“When I was sneaking into games, I neverin my wildest dreams dreamt that I wouldbe the president of the Penguins,” saysMorehouse, who was named to the position in April 2007.
Though Morehouse no longer needs toslip by security guards to watch SidneyCrosby and the defending EasternConference champions, he still carries thesame passion for the team, which has anestimated value of $195 million, accordingto Forbes.
“When I first started working for thePenguins, I felt it was an honor,” he says. “Iwas very lucky. I was the luckiest guy in theworld to have the opportunity that I had.”
After working in the Clinton-Gore WhiteHouse and serving as a senior adviser tothe John Kerry for President campaign in2004, Morehouse joined the Penguins inDecember 2004 as senior consultant onthe new arena project.
Morehouse thought he would be inPittsburgh for the short term while helpingwith the arena project, but the organizationoffered him the president’s job.
“I didn’t have my eye on Pittsburgh whenI was in Washington thinking I’m going tocome back and work for the Penguins,” hesays. “Personally, for me, it was a goodopportunity for my kids to get to knowtheir grandmother.”
Morehouse used his strategic-planningand vision-setting skills for the arena project and did the same thing as he guides theorganization as president.
“I develop a strategic plan,” he says. “Inthat process of developing the strategicplan, there are a lot of different factors thatgo into it — key ingredients or research, orgetting to know yourselves first, getting toknow your customers, and getting to knowwhat your capacity is and what you cando.”
Here’s how Morehouse used strategicplanning and employee involvement toguide the Penguins to off-ice success.
Morehouse doesn’t trust anecdotal strategies. So, when he was first named president, he guided the organization in brandresearch to gather concrete informationabout what people thought about the team.You need that information to set an accurate and clear vision for your organization.
“We wanted to see what people thoughtour brand was in the marketplace,” hesays. “We researched people within theorganization to see what we thought ourbrand was and then we matched them up,and as we are rolling into a new arena intwo years, we decided what we wanted todo was enhance the things that are prevalent in our brand that we liked. (Then)eliminate those that are prevalent in ourbrand that we didn’t like, and roll out anenhanced brand strategy as we try to market this new arena and this hockey team.”
The team hired a consultant to conductthe process over several weeks to get tothe root of the team’s brand.
“We did focus groups, we did polling, wesat down, we analyzed,” he says. “We really dug deep into what the essence of ourbrand was, and what we came out withwas much different than what we expected. What we expected to do when we wentin was kind of wrap the Steelers working-class brand around the Penguins.”
But what the research showed was thatthe team occupied a unique place in themarket, which was more about innovation,technology and energy.
“We did a lot of metaphor research, and itwas interesting to see that we kind of represented something new and different, andwe might as well go with that rather thantry to wrap what is known is already successful, the Steelers’ brand, which is themost successful brand in sports,” he says.“We already occupied our own space, andwe just enhanced that.”
Morehouse recognized the Penguins had aniche, and it would have been a bad move totry to create a vision and brand outside thatniche. You need to create a vision that fitsyour company’s place in the market, which is why the research is necessary. You have totake advantage of your niche and not try tobecome something you’re not.
“We didn’t create it; it was already there,” hesays. “What we did was we kind of enhancedit and just recognized where our space is.”
The research results illustrate an important lesson: Be willing to change your planbased on hard data.
“One of the biggest mistakes peoplemake is trying to stay with a plan that isno longer relevant,” he says. “So, I thinkhaving the flexibility and capacity toimprovise is important, and being honestwith yourself, your customers and yourself is important from the credibilitystandpoint.”
In the focus groups, Morehouse wanted to find out why, in a sports-crazedregion, some people did not considerthemselves hockey fans.
“A lot of them think that the game istoo complicated,” he says. “You knowwhat, the game isn’t too complicated,but maybe we aren’t explaining it wellenough on our broadcasts and in ourmaterial and on our Web site for newhockey fans. Maybe we’re talking to people with old-school hockey jargoninstead of explaining things a little better.”
If you are having trouble explainingyour product to the masses or findingyour niche, you have to go beyondpolling people or forming focus groups.
“You have to do a combination ofthings that digs deep into how peoplefeel about your product, not what theythink about it,” he says. “There is a distinction there that is important because Ithink a lot of research just touches thetop, the 5 percent of decision-making ina human being, which is the intellectualside. Ninety-five percent of decision-making capacity is on the gut level (and)is how people feel about things, and youhave to work harder to figure that out.”
Outside of taking polls and doing focusgroups, you need to get out of youroffice and talk to people as a leader.Morehouse started to build relationshipswith other CEOs and presidents in the
region by meeting with them and asking them what theythought of the Penguins and what were their business needs.
“So, that’s an important key ingredient to beginning to set yourdirection and your strategy,” he says. “You have a body of informationnow from which to work. You’re not guessing. So, that’s an illustration of how you can use research to set a strategy.”
Get employee input
Once Morehouse had the information on which direction to takethe organization, he needed employee input on the vision.
“In the vision-creating process, everyone has to have ownership ofit,” he says. “It’s better to have them help to develop the vision than totell them, ‘This is what the vision is.’”
During the process, Morehouse had constant communicationwith his management team through a weekly meeting where thegroup discussed what they were working on individually.
“Then, it’s delegating,” he says. “Everyone has their own areaof responsibilities, and I have my area of responsibility, and Itake care of mine just like they take care of theirs.
But I think delegating is very important. It’s important not tomicromanage. Oftentimes, I’ll find myself in a discussion, and we’llbe discussing something that is subjective, and I’ll say to myself,‘This really doesn’t matter to me. It will accomplish the same jobwith someone else’s subjective view of this.’
“So, it’s recognizing that you can step
back, and you need toempower, and it’s important for people to feel like they are part ofthe success of the enterprise. So, you need to give people ownership of things and reward them for producing, and I think it helpsthem perform better.”
Morehouse then steps out of the way and lets his team get towork.
“I have a meeting on Monday,” he says. “We go through what ourobjectives for the week [and] what our long-term objectives are.How we’re accomplishing them. We look at data, we look at whatour list was from last week, we delegate, and everyone has theirresponsibility. Next week, when we sit down, if we said, ‘You weresupposed to do something,’ you better have done it. If I was supposed to do something, I better have done it.”
In order to empower employees and to hear their input duringthe vision-creating process, Morehouse doesn’t shoot an ideadown without hearing the employee out.
“You never tell anyone it’s a bad idea,” he says. “When you are in thevision-creating process and people are throwing ideas out, you maynot use their idea, but you don’t belittle anyone for their creative suggestions.
“You make sure everyone has a piece of it. You don’t announce that,‘This is our vision that you are implementing.’ You bring everyonealong with the creation of that vision.”
As much as Morehouse stresses not to squash any ideas during acreative process, he says you may need to scale someone backduring day-to-day activities.
