Leadership from the Field - 
Leadership: The Secret Sauce
Leaders' Newsletter September 2015
Welcome to this month's issue of "Leading from the Field."
Hi Greetings!,

Welcome to the September 2015 issue of "Leading from the Field." 
Leadership: The Secret Sauce!

In this issue:
  • Leadership from the Field - Why Leadership is the Secret Sauce for Organizational Success
  • Beware of Assessments!  How Reliable Are the Assessments You're Using?
  • Upcoming Speaking Engagements: The National Institute for Healthcare Leadership
  • What I am Reading: Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the soft practice of managing and management development, by Henry Mintzberg
  • Solutions for Your Most Challenging Issues @jeanannlarson.org
  • Latest Keynote & Workshop Catalog
  • 5 Essential Leadership Competencies: How Do You Rate?
  • Author Page
  • Organizational and Process Reengineering Approaches for Health Care Transformation is out!
Also, please check out my website and browse through my blog posts, and leave your comments and replies! 

Thank you,
Dr. Jean Ann Larson
Managing Partner
Jean Ann Larson & Associates

Leadership from the field 

 Leadership: The Secret Sauce for Organizational Success
With many articles, books and all the hype about leadership, why am I calling Leadership the Secret Sauce?  As organizational leaders we are often looking for the next "shiny" thing whether that "shiny thing" is a new methodology, new technology, philosophy or even a newly emphasized competency or character trait.  What I have seen in my career is that no matter the approach, the solution or the new skill set, the quality of leadership and how leaders lead will determine the success or failure of an initiative.
Let's take a couple of examples such as Lean or process improvement. You can fill in other words if you'd like, e.g. supply change management, ERP, Six Sigma, etc.  What these examples of approaches, philosophies and methodologies all have in common is that are powerful and they work. However, what often happens is that in many organizations they do not deliver their full potential value.  How does it happen time and time again that leaders don't seem to get it? What does it look like when a tried and true approach does not work?
  1. Leaders brought the approach or methodology in because that is what everyone else was doing - It's the "thing to do" syndrome.
  2. Leaders sanctioned organization-wide training on the new approach but it remained separate from the core business activities and strategies.
  3. The approach was listed as a stand-alone strategy NOT an enabler to key strategy.
  4. Leadership was supportive while it initially seemed to work. Once the going got tough, they quickly focused elsewhere.
  5. No changes to organizational structure or job design were made to accommodate the new approach and take advantage of the benefits - Basically nothing changed other than a new overlay of complexity and busyness.
  6. Once there were any challenges to the status quo with the new methodology, it was allowed to die a slow death.
  7. When someone new comes into the company and recommends that the approach be implemented again the response is, "We tried that before but it didn't work here."  No wonder!
As a young process engineer, I was easily mesmerized by the power of Deming's plan-do-study-act methodology as well as process redesign, lean, six sigma and countless other methods, approaches and philosophies.  I was even fortunate enough to see many of them be very successful.  Looking back over the years I realize that it wasn't the wonderful approach, the brilliant team or my finely honed skills as a facilitator ;-) that led to success. It was ultimately the depth and breadth of the executives' leadership sensibilities and capabilities.  Were they 100% behind the approach? Did they see it as integral to the organization achieving its mission and strategy and ultimately its success? Were they willing to support it during the dark days and doldrums that always come once the excitement and newness have worn off?
In my latest book, Organizational and Process Reengineering Approaches for Health Care Transformation, I devote as many pages to the role of leaders and organizational culture as I do to a methodology.  I purposefully stayed methodologically agnostic, e.g. I am not proposing any one approach over another. I've come to realize the simpler the better. The key is engaging the leaders. And actually they should be engaging us!  It is after all their initiative and responsibility.

