The Four Horsemen

What comes to mind when you hear this phrase?

4 horsemen of Notre DameFall football practice is starting around the country and fans of a certain age (e.g. many residents in today’s senior living communities), may be reminded of the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame[1]. The 1920’s are frequently called the Golden Age of Sports with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig in baseball, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagan in golf and Coach Knute Rockne in college football. Legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice[2] coined The Four Horsemen phrase for Rockne’s 1924 backfield and it has become college football lore.

The riders symbolized Pestilence, Famine, War and Death as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the Bible[3].

Noted satirist and blogger Seth Godin introduced a new concept: “The four horsemen of mediocrity”.[4] He suggests that a business culture based on Deniability, Helplessness, Contempt and Fear will lead to a mediocre organization.   It is not difficult to extrapolate a history of mediocrity into the demise of the organization.

Do these traits apply to your Senior Living or Healthcare organization?

  • Did your occupancy and operating margin slide during/after the recession?

4 Horsemen 4

  • Are your managers accountable for their performance OR do they respond with “It’s not my fault!”? {DENIABILITY}
    • “Someone else (i.e. they) made the decision.”
    • “I didn’t do the budget.”
    • “Corporate raised all my prices.”
  • Do you hear “I wanted to do ______, but my boss wouldn’t let me”?

{HE4 Horsemen 3LPLESSNESS}

  • “We don’t have any money to fix (or improve) it.”
  • “We’re not allowed to do that per the State regs.”
  • “The IT department won’t allow us access …”
  • Nobody will like it if we change it.”
  • Management emphasizes Control more than Innovation.
    • Are you more Reactive than Proactive? More resources are allocated to solve a problem (e.g. legal issue, survey deficiencies) than in prevention.
    • Do you have more conference calls about Worker’s Compensation than about occupancy growth?
    • Corporate HR is viewed as the “personnel police”.
    • Does corporate govern wages with restrictions on starting salaries, increases and incentive payments? Have wages been frozen?
    • Managers are held accountable for individual line items regardless of overall performance. For example, management focuses on rental concessions – no matter how much occupancy has increased!

4 Horsemen 2

  • {CONTEMPT} You don’t believe you need to make changes because …
    • Customers will automatically choose you since you are a not-for-profit .
    • You wouldn’t be an industry leader unless you were doing it right.
    • Nothing has value unless you developed it (“not invented here” mentality[5] ).
    • “We’ve always done it this way” – worked in the past and should work now.
    • You’re doing enough to get by and the customers won’t pay for more.

 

  • Do you employ Leaders or just good Administrators?
    • Is your organization “slow to change” and proud of it?4 Horsemen Flying
    • Are new employees counseled to not “rock the boat”?
    • Is conformity to established practices valued more than originality?
    • How hard is it to get new ideas accepted?
    • Does all change occur
  • {FEAR} Your business decisions are driven by risk aversion (different than risk management).
    • “What if …?” concerns prevent the implementation of new initiatives.
    • Did you respond to the economic downturn by cutting costs, focusing on “need” admissions and stockpiling cash reserves?
    • Are there more repercussions for failure than rewards for success?
    • Do you require credit and criminal background checks for prospective residents?
    • IT uses the threat of scams, computer viruses, and HIPAA confidentiality to gain a stranglehold over new technology endeavors?
    • Do you track resident falls, complaints and incidents because of possible lawsuits?
    • Are you so afraid of criticism from charitable contributors that you avoid paying performance bonuses or investing in new technology?

Although these factors are included – to some degree – in an efficient, well-run company, too great of an emphasis on any of them can lead to mediocrity, loss of market share or even the ultimate failure of the business.

To counter these trends and effect positive cultural change, introduce the FOUR HORSEMEN OF EXCELLENCE to your organization.