“If it’s a straight management process, you may need to stifleideas for efficiency sake,” he says. “I’ve been in situations where Ididn’t have time to explain. I just had to say no and people had tounderstand there’s not time for arguments.
“Creative process is much different than just day-to-day management. In that creative process, it’s important not to stifle ideas. Inday-to-day management, it’s also important for people to feel likethey have a buy-in and they’re part of moving the train forward, but there are other factors involved, too. And if time is a factor, thenyou don’t have time for explanation, but people need to feel goodenough about themselves where that’s not going to have too bad ofa negative impact.
“So, that happens by just constantly making people feel they arepart of what the organization is doing, they’re important, and whenthey are doing something right, you’re telling them about it, soevery so often when they are doing something wrong, it’s not thatbig of a deal.”
Along with hearing employee input in meetings, you can alsocommunicate with them one on one outside of meetings as a wayto make sure they know they are part of the process.
“I’ve been in situations where I’ve been in offices where peoplee-mailed and never talked to each other, and it wasn’t a good situation,” he says.
“If I want something, I get up out of my office, I’ll walk down thehall, and I’ll see one of the VPs, and I’ll say, ‘I’d like you to do this, orI have an idea about that.’ I almost always get up and walk. I’ll e-mailwhen we have to send something that’s a little more complicated orif it’s fast or if I’m on my BlackBerry, but for the most part, I’m abeliever in face-to-face communications.”
While participating in face-to-face conversations can be moretime-consuming, it does have its benefits.
“They know that you’re there,” he says. “You can’t segregate yourmanagement team from the rest of the organization. So, I like toget out and see what people are doing, and say hi and also to beseen. I also think you lose some nuance if you are just e-mailingback and forth.”
Though Morehouse does like to get up and talk with people, themain idea to remember as a leader is to create a plan and stick withit.
“The key to success is developing a plan collectively, having buyin and then implementing it,” he says. “It’s as simple as that. Andhaving the flexibility to change if the circumstances change. Butyou have to have, basically, a plan to follow.”
HOW TO REACH: Pittsburgh Penguins, (412) 642-1300 or http://penguins.nhl.com
Ted Kolp backs up his
desire to develop leaders at RACO Industries Inc. with cash.
Each quarter, the president
and co-owner of the company — which posted 2007 revenue of about $35 million —
gives each of his 13 supervisors $50 per employee in
their department for a quarterly team-building activity.
The practice not only
empowers supervisors at the
company — a reseller of
wireless data capture equipment, application software
and integration — but also
results in a stronger corporate culture.
“It’s just a way to get the people to fellowship and interact a
little bit more,” Kolp says.
Smart Business spoke
with Kolp about how to use
encouragement and appreciation to develop leaders.
Q. What is the process to
It’s recognizing that part of
your business plan has to be
growth — formalizing that in
your business plan so you
have a road map — and
breaking it down into tactics.
‘I want to be able to accomplish this. I want to develop
good leaders. I want to be a
good leader. I want to continue to strive to be a good
leader, so I need to do this,
this, this and this as examples, on a daily basis.’
We’re a company of 85
employees, of which 72 to
75 are located right here in
the headquarters here in
Cincinnati. I go around every
single morning that I’m here and tell everybody, ‘Good
morning. Did you have a nice
evening? How are things
going? Also, did you get this
big job done? Hey, I know
that you guys really stepped
it up yesterday in order to
get this through, and you
took care of this customer.
Thank you very much for
that. What do you need?’
That type of thing. Just
showing appreciation is
something that I make
myself do every day. It can
take up to an hour to do
that, but it’s an investment in my time that I
think is well worth it
because you build
trust, you build candor, you gather ideas,
(employees) take ownership.
Q. What advice would
you give on how to
To me, this is very
elementary. You have
got to like people.
When I interview a
prospective new salesperson, I’ve got to pull
out of them, I’ve got to
understand, I’ve got to
get an understanding
that they like to sell — they
get a charge out of it.
My wife is a schoolteacher,
and we talk about, ironically,
teachers out there that really
don’t like children. Come on.
So, first of all, to be a good
leader and to recognize the
potential of a good leader,
that leader has to like people
and to be able to understand
that people have strengths
and weaknesses. You maximize those strengths, you
play on those strengths, you
minimize the weaknesses.
Q. How do you maximize
the strengths and minimize
the weaknesses of your
You have to bring it up on
your radar. You have to
understand in business [that]
people are —it’s like a chess
game — you’ve got pawns,
you’ve got rooks, you’ve got
knights, you’ve got kings and
queens, and everybody has
strengths, and everybody has
weaknesses, but you all play
So, I think telling our
supervisory staff here that
you’ve got to recognize that,
yes, people have weaknesses, but they also have
strengths. If you just keep
that up on your radar and
play to those strengths and develop those strengths
within your people, that will
make for a better, smooth-running, successful department and hopefully a better
running company in general.
Q. What is a pitfall to avoid
when trying to identify and
You better check your ego
at the door, because if you
are coming in with, ‘Hey, it’s
my way or the highway,’ or
it’s, ‘I’m the king here,’ or,
‘I’m entitled just because I’m
in this position,’ you’re
going to fall flat on your
face or you are going to
Some of that goes back
into being secure enough in
yourself to admit your own
mistakes — know that you
can’t do it all. I think that
builds candor that builds
trust in an organization. I tell
everyone, I tell all the new
employees, I’ve got a ton of
stuff coming across my desk
that I move as quickly as
possible because I don’t
want to back up the revenue
stream on a daily basis here.
It’s part of my job here to
make those decisions, but,
will I make the wrong decision? You bet. So question,
question, question, question
everything I do — from the
front door to the back door.
You come and you say, ‘Hey
Ted, why did you do this?’
That’s the kind of atmosphere I want in here — not to
belittle anybody, not to beat
anybody down. I’m all about
self-confidence, building self-confidence here and patting
people on the back and giving
HOW TO REACH: RACO Industries Inc., (800) 446-1991 or www.racoindustries.com
Gerald F. Hammond
learned the hard way
that being honest can sometimes come back to bite
you, even when you are trying
to show integrity by being
upfront with employees.
Hammond, president and
CEO of SHP Leading Design,
once had an intern who was
so excited about what was
happening at the company
that she shared confidential
information with friends at a
“So, we made a policy
change at that point and made
it very clear to our staff that
when we send around a
newsletter, it’s for their information (and) their spouses,”
says Hammond, who leads the
design firm, which posted
2007 revenue of $21.6 million.
Smart Business spoke with
Hammond about how to be an
honest, open leader.
Q. How do you motivate your
employees to work with
By my own example would
be No. 1. No. 2, I talk about it a
lot. It’s in our newsletters. Not
hammering it — just reminding folks that they have great
responsibility to themselves
and to their clients.
