seek to reach greater heights. This holds true at home, on the basketball court, in the C-suite, or in the boardroom.
Please take a few minutes to reflect upon your own leadership style. Ask yourself, “As CEO of my company, is the ripple effect of how I lead creating the right results for my organization?”
My hope is you will be inspired to become more purposeful about being a fully respectful, peak performance leader and lead like you’ve never led before… starting today!
20 January 2018
In 1983 I left the banking industry for healthcare following a devastating health experience. While I was hospitalized, nurses, techs, housekeepers and other employees taught me the true meaning of the “Head-Heart Connection.” These caregivers and support personnel did not know me from the next patient. Of course, they were motivated by their job descriptions to meet my clinical needs. But they also were inspired from within their hearts to treat me like the only person in their world. In short, they changed my life forever!
I have always been passionate about the power of positive leadership and the profound impact of frontline employees. During 2017 I decided to write a book about fully respectful leadership and the importance of the Head-Heart Connection.
I am humbled to share that Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before has just been released. The goal of the book is simple: to teach leaders they can be fully respectful while concurrently guiding their teams to achieve excellence and to inspire leaders to show all their employees they are making a positive difference.
Gracious Leaders in every industry are purposeful in inspiring employees to embrace the Head-Heart Connection. Be sure to sign up for the Gracious Leader newsletter at the bottom of the page. The Gracious Leadership book is now available on our website and on Amazon.
Please share your thoughts about the importance of the Head-Heart Connection. There’s no better time than now to lead with goodness and grace while inspiring employees to serve with their heads and with their hearts. Join in the conversation today!
2 January 2018
I grew up in a small town, surrounded by adults who constantly told the community’s young people to dream big — that we could do anything we wanted and we could be anything we wanted to become.
These words of encouragement led me to dream big as I pondered what to do with my life.
I loved basketball and dreamed about becoming a coach. My father in his infinite wisdom told me the seemingly transient life of a coach would be difficult, and he guided me to pursue the field of finance. My father was wise indeed as, at the time, very few women were in this male-dominated space.
After about five years in banking, I switched to healthcare and over the course of time, I found myself being encouraged by mentors to seek to lead a hospital. Once again, I dreamed big, although I didn’t see this particular dream as being realistically within reach because I hadn’t followed the traditional career path of hospital CEOs.
In 2006, my dream came true as I was given the opportunity to lead a hospital. In the years that followed, I realized my role as a hospital president was actually a lot like the job of a coach. We had a clear game plan. We practiced discipline to ensure our team was “brilliant at the basics.” We celebrated great performances, and we provided constructive feedback to encourage our team members to play at the top of their game. My dream to be a coach had come true after all.
In 2015, I made a bittersweet decision to retire from hospital administration. Once again, I found myself dreaming big. After almost four decades within financial services and health care industries, I knew my true love from a professional perspective was positive leadership. I also knew that I loved to write. I wondered how I might combine my passion for respectful, effective leadership with my love of prose. I soon discerned my next big dream would be to write a book about leadership… gracious leadership.
Encouragement all around
During the past year, I have been immersed in memorializing the important lessons I have learned about leadership and life. These lessons have been gleaned from my parents, my favorite mentors and my own leadership journey. This book has been a labor of love, and I am pleased to share my dream has come true as “Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before” is being released this month.
I have been blessed throughout my life to have been surrounded by encouragers who taught me to dream big. I now encourage you to do the same. Dream big … dream far beyond what you believe is realistically possible. Take risks. Ask for opportunities. And don’t be afraid to fail as it is our mistakes that teach us the most memorable lessons of life.
You’ll never know what a positive difference you can make until you try. It all starts with a little encouragement and your own big dream.
13 December 2017
Several years ago, I started dreaming about writing a book regarding positive leadership. I am humbled to share that this dream has now come true as Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before will be launched in January.
When I started my journey as a young leader, I was not aware of any book that defined the qualities and competencies required to achieve my personal mission as an aspiring leader – that being, to lead my team with uncompromising respect and to achieve peak performance within a work environment that my employees would revere.
