Leadership As An Organizational System with Dan Edds
For 25 years Dan Edds has been a practicing management consultant, working primarily with state & local government, healthcare, K-12 education, higher education, and nonprofits. He is the author of 2 books, the first, Transformation Management, and his most recent book, Leveraging the Genetics of Leadership, Cracking the code of sustainable team performance.
His latest book looks at how organizations which consistently perform at very high-levels approach the practice of leadership. The result of this research is the conclusion that leadership can be modeled as an organizational system, and rather than a person.
Full Transcript Below
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (00:03):
Good afternoon, everyone. This is Roy with the business of business podcast. Want to thank you for joining us. Joining us today. We have a special guests. We’re going to talk about leadership. Leadership has kind of become a lost art just because we get us a big fancy title.
Doesn’t translate into true leadership. So for the last 25 years, Dan EDS has been practicing management consulting. Working primarily with state local and state and local governments, healthcare K through 12 education and higher education. And not for profits. He’s the author of two books. The first transformation management. And his most recent book leveraging the genetics of leadership, cracking the code of sustainable team performance. His latest book looks at how organizations which consistently perform at very high levels approach.
The practice of leadership. The result of the research is the conclusion that leadership can be modeled as an organizational system rather than as a person. So welcome to the show, Dan. So what motivated you to write another book on leadership?
Well, thanks. Thanks, Roy. And it’s great to, uh, to be with you and, um, you know, that’s actually a pretty good question because, uh, last time I looked, there was 197,000 titles on Amazon. And if you look on Google books, there’s several million.
So the world doesn’t exactly need another book on leadership. And, uh, but I, I, in, in my, in my management consulting work. Um, all too frequently, I found this thing going on, where we would come in, we’d do a project. Uh, it might be a process improvement project. Maybe something around organizational development or revenue enhancement costs, assessments, and we do this great work. People would be thrilled, excited.
Um, the staff would be really excited about what we had done. Um, generally there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Out of some of the issues that they’re facing come back three weeks. Three months later, and nothing has happened.
Right. And, uh, the more I got looking at it. The more I realized that there was something else going on besides the people. Right. And eventually I began to say, you know, there’s a system going on here. This actually running the show, um, as much as the people are. Right. So, um, I just got looking at, what does that mean? What does it look like? And, um, ended up asking the question. How do the, how do organizations that consistently perform at a really high level? How do they approach leadership? So it came out of that.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (02:56):
Yeah. And you bring up a good point, you know, in my practice as well. There’s nothing more disheartening to return to a client a few months later. And have to knock dust off of the, the awesome action and that you provide. All right. So, so what kind of organizations did you look at, uh, doing your research?
Well, I started out, um, actually looking at health care. Because the first time that I actually helped an organization design a, an attentional system of leadership happened to be a, uh, a small rural hospital. And so that’s where I started looking was, was healthcare.
I was, it was also a place that was fairly easy to get data, um, uh. Healthcare or, uh, healthcare results and healthcare data tends to be very public. So it was pretty easy to get the data. Um, but then I morphed into looking at, uh, manufacturing organizations. Um, I looked at, uh, at education, um, and had some incredible interviews with, uh, actually two gentlemen. Uh, one was a full Colonel United States army. And the other one was a four-star general. Who, uh, went on to be a member of the, of, uh, the Clinton administration.
No. Wow. Okay. And, uh, the more I, I looked, the more I, I discovered, um, ended up actually. Um, having a conversation with, with one of the senior coaches, coaches of an NFL super bowl champion. Um, and the more I looked. The more I talked and the more I learned and. Um, so it ended up being a pretty broad spectrum of organizations.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (04:32):
Okay. So you mentioned, and, uh, you know, kind of in the lead in. I was talking. And I may have spoke a little out of turn for this particular show. When we talk about leadership it’s not a person. Uh, can you explain that? Because we typically think of our, uh, you know, we typically think of our manager or CEO see at the C-suite people as the leadership team.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that. Uh, it’s pretty standard. Um, it’s but the question that I, I began to look at. And study was how does that leadership team, how do they function?
And do they have a consistent way of practicing leadership. From the CEO all the way down to the first, uh, emerging leader, incoming, uh, emerging, uh, incoming manager on their first job, you know, management role. Right. And what I found was these really elite level organizations, they don’t treat leadership. The analogy I use is they don’t treat, uh, high performing organizations. Ttreat leadership more like a symphony, as opposed to a collection of solo acts.
That’s again, what the, what they’re really doing is saying in this organization, there’s a common way that we do leadership. There’s a common way that we exercise the power and the authority and the influence of, of leaders and managers. And by the way, if you don’t want to do it this way, let us know. And we’ll bless you as you leave. Right?