We have a very open and
transparent philosophy about
how we run the firm. (We) try
to keep our staff in the loop as
to what’s happening so they’re
not blindsided by surprises. To
me, that’s all part of it. If you
came to see our office right
now, you would be shocked
because there are no private
offices that are not totally surrounded by glass. That’s on
purpose to not be hiding anything behind closed doors.
Yes, we have a conference
room, and there is always
somewhere you can go, but,
on a day-to-day basis, everything is very open and very
Q. Is there a danger in being
too open and honest?
The only thing we have
found is there is a philosophy
of sharing everything with
everybody, and the old Navy
axiom about loose lips and all
that — I think there’s
still a practical limit to
not sharing information
with people that don’t
need to know it.
Because if they’re not
prepared to understand
it, chances are they are
going to misunderstand
it. So, we try to communicate in a way that
keeps things clear, and
we provide people information they need to
We don’t provide them
a lot of information they
don’t need to know.
Q. How do you determine what information
For instance, if we are negotiating for something ... and it
may be a difficult situation or
it may be potentially a really
exciting situation, we don’t get
all that out there in the firm.
We wait until we’ve accomplished our objective, and then
we share it.
The other thing we have to
be careful about, of course, in
this day and age, is confidentiality of business information.
Every document we put out
there to our staff says, ‘This is confidential SHP Leading
Design information. Please do
not share without permission
of an officer of the corporation
with anyone else.’
So, we do have things that
we only share internally.
Q. How do you find people
you trust to work at your firm?
I think your greatest test is
when you work with somebody for a year or more, you
begin to understand where
they fit in the life of the firm and whether they fit. You have
to be willing to face both situations. Reward those who fit,
even sometimes at your own expense. That is providing
them the incentives needed.
You also may have to face
those who you may like and in
some ways admire, but they
just don’t cut it in the firm and
the goals of your firm. You
have to be willing to face that.
Try to be humane about it, and
to find a way to help them find
their career elsewhere. But,
you have to be willing to face
that. If you don’t, your firm is
going to go down the tubes
There have been a number
of people that have come
through here who I like, I
would trust, but they don’t
have the skills that we need.
They don’t have the ability to
apply the skills we need and
make positive things happen
for the firm.
Q. Can a company with
integrity still fail?
Absolutely. The long-term
benefits of honesty and integrity are much greater than the
long-term benefits of anything
else you can do. That doesn’t
mean you don’t have to be
smart, you don’t have to be
opportunistic. You do. You
have to be on top of your
game at all times.
A leader can’t appear to be
behind the times or they can’t
lead. So, I keep in touch with
my young people a lot because
they’re the ones just filled
with new ideas. They’re much
more into what’s going on,
and I try to stay right with
them because they’re not
going to respect me if I talk
about the good ole boy network — this is the way we’ve
always done things. We don’t
do that here.
HOW TO REACH: SHP Leading Design, (513) 381-2112 or www.shp.com
The more things change, the more theystay the same for Roger Byford.
He took over as CEO of Vocollect Inc. inDecember 2007, returning to the positionhe left in 2001. Byford, who is also chairman and a co-founder of the company,finds that while he is facing a new set ofchallenges, there are still some that haven’tchanged at the company when it comes toeffective leadership: He can’t do everythinghimself.
The company posted $100 million in revenue in 2006 and $111 million in 2007, but ifit’s going to reach Byford’s goal to hit $500million by 2015, he’s going to have to relyon those below him to help get the organization to that level.
“That’s the only way you get ... the leverage of having 400 people in the organization instead of one,” he says.
By delegating responsibilities, Byford canfocus on big-picture issues. But handing offpower is never easy and requires hisemployees to trust him to make the rightdecisions while he, in turn, trusts them toget their jobs done with minimal oversight.
“The only way you are going to engendertrust from others is by demonstrating trustyourself,” he says.
And for that to work, it means going alongwith one very important concept: “Beingwilling, under most circumstances at least,to go with the recommendation that you getfrom an individual or a group,” Byford says.
Here’s how Byford is using the power ofdelegation to move Vocollect toward its$500 million goal.
What to delegate
When it comes to what tasks get delegatedand which he keeps for himself, Byford hasa simple rule: If it involves a lot of work,pass it on.
“Which sounds kind of silly to say, but thereare enough things that I am supposed to betaking care of that if there is any single one ofthem that takes up a vast amount of time,then (that) has to be delegated,” he says.
“If it’s a high-level strategic issue thatinvolves our board of directors, then I canspend a lot of time on that. If it’s some pieceof sales analysis that we don’t have that it seems we ought to have, then my goalwould be to say to somebody, ‘Here’s thequestion. Please go away and see if you cango away and figure out the answer,’ ratherthan go and try to do it myself.”
Sometimes, Byford knows he wants tolook at the data on a certain subject, but isn’tquite sure at how he wants to look at it orwhat he wants to get out of it. So, he needsto spend enough time on it until he knowsthe question he needs to ask, and thenhands it off to someone else.
“On occasion, I find I’m digging into something because I don’t know how to ask thequestion, and that’s when it perhaps getsmost challenging,” he says.
The other simple rule Byford uses whendetermining what to delegate is to hand overanything that he can’t help with.
“There are any number of decisions orthought processes that go on in the organization, where frankly there are a whole lotof people who are way better qualified thanme to figure things out,” he says. “The bestthing I can do at that point is to maybe askone or two pointed questions, and then getout of the way.
“For example, my background is a technical one. I’m an engineer. I’ve never been in asales organization; I’ve never been in marketing. So, when it comes to sales and marketing issues, my suspicion is that, ‘Well I’mquite sure that the folks in those organizations are far better equipped than I am tomake those kinds of decisions.’”
He may ask some sort of pointed questions to make sure things are on track, butafter that, he lets them take over.
“Even on the technical sides these days,I’ve been out of the technical business for solong that I can’t usually do anything morethan ask a few high-level questions,” he says.
While trust and delegation are important,you have to be ready to act when a task isgoing awry. Start by talking to the employeeassigned to the task.
“Those are difficult conversations, and it’sall too easy to put them off or to furtherthem or not be sufficiently clear when youare having those conversations,” he says.“Then you get to the point where there isjust a widening gap, if you like, between the perceptions on both sides. If you don’t takethe opportunity to close that gap while it’sstill small, it becomes a gulf, and then it’svery difficult to deal with.
“So, be honest with them. I’ve found that inthe vast majority of the cases, that worksout really well.”
It’s also helpful to ask questions and gettheir side of the argument.
For example, you can ask the employeewhy he or she thinks his or her way is theright way or you can ask the employee if heor she knows the ramifications of his or herdecision.
“Perhaps, at times, you can ask people totake the opposite position,” he says. “We’vedone that on occasion in our internal discussions, which is to ask people to switch sides.Make the case that you don’t believe in andsee how good of job you could do of that.