RRecruitment. The first element of success is getting the “right people on the bus”[6] and then taking steps to Recognize, Reward and Retain those individuals who will become leaders in moving the organization forward. At the same time, naysayers and employees with habitual negative attitudes and approaches to change must be moved out of key positions in the company.

 

Innovation. A business should consistently move forwardIor risk sliding backwards. Implement a “WHY”[7] culture on the basis that there is always room for Improvement. The goal should be a process of “continuous improvement”, utilizing appropriate technology to enhance every aspect of the business. Changes should never be made just for “change’s sake”, but should be incorporated into an overall corporate vision (Insight). For instance, the company must try something new (e.g. different pricing models) to produce different results if occupancy or other metrics have declined.

 

Customer-centric. At its core, the business should be focused on “what’s best” for C-1the customer. In a PEAK[8] environment, that means anticipating the desires, as well as the identified needs of senior living residents. Companies with this characteristic tend to have a strong “YES! Attitude”[9] and “can-do” approach to their interaction with customers (the residents and their family). This culture must be inbred at every level of the organization and practiced on a daily basis; not just empty corporate platitudes. Ideally, a real caring relationship (Culture of Caring) will exist between the employees and the residents.

 

Empowerment. The 4th horseman arrives when the organization gives line managers the authority and resources to make their own E-Reverseddecisions and the home office focus shifts to support instead of control. Leaders inspire committed employees at all levels to “do their best” à not because of fear, but because that is what they want to do!   Local managers are empowered to make changes on a test basis in a controlled environment for what they believe is best for their local market. Senior management recognizes that those local managers (where the rubber hits the road) are frequently in the best position to determine changes in their target customers and their demands. They also understand that the company doesn’t have to always make broad, top-down, sweeping changes across the entire organization to be effective.

4 Horsemen of Excellence

 

NOTE:  This article was originally published as a Guest Article for Medical Blue Book.com, http://medicalbluebook.com, but is no longer available at that site. Therefore, it is being re-published here.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Horsemen_%28American_football%29; Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley, and Elmer Layden

[2] http://archives.nd.edu/research/texts/rice.htm

[3] Chapter 6 of the Book of Revelations: http://www.bartleby.com/108/66/6.html

[4] http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/01/the-four-horsemen-of-mediocrity.html

[5] “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?”, page 206, Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.

[6] “Good to Great”, Chapter 3, Jim Collins

[7] “Start with WHY”, Simon Sinek

[8] “PEAK”, Chip Conley

[9] “Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude”, Jeffrey Gitomer

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PEOPLE

Core Group

 

To become a STAR – a Leadership Success – a manager “must surround her/himself with exceptional people”.[i]  Bus - double deckerStanford University Professor Jim Collins[ii] studied 1435 Fortune 500 companies and concluded that getting “the right people on the bus” was key for sustained long-term success. Although the Stanford study focused on larger public companies, the concepts can be applied to organizations at various stages in their evolution.

As a company grows, many levels of organization will be needed with the “5 P’s” (People, Process, Product, Personality & Performance) applied to each segment / department.[iii] This article focuses on emerging growth companies and the formation of a CORE GROUP of key employees who will impact the future direction of the enterprise.

Organizational Evolution 2The greatest risk of failure for any company is the transition from an entrepreneur-centric organization into a professionally managed organization → the emerging growth sector.

Although commonly classified based upon revenue size, the real characterization of an Emerging Growth Company should be measured in its evolution from a strict entrepreneurial culture into an organization that relies on professional managers, systems and structures to guide its progress.[iv]

In the beginning, “Mom & Pop” start-up a business and control everything.   As the initial concept takes hold and revenues grow, many entrepreneurs adopt what Jim Collins has labeled as the “Genius with a Thousand Helpers”[v] management approach based upon their vision and driving force. The people these small business owners put on the bus tend to be:Charge of Light Brigade 2

  • “Just like me” with similar personality traits and strengths;
  • “Good soldiers” who wait for direction from above and then follow orders; and/or
  • Individuals Proficient in differing technical skills to handle specific tasks and responsibilities depending on the nature of the business.