We would love to hear your comments. Contact us today!
Jean Ann Larson & Associates
Email ~ Website
Beware of Assessments
More and more companies are using assessments than ever before.  According to the Wall Street Journal, 65% of US companies use assessments for one reason or another. It is expected that within just a few years that number will grow to 75%.  Furthermore, any of you who have recently been in the job search know that more companies are using assessments as part of the hiring process. In 2001, this was true of 21% of companies. In 2015, 57% of all companies are using assessments for hiring.
A big reason for the growth in the use of assessments is the low cost of entry.  It is easy and inexpensive to draft a questionnaire and offer it as an on-line assessment.  If you are developing a one-of-a-kind questionnaire with very specific questions unique to your purposes, this might be ok. However, if you want to develop people, and more importantly, if you want to hire people based upon your assessments, beware!  Do you have statistical and scientific evidence that the assessments you're using do not discriminate? How do you know and who guarantees this for you?
According to Bill Bonstetter of TTI Success Insights, who has been in the assessment business for over 30 years, there are three signs that indicate that your assessments may not be as valid as you think: 
  1. You are told the "EEOC approves" the assessment or that Legal or that your in-house statistician has proclaimed the assessment to be valid.   First of all, the EEOC does not approve assessments.  You need to prove that your assessment is not biased and that it does not discriminate. A legal opinion is just that, an opinion. Other opinions may differ.  And how is your in-house statistician validating the assessment?  Would you go confidently to a court of law on that statistical validation?
  2. The company you're using has no peer-reviewed articles on the use of their assessment.  Why is this important?  To do peer reviewed research requires a rigorous research protocol and allows others knowledgeable in the field to challenge your findings. This helps make the research and the resulting assessments more robust.
  3. The company claims that one assessment can solve all of your people problems.  Think about this.  People are very complex and you want to use assessments get to know your employees as whole people: their behaviors, motivators, skills, worldview, emotional intelligence and how they handle stress, among other things. 
Always make sure that you ask your potential assessment provider what theories and bodies of knowledge their assessments are based upon.  Not only will this indicate the relative value of the assessment, it may also help you understand what the assessment is best used for.  Other questions to pose include:
  • For the statisticians only: Is the Cronbach alpha greater than 0.7? (The higher or closer to 1.0 the better.) 
  • What is the date on the norms?  Norms based upon 2005 data will not be as predictive of success as those from 2015. As a population we are changing and over time the meaning of words change. 
  • How big is the sample size they're using for validation? Just a few hundred?  You need roughly 1200-1500 in order to publish your data. A small sample can heavily skew the results.
  • Are all the norms based only upon North America?  If you're using the assessments across different countries, cultures and languages, do they conduct validation studies on each language? 
Assuming you're using assessments to help you develop your leaders and making better decisions about who you want to hire, you'll want to make sure you are using instruments that are the right ones for your organization.  To learn more or to take a free assessment, please drop me a note at jeanann@jalarson.net or give me a call at +1-800-823-4330.
Jean Ann Larson & Associates
Email ~ Website
There is no failure; only feedback. - Robert Allen
Up-coming Speaking Engagement


October 14, 2015 at Novant Health in Winston Salem, North Carolina for the National Institute for Healthcare LeadershipTopic: Leading Your Team through Challenging Times
For more information on any of these engagements or conferences or to book me for your organization or event, please email me at jeanann@jalarson.net or call me at 800-823-4330 




What I Am Reading 

Managers Not MBAs - A hard look at the soft practice of managing and management development, by Henry Mintzberg

Arrogant, greedy, impatient, inexperienced, out of touch with the real world, overpaid, overeducated and overseeing you - does that sound like an apt description of MBAs? Author Henry Mintzberg would answer with an emphatic "yes!" He marshals a powerful array of facts to support his thesis that graduate schools of business have perpetrated one of the most successful con jobs in history. They have pretended that the bright young things they send into a hungry market as MBAs are, in fact, trained professional managers with a rare grasp of management science. Management, says Mintzberg, is not a science, nor is it a profession. It is not something someone can learn to do in a business school. It is something one only learns by doing, and no one in a business school does any doing. After delivering what ought to be a fatal blow to the pretensions of MBAs and those who educate them, the author proposes a proven alternative. He is not so naive as to believe that the facts he provides will change the world. Powerful economic interests now have a real stake in the status quo. But he hopes for change and provides plenty of ammunition. getAbstract suggests this book to those with a passionate interest in business education, pro or con.
Mintzberg discusses:
  • What is wrong with master of business administration schools, programs and graduates
  • Why many of the worst charges leveled against MBAs are true
  • What steps should be taken to improve MBA programs
Henry Mintzberg is Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He was named Distinguished Scholar for the year 2000 by the Academy of Management and won its George R. Terry Award for writing the best book of 1995 (The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning).