It’s a matter of getting a well-justified decision. Who knows, you may find out, and Ithink it’s often true, that the decision thatyou are hearing may, in fact, be the correctone. But, what you haven’t really heard isthe justification for it. If you can poke andprod a little bit ... to get the justification tocome out a little bit, you may find that, ‘Oh,OK, now I get it.’”
Delegation in action
Delegating important tasks is never easy.One of the most challenging aspectsByford has faced is when it comes to hiringmanagers, especially if it is a hire two levelsdown from him in the organization. Theprocess he uses is a good example of howyou have to set up a system you can believein and live with the results it generates.
“When the group consensus, and particularly perhaps led by the hiring manager, isfor candidate A and my personal feelingmight be that I have a preference for candidate B, that’s a tough one to step back from,”he says. “But, I think if you’re going toexpect that manager to manage the individual, then you better let them make the decision unless you have a really strong rationale to put forward to say that, ‘I don’t thinkyou are making the right decision here.’”
Byford created a system that has numerous people involved within the organization who have a say on who is hired.
When hiring to fill a manager position, thecompany’s interview process includes thatpotential employee’s direct manager andsecond-level manager, employees who willbe reporting to the candidate and perhaps ahigher-level manager, if warranted.
There is first a telephone-screening interview, then there’s usually a one-on-onescreening interview with the hiring manager.
Once it’s down to two or three finalists, thefirst part of what’s usually a full-day interview for any management-level position atthe company is a presentation by the candidate to the entire interview group, whichcould range from a handful to as many as 15or so people on some occasions.
“We ask the candidate in 30 minutes towalk through their resume,” he says. “Notjust to give us the facts but to tell us particularly what they found about organizationswhen they entered it, what they learnedwhile they were and what, with the benefitof hindsight, they’d do differently if they hada chance to do it over again?
“That process does a number of things. Itobviously saves us some time bec ause a lotof the background information gets out atonce rather than having the same questions being asked over and over again during the course of a day’s interviewing. It’salso quite revealing about how good candidates are, first, in front of a group; second,in being a bit introspective about beingwilling to look back and evaluate their ownperformance.”
After the presentation, there is a mix ofone-on-one and either pair or team interviews. The group, ahead of time and particularly for higher-level positions, will sitdown and make sure each person understands who’s focusing on what aspects ofthe candidates, such as their credentials,attributes and personality.
They then have about a 45-minutedebriefing session after the candidate hasleft to gather the positive and the negativesof the applicant.
“You don’t want to make it too long,” he says.“It’s an information-gathering exercise for themost part. To some extent, it’s a discussion,but largely information gathering. You can usesome tricks like putting up a big spreadsheeton the projector and then just typing in thecomments as you hear them on the plus sideand the minus side maybe. That tends to prevent too much repetition in the course of theexercise and allows everybody to see what isbeing said. Sometimes people will chime in; sometimes people will disagree.”
In the end, it always comes down to thehiring manager’s decision.
“They’re the person who’s responsiblefor making the final decision,” he says.“Everybody else provides input and the hiring manager goes away and makes the call.”
Though it can be hard for Byford if thechoice is not what he wanted, he simplywalks away and has faith in his managers.
“It’s one of the things you can’t afford to doin this position is to second-guess or to over-worry about decisions,” he says. “It’s thetrust thing again.”
You have to trust in the systems you’vecreated and the people that work with you.
“Will people be 100 percent right? No. Ismy hiring record over the course of mycareer 100 percent right? No,” he says.
“But you have to have faith that if peopledo occasionally goof, they’ll figure it out andthey’ll fix it, and also, sometimes that they’llbe perfectly right. A candidate that I perhapswasn’t particularly enthused about will turnout to be one of our star employees.”
HOW TO REACH: Vocollect Inc., (412) 829-8145 or www.vocollect.com
When Ralph Castelli Jr. is negotiating with people, he wants them to think the outcome was their idea, when actually it was what he had in mind all along.
To achieve this, the chairman, president and CEO of the 100-employee Kemp Klein Law Firm tries to keep his ego in check and then simply listens.
“Oftentimes, you get resistance on a given point, but if you come at it at a slightly different direction, you can let them declare victory,” he says. “Yet, you have achieved the result you want, either internally or for your client.”
Smart Business spoke with Castelli Jr. about how to deal with people and how to find the right people for the job.
Q. What are the keys to being a good leader?
Leading by example is important. Staying on message is important. I have two leadership roles I’ve been in for quite some time. I’m the CEO of this law firm, and I am the mayor of a small city [Pleasant Ridge]. In each case, what I try to do is get the right people in the right places and give them the tools to perform and then let them do their jobs.
At the same time, especially within the law firm environment, I try to set a good example as far as what we expect from our attorneys at all levels and don’t typically ask people to do things that I wouldn’t do or haven’t done.
In the same vein, the city life, we have a charter that says the city manager runs the city and the mayor is defined as being the CEO of the city with absolutely no administrative power whatsoever. The key is respecting that dichotomy and getting good people in as city managers.
Q. How do you find the right person for the job?
In a lot of the cases, where we’ve recruited people laterally has typically been in a situation where we already know or someone in the firm already knows the person, already worked in some professional relationship with the individual. So, we are not interviewing strangers, per se.
Quite frankly, you don’t always get it right. Nobody does. But a lot of times, people we are talking to are people who had their own firms or who we know of from either working with them or because we know CPAs who have worked with them or other professionals who can vouch for that.
But, for instance, in my case in coming here, my longtime partner and I had our own firm for six or seven years before joining Kemp Klein. A number of the people here who have come laterally have either been partners at other firms or had their own other firms.
There’s nothing, per se, wrong with an attorney who doesn’t have that mindset; they can be a very fine attorney. We just feel, in our environment, it works better if they think like owners and not employees.
Q. Would you take someone without the ownership mindset?
They’re not out completely. They may very well become shareholders. But, they may not have that mindset initially, but I certainly would try to engender that and keep them advised as to the realities of the practice and give them the tools to think like an owner.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of how you treat other people within the firm. It’s a matter of what you talk about in the hallways. It’s a matter of not throwing something up the flagpole that has absolutely no practical application within the law firm or no benefit to the clients. If you think of what benefits clients first, that’s a good mindset to have.
Q. How has hiring through referrals benefited the company?
You have the ability to avoid or to quickly detect the professional interviewers. You are dealing with people that, rather than them telling you what a great fit they’ll be or them telling you what a great lawyer they are or what great results they’ve achieved or how great they are with clients, you have somebody either within the firm or ties to the firm is vouching for that person.
You have much more information going into the interview. Then, once people are here, depending on their level, we also, especially among the younger lawyers who may not come in initially at a shareholder level, assign a mentor to them, which rotates on about an annual basis. In assigning mentors, we try to pick people who match up well with the individual or the particular individual’s needs.