This type of entrepreneurial organization can be successful for a period of time, but eventually the size of the enterprise, complexity of the decision-making process, increased competition and/or changes in the business environment present challenges necessitating changes in the culture and management practices – no matter how brilliant and capable the founder is! Professor Collins states “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”[vi]

Unfortunately, the “right people” to successfully lead the company and support its growth into the Emerging Growth category are frequently NOT the ones who were recruited in the earlRR Tracks Croppedier stages. The organization still needs a visionary CEO to drive the bus, but generalists with a diversified background, knowledge of the business and a wide range of talents (vs a cadre of technicians) will give the business its best chance of success in capturing new opportunities and adapting to changing customer demands, economic factors, etc. Getting these “right people” on the bus provides meaningful executive-level input and gives greater latitude than relying solely on the entrepreneur’s single track vision and management style.

5 Finger TeamAt this threshold, the enlightened CEO / Founder will assess his/her “key” employees and recruit additional talent to create an Inner Circle of 5 people (limited for effective interpersonal management) who can be trusted implicitly for honest assessments, to speak their minds openly with differing opinions and perspectives and then to unequivocally support the ultimate decisions as they are implemented.

To create a GREAT organization, the CEO will surround his/herself with individuals who demonstrate natural leadership and possess the characteristics discussed below. This will cause others to respect and look-up to them for guidance.

The technical specialists will still provide value to the company, but generally are not geared to contribute effectively in the Core Group. Functions – including but not limited to – the Chief Clinician (Quality Assurance), Chief Accountant (Controller), 3rd Party Reimbursement Specialist, Risk Manager, Chief of Information Services, Legal, Tax Accounting and Human Resources tend to focus on the details instead of the BIG PICTURE. The personalities of individuals who gravitate to these positions and do well with these responsibilities generally have a strong detail orientation and place a high priority on compliance. They make “good soldiers”, following the lead of and helping the strong “genius”, but are less likely to contribute insightful, ground-breaking initiatives to impact the direction of the company.

CREATIVE: The Core Group should be comprised of people who consistently Challenge the status quo by asking “Why?” or “Why Not?” and are Comfortable “thinking outside-the-box”. They find a way to get the job done with a “Yes! Attitude”[vii] and positive Can-do approach[viii] to problem solving.

CULTURE CARRIERS: This group molds theon-going culture for the organization but should also value “where we’ve been”Winning is a Habit and carry elements of that culture forward. It is important to create a Winning Culture and celebrate success. Coach Lombardi[ix] stated: “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing.   You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.” This philosophy is a cornerstone of a GREAT organization.

CUSTOMER CENTRIC: There are many different types of customers Customer Centricwithin an organization. In health care, the ultimate “customer” is the patient, although 3rd Party Payers are another important customer. In Senior Living, that customer is generally called a resident, but the resident’s family should also be considered a customer. It is important that the Core Group understands that this is not just a slogan for sales and marketing, but takes active steps to ensure that everyone in the company embraces the concept.

The same concepts should be applied to internal customers of corporate support departments to avoid the “tail wagging the dog”. At every level, employees should be reminded that their jobs only exist because of their customers and encouraged to maximize customer satisfaction by anticipating their “unrecognized needs”[x] and then delivering more than the customer expects.[xi]

COOPERATIVE: Core Group members should be self-sufficient, but this is not a place for a “lone wolf” or an egomaniac. Small businesses are frequently started by several “partners” and/or investors → often with differing skills and variations of the shared vision. As the venture grows, TEAM PIXone person typically emerges as the dominant leader to drive the business forward as the CEO. It is not uncommon at this stage – transitioning into a mid-size organization – for a “disconnect”[xii] to occur between the original founders. Gaining their collective Cooperation may be a challenge with each having their own group of loyal followers.[xiii] It is OK for the “right people” in the Core Group to be competitive, but they must rally behind and unequivocally support the emerging CEO and his/her vision and objectives. They must respect the opinions and efforts of others and be willing to work in Coordination with them or “GET OFF THE BUS!