Fast forward almost 40 years… When I decided to leave my full-time role in hospital administration in 2015, I reflected upon the reality that leaders still did not have ready access to a “how to” book that might teach them to become good and gracious, peak performance leaders in a fully respectful environment. As such, I started the journey to write a book about Gracious Leadership.
My zeal for this work grew exponentially this past year as I, like you, found myself bombarded with sad-but-true stories of toxic, high profile leaders. It seems that on a daily basis we hear media accounts about bad bosses who have become known for bully behaviors including sexual harassment.
I thought to myself,“Enough is enough.”
Now is the time to turn the tables and focus on all the good that can be achieved, all of the joy that can be derived, and all the value that can be delivered through positive, effective leadership.
Because you are an ambassador of positive leadership, I wanted you to be aware that the Gracious Leadership website is now available awww.graciousleadershipbook.com. Through this site, I will be sharing resources and blog posts that support the Gracious Leadership Movement.
While the book and ebook will be not be available through Amazon until mid-late January,pre-orders of signed copies are now available directly through the website and should be shipped beginning the second week of January.
Please visit the Gracious Leadership website, order the book if you’d like to learn more, and share freely with your friends, family and colleagues. Come along and join me as we seek to create a world full of good and gracious, peak performance leaders.
Together we can lead like we’ve never led before.
7 December 2017
We’re excited to announce that Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before is now available via pre-sale through our website!
A limited supply is available and orders will be filled on a first come, first served basis. The books will be shipped beginning the second week of January.
Please provide special instructions in your order if you would like a signed copy of the book.
6 December 2017
You might wonder why it was important to me that I write a book about Gracious Leadership.
There are two primary reasons. When I started my journey as a young leader, I could not find any book that readily defined the specific qualities and competencies required to achieve my personal mission as an aspiring leader – that being, to lead my teams with uncompromising respect to achieve peak performance results within a work environment that they revered.
As a new MBA in 1978, I simply did the best I could to be a respectful leader who guided my teams to achieve the right results. Thankfully, I was blessed to work for some incredible mentors who showed me the way by the great examples they set.
Fast forward almost 40 years… When I decided to leave my full time role in hospital administration in 2015, I reflected a lot about my journey as a leader and those mentors who had inspired me.
I was struck with the reality that four decades later, we still did not have ready access to a “how to” book about becoming a good and gracious, peak performance leader in a fully respectful environment.
As a result, I found myself becoming intrigued about writing such a book to memorialize the important lessons of respect in leadership and life that I had been blessed to learn throughout the years.
In the spirit of transparency, my passion to pursue this work grew exponentially in 2016 – 2017 as I, like you, found myself bombarded by the media with a seemingly endless proliferation of sad, but true stories of toxic and negative, high profile leaders. I thought to myself, “Enough is enough.”
I decided that remaining silent on the issue of negative leadership was not an option. Instead of falling prey to the adverse impact of highly visible, toxic leaders, it was time to turn the tables and to focus on all the good that can be achieved, all of the joy that can be derived, and all the value that can be delivered through positive, effective leadership.
In short, I wrote this book to inspire a movement of positive leadership… indeed to create a world full of good and gracious, effective and respectful leaders…the type of leaders that inspire teams to achieve greatness. And equally as important, my big dream is to fill our world with role model leaders that we want our children, our grandchildren and the leaders of the future to emulate.
The second reason I wrote Gracious Leadership is both personal and pragmatic. Simply put, books last longer than people, and because the key ingredients of Gracious Leadership are timeless, I wanted to leave these lessons of respectful leadership and life for the generations that will follow.
At a time in our history when civility and decency have been significantly diminished within many environments, aspiring leaders now have an opportunity to step up and serve as fully respectful, peak performance leaders.
Now is the time for Gracious Leadership, a positive leadership movement – and now is your time to make a profound difference as a good and gracious leader! Come along with us. Join us today and lead like you’ve never led before!