It may be somebody within their same practice area because they are very new and they need to learn the skills of the practice area. It may be somebody who is outside the practice area but has a proven track record of being able to develop clients or to interact well with clients, and they may be working on those people skills as opposed to the nuts and bolts of legal skills through the mentor process.
HOW TO REACH: Kemp Klein Law Firm, (248) 528-1111 or www.kempklein.com
For Ronia F. Kruse, the key to being a good leader is having a vision and convincing others to buy in to your vision.
That’s what Kruse tries to do at OpTech LLC, which posted 2007 revenue of $9.7 million and employs more than 80 people.
“I think that’s very important in leadership to be able to rally people around you and get them motivated toward achieving a certain goal,” says the co-founder, president and CEO of the technology consulting and business services company.
Smart Business spoke with Kruse about how to create a vision and how to get employees to buy in to it.
Q. How do you create a vision?
You really need to project what is going to happen five to 10 years from now to be able to build a vision around that. In our IT industry, our climate is changing so a rapidly. To be able to adapt to change and craft a vision of where you want to take your company and where you want to be five to 10 years from now is very important. I think a lot of leaders of companies are less inclined to change. To be a successful leader, you need to envision what is happening around you and to adapt to that change very quickly, and then rally up the people to support your cause.
Q. How do you project five to 10 years out?
For us it was, ‘What type of industries do we want to service? What are some of the industry leaders that are going to remain industry leaders?’ Because, certainly, what we have seen in this area, a lot of companies that have been able to grow substantially servicing automotive companies have failed because of what is happening in the automotive industry.
Back in 1999, (we) kind of saw the writing on the wall in terms of what was happening in the automotive industry and what was happening here in Michigan and changed, did a 180, and moved my company in a different direction to service industries that were more stable like the utility, the banking, the government, insurance [industries] that were less impacted by what we are seeing in the economy today.
As a result, we’ve been able to grow substantially in this down economy.
Q. How do you get employees to buy in to your vision?
You have to be viewed as a mentor of somebody that they really can rely on because really we employ quite a few people. If they have no confidence in your ability to move a company in a certain direction, if they have no confidence in your intellect, it’s going to be awfully hard to convince them to follow you and to buy in to your vision. Certainly, they need to respect you from an intellectual standpoint based on your track record, based on your intelligence and how you convey the message to them. You can have a person that is a great visionary, but they may be a poor communicator and cannot convey the vision to their team. As a result, they lose their team. To be able to communicate and to have the respect of your people, and for them to look up to you as a mentor is very important.
Q. How can you be a mentor?
People have different interpretations of leadership. Quite honestly, depending on what you are in, depending whether you work for a large company, a small company, military, I think leadership takes on different forms. You can have a very quiet leader that’s very effective. You have leaders that lead by example. You have leaders that gain respect and are able to lead because of their intelligence because they are successful and have been able to perform great things. You have many different interpretations of leadership.
You look at somebody like the president of the United States of America, like Lincoln, for example, who was a very quiet leader, but very effective in his leadership skills. Then, you have other people that are incredibly charismatic and people view them as very good leaders because they are very good communicators. But, I think, truly an effective leader has to be a combination of all of those qualities.
Q. How do you become a good communicator?
To be a really good communicator, you need to be able to get in to people’s feelings. You need to be able to move them, make them happy. You need to be able to get in to their core. That’s very important. Certainly, the communication, the way you speak is very important and how you project your voice is very important. To be very clear, very concise.
They say that you should probably stick to three items to discuss. They all say that because anything more than that they lose people’s attention. People have very short attention spans. So, whenever you are conveying an execution plan, it’s very important that you speak clearly, you are very concise, that your ideas are very clearly laid out that you stick with maybe three, no more than five, points to get the message across.
HOW TO REACH: OpTech LLC, (313) 962-9000 or www.optechus.com
About two years ago, Telford W. Thomas was faced with the grimreality of the competitiveness of the health care industry. If The Washington Hospital did not evolve to face the demandsput on it by its customers and the market, it would cease to growand possibly start losing business and talent to the competition.
“What is happening in the health care industry is we, like otherinstitutions, have been attacked for patient trust in the organization that has been dropping over the years because of errors thatare made ... and not paying attention to what the patient feels theyneed,” says Thomas, president and CEO of the hospital, which had2007 revenue of $225 million.
“We felt in order to stay viable, given we are in a competitiveenvironment with other health care institutions and businesses,that we had to make that change. Our intent certainly is to be thehospital of choice in our community for the patients and the doctors and our employees to work here.”
As a result, Thomas and his team started looking at ways theorganization could reinvent itself to better meet the needs of itscustomers and increase staff accountability. The emphasis wouldbe on getting better feedback from patients to help the hospitalprovide better care.
“We, as health care providers, don’t always know what is best forthe patient,” he says. “We’ve got to involve them in it. The effort to dothat and make the cultural change has to be through our educationand work with our employees to encourage that participation.”
The patients weren’t the only ones who needed more attention. Togenerate excitement about the changes and to get the staff of 2,400to buy in to them, Thomas and the upper management team neededto do a better job of paying attention to employees and giving themthe recognition they were due. Only if the employees were on boardwith the changes could patient care ultimately be improved.
Provide proper training
Thomas and his management team based their changes on thebook “Hardwiring Excellence: Purpose, Worthwhile Work, Making aDifference” by Quint Studer.
“Most of your good managers and employees want to improve,” hesays. “Once they had read the book, there was a lot of enthusiasm.Then it is a question of it not being viewed as one more thing to dobut it becoming a part of your daily work plan and schedule to workthis change in so that it is a change in how you do the work.”
Any issues that needed to be addressed because of the changeswere incorporated into the monthly management meetings and,sometimes, daily meetings.
“We were trying to roll it into their normal meetings, and thenwe implemented a few more (meetings) just to get it started,” hesays.
Thomas also brought in a coach from the Studer group to assistthem in implementing the program.
“We implemented a leadership development institute where we take our managers for a day and present different components ofwhat our journey in service excellence might look like,” he says. “Wetake them for a day and bring in speakers and also utilize our ownmanagers where they have best practices and have made a majorchange in how the perception has been evaluated by our patients.”
The organization identified which managers would be speakingbased on patient surveys. Those who had demonstrated they couldget results would share their methods with the rest of the managers.
“You talk to each individual patient and employee and engage themand try to learn more about them what their needs are, their fears,their inhibitions, whatever it may well be,” says Thomas.
Any problems or issues are documented in a log and thenaddressed by managers and vice presidents.
However, with managers interacting with patients on a more frequent basis, that can set up an environment where employees arelooking over their shoulders. That’s why you also have to visit withemployees consistently so it becomes part of their routines.