Another challenge is related to the saying that “knowledge is power”. The term POWER was not listed as a key to successful leadership in the “5 P’s” presentation[xiv] because it is an anathema to a GREAT organization when employed by individuals. The Core Group must pull together and share information → they must function as a TEAM that the rest of the organization can emulate.

COMMITTED: Individuals shouldn’t be allowed on the Core Group “bus” unless they are committed to “get it right”.   For this group, it’s not a job → it is a calling! In their words and actions, they Communicate that they truly Care about making the organization, its products and services and dedication to the customers the best they can possibly be. They must believe that there is “always room for improvement” and take aggressive steps to foster Continuous process improvement throughout the company.

In earlier stages, staff Commitment might be characterized by personal loyalty to a leader.[xv] However – in “Good to Great” Companies – the Core Group of key personnel, while retaining consistent and unquestionable loyalty to their “boss”, are driven by a Commitment to the organization’s underlying ideals and principles and develop “unwavering faith” that they “can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties”[xvi]. This higher level of informed and shared Commitment creates a business that is stronger and more resilient than any one individual.

Jim Collins found that the “right people will do the right things and deliver the best results they’re capable of …”[xvii] and naturally build the winning culture and work ethic in the “Good-to-Great” companies. With this level of commitment, Collins also found that “the best people don’t need to be managed. Guided, taught, led – yes. But not tightly managed.”[xviii] This leads to a highly efficient organization and a rewarding experience for the members of the Core Group.

Win – Win!

5 Cs - Core Group

 

 

[i] “5 P’s of Leadership Success”: People, Process, Product, Personality, Performance, published on the Progressive Retirement Lifestyles Blog: http://wp.me/pCemc-hx

[ii] “Good to Great”, Jim Collins, 2001.

[iii] This will be discussed in detail in a subsequent segment of the “5 P’s” series.

[iv] I once worked in a $100 million public company that employed the “Genius with a Thousand Helpers” approach and in many ways was still run as a “Mom & Pop” operation when I arrived. That company would have been dissolved and assets sold off by the lenders if we had not been able to implement the systems and structure to allow a professionally managed operation. As Professor Collins discussed, we had to recruit some new people to get on the bus, get some existing people in the right seats and get the wrong people off the bus in this process.

[v] Collins, op. cit., Chapter 3

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Jeffrey Gitomer’s “Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude”, December, 2006.

[viii] Many of these technical specialties are more geared to tell management why they CAN’T do something; spelling out the risks, limiting regulations, etc. that impact a proposed corporate action. The Core Group must MANAGE these risks, but not allow them to exercise a strangle-hold on effective decision-making!

[ix] Coach Vince Lombardi was one of the best & most successful head coaches in the history of the National Football League. He is best known for coaching the Green Bay Packers to three straight and five total Championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

[x] “PEAK, How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow”, Chip Conley, 2007

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Some are less willing to “dedicate their entire life” to the enterprise, become satisfied with the size or earnings level achieved, disagree about local, regional or national growth strategies, taking on new risks with geographical or product line expansion, or desire a quicker and/or more defined “exit strategy”.

[xiii] Blind, personal loyalty to competing leaders with different personalities and agendas is often found in early-stage ventures. This is similar to the loyalty shown to an Omnipotent Leader In the “Genius with a Thousand Helpers” organization.

[xiv] “5 P’s of Leadership Success”, op. cit.

[xv] Collins, op. cit., “Genius with a Thousand Helpers”

[xvi] Collins, op. cit., Chapter 1

[xvii] Collins, op. cit., Chapter 3

[xviii] Ibid.