30 November 2017
In today’s cut-throat, get-ahead-at-all-costs world, the idea of showing basic decency towards one another has sadly been pushed to the side. Yet, the power of respectful, positive and gracious leadership can be more impactful now than ever before.
Gracious leaders stand apart because they have a better way. Leaders who listen with purpose, recognize they don’t have all the answers, and demonstrate uncompromising respect to all are better equipped to lead their teams to peak performance.
Let’s get real. Great employees want to work for positive, gracious leaders because they want to feel respected, they want to know their work is meaningful and they want to feel appreciated for the value they are providing. Simply put, they want to know they are making a difference! This is true for employees of all ages, and it’s especially a priority for millennials.
Gracious Leadership is not soft stuff. Much to the contrary, Gracious Leadership is a proven, strategic approach through which you can lead your team to peak performance through being fully respectful in how you lead.
Gracious Leadership includes 13 key ingredients. All of the key ingredients are required, and no shortcuts are allowed.
Come along with us in this positive leadership movement and lead like you’ve never led before… starting today!
1 October 2017
Have you ever been purposeful in observing the variation in corporate culture among multiple organizations? I marvel at the stark difference in culture from one company to another as evidenced by “how” customers and co-workers are greeted and treated.
During a recent visit to a large corporation, I observed that employees did not acknowledge each other as they passed in the hallway. In fact, many of the employees had their heads buried in their cell phones and did not appear to be happy. As a guest of the company, I was saddened that, other than the receptionist, very few individuals acknowledged the company’s visitors.
When I worked at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s Hospital, our Leadership Team was purposeful about perpetuating our culture of compassionate accountability. Our employees went out of their way to treat every patient like the “only” person in our world. Patients and visitors frequently commented that they could “feel” our positive culture. Our guests loved the friendly nature and the helpful, “can do” spirit of our employees, physicians and volunteers.
During a recent layover in the Denver airport I saw an ad displayed by Southwest Airlines. The ad said, “In a world full of no, we’re a plane full of yes.” This ad reinforced the accolades I have long heard about the high-flying culture at Southwest.
On my journey home I read within the inflight magazine stories about Southwest employees who love their jobs and who had made a positive difference for their customers. Southwest is intentional about encouraging and reinforcing such culture-shaping behaviors. The company has clearly made a commitment to keep its culture healthy, its employees happy and, as a result, its passengers loyal.
C-Suite Executives and Corporate Directors appear to be having more deliberate conversations about the impact of corporate culture upon sustained organizational performance. As a result, is it time for your company to have a Cultural Check-up?
I invite you to consider the following questions:
- What is your organization doing to create and to sustain a positive corporate culture?
- “How” are the people of your organization showing up every day?
- Is your corporate culture helping or harming your company’s efforts to create brand loyalty?
- Can you identify one word to describe your corporate culture? How would your employees and customers answer this question? Is there a gap in perception? If so, what steps will you take to fill the gap?
- What is your organization doing to recognize systematically the positive, culture-shaping actions of your employees?
- What should you do differently as a leader to make your culture a magnet for customer loyalty and a source of pride for your employees?
My grandmother frequently quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying.
As the pilot of your team, what are you “doing” to pursue a high-flying culture? Now is the time to lead the way so that your company’s performance might soar to new heights!
1 July 2017
As entrepreneurs and corporate leaders experience rapid success, caution should be used to navigate through rocky waters that have the potential to sink your ship.
Think about it. You’ve launched your new product. The sales charts show an upward trajectory that your team has coveted. Growth is dramatic, and it’s all your team can do to meet increasing demand for your products and services. As leader you have become a Jack-of-All-Trades and a consummate juggler. There’s never enough time. Your employees are stretched to the point that they’re barely keeping their heads above water. Your team feels like it’s drowning in its own success.
It is at this point in the entrepreneur’s journey that critical business processes are vital. The action (or inaction) of the entrepreneurial leader to implement basic business discipline may lead to the ultimate success or demise of the beloved organization.