“This is supposed to be done frequently, therefore, it’s not just aonce-in-a-while occasion,” he says. “So, the expectation is that it willoccur.”
Leaders should also begin with positive questions when visitingemployees, such as asking what is working well for them, how theirchildren are, or if there is anything management can do to maketheir job easier. The conversations can benefit an organization byidentifying a problem early before it becomes a major issue.
“Standard questions like that don’t drive a negative environment,”he says. “The more you do that, you’re there and you’re not seen asan interloper. The more you do it, the more they understand this isnothing new and this is the way it is.
“It’s not done in a confrontational environment. You try to get theemployee to be at ease so you do learn what is going on within adepartment and what needs to be addressed or is certainly a concernon their part that you need to deal with.”
Recognize good employees
Recognizing top performers in an organization is key to improvingcompany morale, which leads to improved treatment of customers.
“There is a different feel, there is a different behavior in an environment like that versus constantly hearing the bitching and moaning, if you will,” Thomas says.
Through documentation, the organization now has records of whois doing what, which helps distinguish between the high, middle andlow performers.
While lower-level employees have annual evaluations, managersmust show vice presidents how they as managers will fit into theorganization and how they will succeed.
“In many cases, what we have done is tried to align the wholeorganization, and we’ve done it under what we call pillars,” he says.“It’s service, quality, people, growth and finance. We develop it for theinstitution, then each one of our managers will present a plan on howthey fit into those particular goals and pillars and how they would
contribute to that. Then they are evaluatedbased upon the results of that.
“There is the expectation that each vicepresident approves those goals of the managers, and sits down every 90 days and evaluates, where are we with this plan? Are weaccomplishing what we had planned to do?Do we need to make adjustments or are wemeasuring the wrong thing?”
Thomas says leaders can sometimes spendtoo much time dealing with low performersand ignore top performers.
“You have to engage in the employee andrecognize when they do a great job,” hesays. “Because we know, unfortunately inmanagement, our low performers who arethe ones we spend a lot of our time withbecause they bring up the complaints, theissues, you name it.
“We don’t spend enough time recognizingthose who do a great job. So, it’s a move toswitch that time spent with your low performers to the high performers in encouraging them and recognizing the great jobthey do. So, that sets the example foreveryone else.”
Though the hospital does provide recognition through merit increases, it’s not alwaysabout money.
“It is recognition that ‘I am doing a goodjob’ because in many cases we didn’t evenrecognize them before,” he says. “Theyweren’t the squeaky wheel so we didn’t evenacknowledge them. So, a lot of it is acknowledgement. Thanking them verbally, in writing, encouraging them to continue andimprove because we all can do that recognizing them in forums in front of their coworkers. When you can pat somebody onthe back, you do that publicly .”
While spending more time with top performers is important, you don’t want totake your eye off the low performersbecause they can have a negative effect ontop performers.
“Your good performers and midperformers, they know who the low performersare,” he says. “When you don’t deal withthem, it creates more work for them tocover that and they, again, saw that theyare the ones that got all the attention.”
In the past, Thomas says dealing with lowperformers was hard to do because thedocumentation was haphazard.
Now that there is documentation, it’s moreconsistent.
“We indicate where we feel they are notperforming up to par or what our expectations are and then outline for them the way to improve,” he says. “They are given anopportunity to improve, unless it’s severe. Ifthey don’t, we do counsel them out.”
Sometimes, low performers, as well assome high and middle performers, will alsobe slow to adapt to a change or may reject italtogether.
“How that was handled is, ‘We understandyour comments, we understand your questions, but this is where we are going, and wewant to have you on our journey. But, if youchoose not to, that is entirely up to you. Thisis the direction we’re going in,’” he says.
Thomas says there were some employeeswho wanted to do the best job but didn’tthink the change Thomas and his team wanted to make was the right way to go. Some ofthose employees are no longer with theorganization.
“We gave them an opportunity and, afterawhile and in many instances, our vice presidents, our managers knew there was a problem but didn’t know how to deal with it inthe past,” he says. “It’s not comfortable, andI don’t like people who find they enjoy firingpeople or disciplining people. It’s difficult todo, and they didn’t know how to do it.Therefore, people were sliding. But theyalready knew intuitively and by their measurements that certain employees were notas competent or were problem people.”
Results have so far been positive. Revenuein 2007 was up $18 million compared to2006. But Thomas knows that the work toimprove his organization will never be done.
“With any human organization ... it is anongoing effort, and you will never end thatjourney,” he says. “It is constant remindingand monitoring and participation. It’s participation at all levels.”
HOW TO REACH: The Washington Hospital, (724) 225-7000 orwww.washingtonhospital.org
Leaders don’t always communicate the necessary information to employees, and that can result in a negative work environment, says Greg Humes.
“Some people don’t even share where they are going on an overall basis because they think it’s very confidential,” says the president of NLM Inc., a third-party logistics provider. “You ask organizations to cut costs and to do certain things, but you don’t share where you are at on the profitability side.”
Humes stays in touch and communicates with his approximately 240 employees through meetings and by walking around, but he also has his assistant update the company’s intranet daily.
“(It) might be a simple one-line sentence that says, ‘Had a great meeting with such and such customer, and we’re going to strategically discuss in the next two weeks maybe this additional service.’”
Keeping employees in the loop helps generate and maintain excitement, and as Humes says, “Excited people do great things.”
Smart Business spoke with Humes about how he keeps employees involved and excited at NLM Inc.
Delegate to the right people. It’s going into the organization and putting cross-functional teams the right team with the right knowledge together to solve a problem or come up with some new idea or what you are trying to do as far as what the objective is.
We’ll get those people to get engaged, and we’ll ask them to be a part of that, and we come away with some great products and the execution of the products.
I want people to play off their strengths and weaknesses, and that’s a typical cross-functional team. You’ve got to have the representation there if you are solving a problem, from whatever that problem is.
Like in the classroom, there are people that are always raising their hand and answering the questions, but then there are others that know the answer but are a little on the shy side and don’t engage. So, my objective is to keep people motivated and get them engaged.
Some of them work better in small functional areas. They don’t work in big intimidating groups. So we define what is it we are trying to do, and then we also know who we’re trying to develop and where we’re trying to develop them.
Don’t point the finger. You stick with the facts. At the end of the day, you use it and turn it into an educational process. What are the facts, what did we do, what didn’t we do and then ... teaching people and going back through what we want to accomplish and change, and remove that defect and/or failure for a full resolution.
That’s really the measurement. ‘OK, we didn’t do that right. We missed something. The customer took us down a path, and we should have said no, and we said yes, and we learned from that.’
Let’s communicate it. Let’s make sure everybody is aware of it. Let’s not keep that in the box, but don’t personalize it. Don’t say, ‘So and so did this,’ because, at the end of the day, everything is an organizational issue.