Thanks to getAbstract for this brief overview and description.

 We would love to hear your comments. Please email us at jeanann@jalarson.net.

Solutions for your Most Challenging Issues

  • Need leadership development? Jean Ann Larson & Associates provide executive team development, executive coaching and leadership retreats. Click here 
  • Want to maximize your team's results and enhance business strategy? Let Jean Ann and her team do an organizational audit and business process review to align you, your work teams and employees for maximum engagement. Click here 
  • Want to deal more effectively with your major change initiatives? Let us work with your team on a change readiness assessment refresh and boot camp to improve your effectiveness at leading change. Click here
  • Want a road map and proven method to truly transforming your organization's people, processes, methods and mindsets? Hire Jean Ann Larson & Associates for an Organizational Reengineering Engagement. Click here
  • Need an inspiring keynote for a corporate event or professional association? Jean Ann Larson is an acclaimed keynote speaker and facilitator.  We also do customized programs and workshops for high potential leaders and other key people in your organization. For a listing of recent programs and topics, please see our Updated Summer Catalog.

Latest Keynote Speech and Workshop Catalog


If you're interested in a copy of the latest Catalog, send me a note at info@jalarson.net with CATALOG in the subject line. It includes some new topics and a curriculum for high potentials.


Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor. - H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
5 Skills The Most Successful Leaders Possess
By Bill J. Bonnstetter

What to Look for in New Hires, Potential Leaders
We all have high hopes when we begin a new job or a new career. No one - neither the employer nor the new employee - wants to come up short. Aside from gut feelings about an individual, and perhaps some assessment information about their behavior and motivators you may have gleaned by using an assessment like ours, there may not be a lot to go on to predict a successful hire.

I've experienced employees who, on their first day, seem like an incredible fit turn out to be the opposite. I've also witnessed individuals I've had doubts about turn into reliable experts in their role. So, what can you gauge performance on?
Research we conducted just a few years ago illustrated there are five key skills superior performers have. I wrote about these skills in the  Harvard Business Review. 

  • Persuasion 
  • Leadership 
  • Personal accountability 
  • Goal orientation  
  • Interpersonal skills 
While our study focused primarily on entrepreneurs, I wanted to reiterate the importance of this skill set. Using this set of skills as a rubric during hiring or staff development helps reveal those among your team that show an immediate and great potential for growth.

Watching carefully for them in behaviors will help you to quickly identify those employees who would benefit from careful coaching, mentoring or additional development training.

And, it will take you from hoping you have a great team to knowing you do.

How do you rate? What are your strengths? Areas for improvement?
Check out my Amazon.com author page

Organizational and Process Reengineering: Now Out!
Get a 20% discount by following this link:
Here's what people are saying:  

Modern healthcare organizations find themselves in a tremendously precarious and challenging position to continually do more with less without compromising quality and patient satisfaction. Solutions to process change are oftentimes complex and far from easy. Dr. Larson has created a brilliant approach to organizational transformation through her unique combination of approaches to process improvement coupled with her vast experience in the industry. This book is the only resource you will need to charge forward with courage and confidence to move your organization to unbridled success. Val Gokenbach DM RN MBA RWJF, Leading Leaders, Formerly CNO of Beaumont Health Systems, Detroit MI

I highly recommend that anyone who is a leader read Dr. Larson's insights regarding the importance of process improvement and culture in change management and quality improvement. Her command of both process and structure to support outcomes is superb. In addition, she possesses vast knowledge and understanding of human behavior and its relationship to process improvement required to achieve performance excellence.
Gene Michalski, Former President and Chief Executive Officer, Beaumont Health, Royal Oak Michigan
U.S. healthcare is beyond simply picking the "low hanging fruit" of siloed process improvement initiatives. True transformational change is a product of highly effective communication, collaboration, trust and a clear vision of the desired future state.  Jean Ann cleverly aligns the best tools and techniques together that drive reliable, sustainable change to our modern healthcare organizations. Rudy Santacroce, PE, Vice President, Operational Excellence, RTKL and Associates, Dallas Texas
If you need to lead your organization through fundamental change and improvement, this book provides a road map along with case studies, templates and lessons learned. 
Hurry, order today! Click here

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It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. 
-  Charles Darwin
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Jean Ann


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