5 P’s of Leadership Success

COMING SOON

Recruiting a Core Group of PEOPLE to guide an enterprise from a small to mid-size company. An in-depth analysis of the CHARACTERISTICS of successful Core Group members that takes former Stanford professor Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” to the next level.
In the meantime, here are five other “P” words that contribute to leadership success:
PROFESSIONALISM: This is an intangible that people often use when describing my strengths and has definitely contributed to my past achievements. Certainly, certifications (e.g. CPA status) help, but the real key is in the attitude and controlled approach to business, including the ability to handle adversity.
PROFICIENCY: One of the “5 P’s” is PERFORMANCE and underlying the organization’s ability to achieve its objectives is the proficiency – skill sets – of its employees. A GREAT LEADER finds multiple and innovative ways to recognize and reward those skills and contributions.
PROGRESS: Every organization must either Progress or slip backwards as its competitors move ahead. I strongly encourage “Finding a Reason to Celebrate” since winning is contagious and the best way to insure continued success is by recognizing small achievements and then building on them.
PRIORITIZATION: Successful leaders learn to Prioritize their personal involvement to avoid getting bogged down in the minutiae and recognize that their focus will have a direct bearing on the achievement of corporate objectives. A key to boosting occupancy in a recent assignment was the establishment of a weekly conference call for an organization with significant census challenges that had monthly worker’s compensation calls, but no routine focus and accountability for census growth. In another situation, I learned that the nursing home staff stayed up all night before a visit by the President to make sure that all handof their vinyl floors were “spit-shined” because they knew he was a fanatic about shiny floors. Some might debate the importance of this “standard”, but the fact remains that the staff responds to whatever is emphasized by the leader – be it cost control, sales & marketing or physical plant. I also use the 5-finger concept to remind people that it’s a good idea to limit the objectives we want line managers to focus on every day to no more than five.
PERSPECTIVE: My observations are based on the “real world” and not an ivory-towered classroom. GREAT LEADERS seldom adopt any business model in toto because each industry and organization has their own key factors and nuances. Success comes from relating the information in this and other management and leadership articles to your unique situation (Relational Learning). Use what is applicable to your circumstances and then utilize your business instincts to modify the rest.

GOOD LUCK!

Progressive Retirement Lifestyles

INTRODUCTION

The “5 P’s of Leadership Success” have been established as the culmination of my personal analysis and management experiences in combination with research of a number of published texts regarding business culture, management styles and corporate success. Although developed in the senior living / healthcare industry, these winning Principles can be applied to most businesses.

Career Reflections:  Over the course of my career, I have made significant contributions to the success of a variety of different organizations in various stages of their development while fulfilling multiple and diverse roles. New start-ups, emerging enterprises, mid-size companies, and complex industry leaders have all benefited from my skills in developing business strategy, fostering growth and leading turnarounds. I’ve achieved major successes with executive level responsibilities in operational leadership, financial management, sales & marketing coordination, and corporate administration & support.  I’ve worked closely with entrepreneurs, professional business managers and Boards of Directors…

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5 P’s of Leadership Success

INTRODUCTION

The “5 P’s of Leadership Success” have been established as the culmination of my personal analysis and management experiences in combination with research of a number of published texts regarding business culture, management styles and corporate success. Although developed in the senior living / healthcare industry, these winning Principles can be applied to most businesses.

Career Reflections:  Over the course of my career, I have made significant contributions to the success of a variety of different organizations in various stages of their development while fulfilling multiple and diverse roles. New start-ups, emerging enterprises, mid-size companies, and complex industry leaders have all benefited from my skills in developing business strategy, fostering growth and leading turnarounds. I’ve achieved major successes with executive level responsibilities in operational leadership, financial management, sales & marketing coordination, and corporate administration & support.  I’ve worked closely with entrepreneurs, professional business managers and Boards of Directors of both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.  These positions close to the action have enabled me to analyze and observe what works and what needs improvement.