You survive as an organization, you thrive as an organization, and the people support the organization. When you try to divide and conquer, there are no heroes. Then, people will definitely put the walls up and become more of their own rather than a piece of the entire.
Let’s put the issues on the table; let’s keep the names and the personalities out of it. I don’t care about titles. I want to know what we did that we can do better. What can we learn from this, and who’s going to take the responsibility to go back and fix it. Then we move down the road. Then we celebrate and we know what we changed either in the process or a tactical move.
If somebody comes in and they think it’s a point-the-finger session like that or a grievance type of thing, then I’ll stop them immediately and say, ‘That’s not what we’re here for.’
Be a team player. When I go to one of my direct report’s staff meetings and sit in ... my position is, ‘I’m here, I’m learning, you guys are the experts. I’m here because I want to deep dive this a little and maybe offer some solutions to it,’ rather than offering that they are doing something wrong.
At the end of the day, there is a high motivation with the way that I do it. It’s inspiring the mission. It shows a sense of urgency and a caring to all because it is a cross-functional type of thing.
It definitely shows that I believe in the teamwork and that goals can be met through the team atmosphere. Then, it broadens the employees’ abilities, and it gives them exposure versus a more of the old-school leadership style with intimidation. I think that’s a demotivator. You have a leader, but it’s like a football game. You’re not going to win the Super Bowl if the coach is one hell of a coach, but none of the players want to play for him.
A lot of the old-school-leadership-style people will go down that path, and (employees) give you a, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ Out of fear, some of them will do it. Most of them will be productive to a certain level and, at some point and time, it becomes frustration and watercooler conversations happen.
They don’t support it, don’t believe in it, and you can see it in your results.
HOW TO REACH: NLM Inc., (313) 736-8000 or www.nlmi.com
To get employees to buy in
to his company’s vision,
Jeffrey Hart involves them in creating it.
Midway through the year,
Hart and his team compile
information from various
sources, including talking to
employees at Cadence
Network Inc., where he is
president and CEO, and use
that information to work on
forming the company vision.
Then, the following January,
he has lunch with his more
than 80 employees in groups
of 10 to explain the vision and
to get feedback at the provider
of expense management solutions for multisite businesses.
“We really foster open communication, and that means
they have the right to challenge me on my recommendations or decisions or at least
raise questions or concerns
about that,” he says.
Smart Business spoke with
Hart about how to create an
open environment and foster
honest communication and
Q. How do you establish an
I challenge people in meetings, and they challenge me,
and I think it’s really leading
by example. When they see
that somebody has stood up to
me at a meeting and we’ve had
a heated debate — because
we’re not afraid to have heated debates — and they are still
here the next day, the next
year, they know that their
opinions are valued.
It’s about leading by example. So, if you honestly want
feedback and you want people
to challenge, then there should be no fear of retribution when
they do. I have to respect their
opinion, otherwise I am violating everything I just said.
Q. How has encouraging
open communication benefited
It’s really important that
everybody understands what
the company’s objectives are
and how they are being measured. People like to get behind
the cause, and I honestly
believe people just don’t want
to punch a clock and collect a
I believe they really want to
have something that fulfills a
purpose in life. So, I think it
allows them to connect more
with passion and have a
general caring or feeling
about the company and
what we are trying to
achieve. It really enlists
their passion and their
emotion into the company versus just collecting
a paycheck every week.
Q. How do you handle
it when an employee has
a bad idea?
One is, obviously, I ask
a lot of questions about
why they have that opinion. Two, I ask them if
they considered all
these other alternatives
and, hopefully, give
them some more input
that they might now
have some more data points.
Hopefully, when we leave
that session, we have an agreement. Now, there are cases
when they say, ‘Jeff, I still disagree.’ That’s where I have to
say, ‘Well, I definitely don’t
want to strip out your passion
because I really believe that you add a lot of value here,
but this is a case where I have
to make the hard call. I have
to make the decision, and this
is the way we are going.’
Then, I ask them to make
sure they support that decision
going forward knowing that
they definitely have concerns
about it. So, we really spend a
lot of time flushing those
things out in debates, whether
it’s be behind closed doors,
but, in some cases, it happens
in a group setting. I do not
believe in a dictatorship.
Q. Does it get hard trying to
listen to everyone’s opinion?
It does, but here’s another
thing that I think a lot of executives tend to forget: If
you don’t do a good round
table, you could argue that by
the time you facilitate a
round table, and let’s say it’s
one or two hours, that that’s a
waste of time because you
already know what the
answer is. You can make the
call in 15 minutes.
My argument is that the viral
effect by you doing that is
going to cost you much more
than two hours. It’s going to
cost you days or weeks
because all these little one-onone conversations will spin
out of control and will create
more problems. So, I’d rather
hit the issue head on in a
meeting, and it may be uncomfortable, but let’s argue the
point out and come up with a
reasonable compromise and
invest that two hours, versus
days and months of viral messaging under the underground
of the employees.
Q. What is a key to getting
people to believe in you?
Be visible on the floor and
talk to everybody, whether it
be a front-line, junior-level
employee or an employee
that’s been here since day one.
I just went out to lunch with
an employee, front-line, that ...
started less than six weeks
ago because I value her opinion. She comes from a different perspective, she’s young,
she’s had a limited career,
eight years, but she’s learned
stuff through that path that I
had not seen or I had not
learned. When you reach out
your hand, they’ll give you
feedback. They’re just scared
to, and you have got to
remove that fear.
HOW TO REACH: Cadence Network Inc., (866) 223-3623 or www.cadencenet.com
Gwen MacKenzie knew Sarasota Memorial Health CareSystem was a great organization when she joined as presidentand CEO in May 2005, despite the fact that it was losing asmuch as $30 million a year.
The focus of the 4,500-employee organization had been solely to provide good patient care and services, while the financial aspects weren’t always a priority. Everyone assumed thatas big and strong as the organization was, it would be aroundforever.
Yet, behind the curtain, things weren’t as rosy as manythought.
Many employees, including doctors, didn’t know the organization was losing money because the focus wasn’t on thefinances.
“But my position was, it doesn’t go on forever by chance,”she says. “It goes on forever with good solid performance. Myfocus was more performance-based. If we do a good job andmonitor our patient satisfaction, if we have people who like towork here and understand what we are trying to do forpatients, then the financial results will follow.”
Along with shifting attention to data and finances,MacKenzie had to get everyone on the same page and startcommunication between departments. She let everyoneknow how much the organization was losing and why theyneeded to turn things around to keep moving forward.
“You always have to sort of get it to a common understanding, and that shouldn’t be that dissimilar from group to group,including the doctors,” she says. “The common understanding was if we lose $30 million a year, we’re not going to beviable long term as an organization, and the communitycounts on us.”
Look at data
Because efficient customer service results in better customer satisfaction and return business, MacKenzie neededto improve services at the hospital system to grow patientvolume.