Entrepreneurial leaders would be wise to implement a handful of business concepts from the organization’s inception. These business practices are prevalent in management courses. They make sense on paper. Yet to an entrepreneur who may get caught up in the adrenaline rush of success or the “busyness of the business”, these simple disciplines may sound boring or unnecessary. “We don’t have time for that” or “We’ll get to that later” may be the very words that some entrepreneurs will live to regret.
I have long been a proponent of Triple A Leadership as critical “must haves” for sustainable organizational success. Triple A Leadership includes Accountability, Alignment and Acknowledgement.
Accountability: One of the most important things a leader can do is to be crystal clear with employees about expectations. Employees can only be held accountable for achieving the right results when they definitively know what is expected of them. Failure by leaders to define goals clearly is like asking a blindfolded person to hit a target.
Alignment: Employees need a direct line of site between what they do every day and how their efforts contribute to the organization’s success. When the team’s actions are aligned with organizational goals, the probability of success can increase dramatically.
Acknowledgement: Employees need and deserve feedback in a predictable manner. They want to know how they’re doing in supporting the organization’s success. “In the moment” recognition and properly conducted performance conversations are vital for employees to understand what she is doing correctly or how he can be even more effective. The key is to assure that performance conversations are relevant and meaningful for each individual and that feedback for every employee reinforces the actions required to achieve the right results. Properly conducted performance conversations can contribute to phenomenal individual and organizational performance. If not implemented correctly, performance conversations can be no more than an exercise in futility.
Leaders who practice Triple A Leadership can achieve sustainable organizational success through highly motivated teams that produce optimal results consistently. Through implementing these simple, yet vital business disciplines early on, Triple A leadership just might become the lifeboat of your entrepreneurial future.
1 March 2017
When I was in the eighth grade, my father encouraged me to go out for basketball. While I admittedly had zero natural athletic ability, I was willing to give the sport a try. I’m so glad that I did.
In addition to having fun and learning the love of physical fitness and team spirit, some of my most important leadership lessons originated from this competitive team sport. The principles of coaching in athletics are closely correlated with leadership in the workplace.
As with any corporate team, an athletic team must adhere to the coach’s discipline associated with mastery of basic skills. Athletic teams adopt the coach’s game plan by executing brilliant plays necessary to win the game. Teams in the workplace follow the leader’s game plan by accomplishing goals and strategies required to realize organizational mission and vision.
Victories for coaches are typically measured by the win-loss column. For corporate leaders, the victories are measured by profitability, value and stakeholder engagement. In reality, coaches and leaders understand that victories transcend numerical measures of success. Victory to a leader as coach is also measured by teaching important life lessons such as learning from mistakes so that continuous improvement is pursued for self and for team; accepting disappointment with grace; winning with humility; learning to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable as we accept stretch assignments that we’ve never before attempted; learning that the team accomplishes more together than could ever be achieved by one extraordinary performer; and, learning the importance of teaching those who follow us the same leadership lessons that we learned from those who came before us.
Great coaches like great leaders provide constructive feedback when things don’t go according to plan. They also provide ample praise when excellent results are achieved. I shall never forget the day that as a ninth grader, I heard Coach Kea say, “Smith, that jump shot looks pretty good.” Those simple words of encouragement were all that I needed to set me on fire to work harder and to achieve more. The same is true in the corporate setting as employees are starving to hear the words “Well done. Thank you.” from those to whom they report. It is regrettable that some leaders believe that praise is soft. Recognition is not soft at all. It’s absolutely strategic.
Outstanding coaches and leaders “own” the game plan and the ultimate outcome. There is simply no room for the blame game in greatness. Revered coaches and leaders don’t offer excuses about poor officiating, competitive interventions or extenuating circumstances. The team always gets the credit when things go well. The coach and leader should always accept responsibility when things don’t go according to plan. Period. End of story.
As you think about your own leadership responsibilities, please know that the lessons you teach your team today are the same lessons your team members will pass along to those who follow them. I hope you pay it forward when they say, “Put me in, Coach!”