Star Symbol:  There are several reasons why I include a star in my branding initiatives.  First, a “star” is generally recognized by our society as someone who has achieved success in their specialty. In my Progressive operational Philosophy, each customer (resident in a senior living community) is provided star treatment as part of the customer/resident centric culture. Employees are recognized for their superior contributions with the Presentation of “Shining Star” awards.

I’ve found “five” to be a significant number with the 5 points of the star representing the major Points of a particular Program or Philosophy. That we were given 5 fingers on each hand and 5 toes on each foot goes beyond mere coincidence.  Five concepts are the limit of what most of us can remember and focus on at any given time.  In addition, successful leaders need 5 key people who believe in their concepts and Principles and can be trusted implicitly to support initiatives, implement changes and consistently Perform.

Finally, the star’s radiance showcases the underlying values and qualitative objectives of a given concept such as my Progressive Retirement Lifestyles program.

PEOPLE. A successful leader must surround her/himself with exceptional people.  Although certain basic and technical skills are needed, these individuals don’t all need to be Superman!  More important is a true Passion for what they are doing that leads to Pride in their work.  We all “get down” at times, but it’s very helpful if your 5 key people have a generally Positive attitude and outlook on life.  This helps give them the Perseverance to maintain focus on the company’s objectives as they face challenges and engage in Problem-solving.

PROCESS. Why do some highly skilled groups of people fall far short of expectations while others over-achieve?  Systematic leadership creates the road to success through an organized approach to management that insures that good people make consistently good decisions. Careful Planning and structuring is required to reach the best balance of empowering managers to make all the decisions they can, while providing adequate controls to prevent them from making a poor choice in a critical and irreversible situation.  Principles, Protocols, Policies and Procedures with adequate employee Preparation and training establish consistency and Predictability that are critical to building a brand that meets customer expectations.

PRODUCT. This should lead to an identifiable Product that can be marketed and sold at a specified price.  It is important that customers, as well as your own employees, understand exactly what you Promise to Provide to them → be it a specific service(s) or a tangible widget.  There is a growing trend in today’s high-tech world to shift this responsibility to the customer, saying “Tell me what you need and want and we’ll find a way to get it for you.”  Although this is often touted as a customer-centric approach, I’ve found more success by defining the basic and optional Programs and services.  The potential customer understands what is offered and finds it easier to evaluate differing options and make an informed buying decision.  For senior living, I brand my unique package of superior resident services as the Progressive Retirement Lifestyles program, providing clear differentiation from competitors.

PERSONALITY.  Every senior living community develops a unique Personality that drives its brand Perception and sales effort.  Prospective residents perceive the building’s atmosphere, staff behavior and the character and attitudes of in-house managers and sales people. Successful leaders balance this local influence with a consistent corporate branding message.  Unique building designs and standardized operating Practices with controlled marketing Promotions, advertising and Publicity[i] accomplish this.

PERFORMANCE. Every entity, whether designated as for-profit or not-for-profit, must generate revenues that exceed its operating costs. But, sustained success requires consistent achievement of multiple quantitative and qualitative metrics beyond just “making a Profit”. These may be external, industry specific comparisons (e.g. “on-time” Performance for airlines) or internal goals such as the Pursuit of Perfection in quality standards.  Finally, performance has to be measured against the Promises made to customers:  Did the company deliver everything it promised in its marketing?

Success is a complex process comprised of multiple factors, as indicated by the various capitalized “P” words in this introduction.  A leader must balance each of the 5 major categories to achieve long term success.

I welcome your comments and suggestions and encourage you to share your own leadership experience in utilizing these principles.

Please enter your email address at the bottom of the right hand column to subscribe to this blog and make sure that you receive notification when the subsequent parts of this new management series are published.


[i] For a detailed discussion, read “McDonald’s – Behind the Arches” by John F. Love to learn how McDonald’s accomplished this for the fast-food industry, Bantam Books, 1986.