One of the areas the community was not satisfied with wasambulance diversions away from the emergency roombecause it was often at capacity.
So she took steps to establish a policy that would guaranteedoctors see patients within 30 minutes of arrival.
“That’s not good for a community when you are turningambulances away,” she says. “What happens in the emergency room world is, if we are on diversion, then it overloads the next hospital, and they go on diversion and thatoverloads the next hospital. Pretty soon, you’ve got everyhospital in the region on diversion and the EMS [emergencymedical service] authority has to say, ‘None of you are ondiversion.’”
In the beginning of the process, MacKenzie met weeklywith her team and different departments and sorted throughdata related to time and efficiency, such as how long it tooka doctor to see a patient. They also looked at auxiliary operations that could affect the ER, such as how long it takes labtests to come back, how long it takes an admitted patient toget to their bed and how long it takes to clean beds.
“So, we never look at anything in isolation,” she says. “Weuse lots of information. The key to that from a leadershipperspective is that you not become paralyzed by information.”
To sort good information from bad information, you haveto continue to look at the information and refine it, but youalso must be open to making mistakes and changing direction when it’s appropriate.
The clues to what needs to be changed will come out ofdiscussions with managers.
“We set a direction, but we’ve had adequate discussion,”she says. “We encourage a lot of debate, but when we getdone, we have a conclusion. It might not be my conclusion;it might be somebody else’s conclusion. But, we have a conclusion and a direction. We don’t leave confused.”
When you get people talking, good things happen, and people come away with a better understanding of what’sexpected of them.
MacKenzie says the 30-minute wait proposal prompted alot of interesting discussion between the departments. Forexample, lab people were accustomed to working in silosand, like many departments in organizations, they were intheir own little world.
The lab people said it took 20 minutes from the time theygot the sample to the time they sent the result back. The labhad no control over what happened before or after those 20minutes.
“People want to segment only into their own little world,”MacKenzie says.
That was until MacKenzie allowed the lab employees to ownthe whole process.
“We gave them the power over the process,” she says. “Andthe lab people came back the next week and said, ‘We understand that. Now, we need to add nine more people.’ We said,‘No, we probably have the right number of resources, but, ifwe don’t, we’ll add them. But now is not the time to addthem, it’s really to look at how you do things.’ Then, theycame back the next week and said, ‘Well, now we get it. Now,when the lab tests come to us, they are going to come in redtubes so we know that it’s the ER, and that we have this commitment to turn it around in this period of time.’”
The key is to explain to the people involved the objective andlet them figure out the solutions.
“If you make the commitment and then you give people theflexibility to problem solve because I wouldn’t know how todo it in the lab, I’m not a lab person they eventually cameback with the right approach,” MacKenzie says. “They knewthat they’d be sitting in a meeting every week and everyoneelse would be looking at their results, in addition to them. So,it’s also a sense of pride. You don’t want to be the one thatstands out.”
But, like any change of process, not everyone is going toagree. In fact, some people were so against the change, theyleft the organization after Mackenzie brought the idea up.
She says people usually select themselves out if they don’twant to get on board with the change. However, most peoplewill give the change a chance, as long as you stay true to it.The hospital’s emergency room director later told MacKenziewhen she first brought up the idea of the new policy thedirector updated her resume. But, she stuck with it and nowshows other hospitals how to implement the emergency roomprocess.
“That’s the discipline part,” she says. “What confuses peopleis if you keep changing direction or you don’t use the same simple objective over and over. If you’ve got too many of them,then it’s just initiative fatigue.”
Get out of your office
While MacKenzie says data is critical to the success of a company and can lead to improvements in operations like increasing emergency room efficiency, data can’t replace your abilityto be out in the organization.
“I say that because sometimes the housekeepers can tell youthe most critical of things,” she says. “If you are not out andabout connecting with all levels of people, and that’s where thecommunication process comes in, you might miss something.Leaders have the best of intentions, but they often tell youwhat you want to hear, what the objective is.
“It’s not that they’re not connected. Generally, you want tosay things that are pleasing and that sort of go with the objectives, and no one wants to bring up the contrary. But, I thinkyou have to have some contrary in an organization, and youhave to have people willing to speak up.”
In order to establish that type of environment, MacKenziemade it a priority to make sure she was visible and makingrounds in all t he departments of the organization, which issomething MacKenzie and her management team still practicetoday.
She says the senior executives are often the mysterious people in an organization, so it’s just as important that they visit with employees. It’s required that MacKenzie and her management team visit with their approximately 50 departmentsand 15 off-site locations every couple of weeks to make surethey are staying in touch with employees.
“It’s required because rounding is one of the things that, ifyou had to leave it to chance, it would be the thing that I can’tget to today because there is always some emergency or somemeeting or someone needs to see you,” she says. “So, werequire that we actually put it in our calendars, and we do.
“So, it doesn’t leave it to chance. It’s scheduled so that thebreast center knows we are coming on a specific day. We generally use it for celebration and recognition. We say to the leaders, ‘Who’s done a great job, and who can we recognize whilewe are here?’ But, oftentimes, people are free to talk aboutwhat doesn’t work or what’s working well and we need to domore of it.”
By her second year on the job, MacKenzie began hostingbreakfast, lunch and dinner gatherings every month with staffto keep in touch with her employees. While she has quarterlyreviews in a town-hall setting for the whole organizationwhere she comes with an agenda, the breakfast, lunch and dinner idea is open for people from any department to speak withMacKenzie or with each other about what’s on their minds.
“It’s interesting because you would think the nurses mightnot be interested in what the housekeepers want to talk about,but you don’t find that at all,” she says. “You find a lot of camaraderie. (One night), we got on one topic, which was communication devices, and we had four different groups weigh in. Ithink it’s enlightening for them to see how common the issuesare across different categories of people.”
Those open lines of communication helped the companyshow steady improvement.
In fiscal 2005, it had operating revenue of $477 million, posting an operating loss of $6.5 million. In fiscal 2006, operatingrevenue was $514 million, and the loss was $1.7 million. In fiscal 2007, operating revenue was up to $550 million, and theorganization eliminated the loss, posting $19.4 million in operating income.
“(Open communication is) promoted, and we see in our surveys that people believe this is an open organization and thattheir opinions are valued and that they have access to leadership,” she says.
Because MacKenzie couldn’t have turned the organizationaround without everyone chipping in, most employees hiredbefore October 2007 received between $75 and $250 based onhours worked because the health care system did better thanthe original budgeted goal.
“Which, on the face of it, it’s not a lot of money, but, I think,it was more the principle,” she says. “We’re sharing in theresults.”
The reasoning for the reward was simple.“Because without everybody’s hard work in the same direction, we aren’t going to do better than what our budget callsfor,” she says.
HOW TO REACH: Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, (800) 764-8255 or www.smh.com