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (06:09):
Yeah. Sometimes we’re not, uh, S unfortunately, sometimes we’re not quick enough to, uh, get to that point that if. If you don’t want to get it, get in with our philosophy of management. Because, uh, you know, you get that one person, it’s like a virus, it B comes very catching and it can disrupt an entire organization, so, yep. Yep. Yep. And, you know, not, it’s a whole nother show episode. We won’t get into, but that gets back to really doing your due diligence on hiring to make sure you put the right people in the right seat to begin with. So we don’t come up with those words,
Problems. Yeah. It’s, it’s sorta like, um, a football coach that we had out here in Washington for a while. He was fond of saying our kind of guy, right. We, we wanna, we want to bring players in who are our kind of guy, and, and that, wasn’t just, um, it wasn’t just the personality traits or character of, of the player, but it was really will this guy, well, this will, this player be able to fit in and be coachable to the, to our system of how we want to play football. Right.
Right. And, and that’s what I, what I saw consistently in these organizations that, that just perform at a high level year in, year out, even across multiple generational differences of leadership, new CEO comes in and they just keep right on going. Right. Um, and, uh, really came down to, we have a system, a way that we’re going to do leadership and everybody is expected to do it this way. Right.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (07:46):
Well, and that’s the way, you know, I talk also a lot about processes and procedures, and this kind of falls into that as well as that, um, while we don’t want to lose key people in an organization for, you know, if they’re good performers and good for our team, good for the culture, we never want to lose them. But the reality is people retire go, uh, you know, start their own businesses. There’s a lot of reasons. It doesn’t always have to be negative, but if our leadership is more systematic than we don’t have a breakdown during this transition, we can usually bring in that new person and just keep moving. Is that correct?
Exactly. That, and that actually has a very good word of our leadership is systematic. Then we can coach and train every new, new elite, new leader, new manager, emerging leader into that system. Right. And, and, and, and there’s two real benefits to that one, the organization benefits, because it’s, everything is seamless.
It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s systematic. Um, but the emerging leader also benefits because now they know what they’re supposed to do. Right. Right. Uh, I had, uh, of the, I knew that I was really onto something when, um, uh, again, I was working with a small world hospital vehicle and, you know, at the end of a night, nine month long project, we had, uh, the, the, we had the, the, the basic core of a system outlined detailed. It was graphical. We had it all placed up on a wall. And the, uh, uh, the chief nurser who had been with the organization for probably 15, 20 years, um. This is exactly what she does.
She goes like this leans back on her chair. And she looks at all of this visual, um, graphics we’ve got on the wall. She says, you know. I’ve always been promoted because I was a good nurse. And then you all put this title of leader on me, and I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to do. Right. She said, and she points to the wall. And she said, that tells me what I’m supposed to do. Yeah.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (09:59):
And that’s another great point is in a, you know, I worked for, in my younger days, I worked for a very large corporation. And, you know, our system of promoting people were battlefield promotions. Either you’d been here the longest We thought you were the best technician that we had.
One of those translate into being a good, uh, you know, a good leader. So I think we have to look at that as we promote people through her ranks there, you know, there needs to be, uh, longevity is not, uh, not necessarily a trait of leadership. So speaking of that does, um, does the idea of the systematic leadership, does that negate the impact that individuals have on an organization?
No, it doesn’t really, but in fact it enhances it. I mentioned one of the people I interviewed was a retired four star general. And by any measure, this guy is a fabulous leader. I mean, he is, he’s, he’s literally led men in a combat. He knows, he knows what leadership is all about. And, um, you know, he told me a story about Norman Schwarzkopf, the Supreme commander of the first Gulf war.
Yeah. And, um, you know, and as he was telling me the story and, uh, in his relationship with, with general Schwarzkopf, what struck me was that both of these guys are, um, have enormous into, you know, leadership skills, just, just in, in them. I mean, they were, they were just sort of bred to be a leader, but when they were put into a, a system called the United States army, they F they absolutely flourished.
And that’s one of the, the attributes of a system. A system will always take the skills, talent that’s already there and leverage it. In fact, that’s why the book is called leveraging the genetics of leadership, because it will take what’s already there and leverage it. And it’s the same thing that a sports team does. Um, if, if you take the same two teams, the same, the same caliber of talent on both teams, but you take one team and put them into an, uh, an exquisitely designed system, nine times out of 10, they’re going to win the game. Right.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (12:24):
Yeah. And I’m not even gonna, I won’t mention the hometown team where, you know, we have a lot of marquee players. We have a lot of standout town and individuals, but, you know, the talk is that, that is kind of, um, what is lacking is leadership, because you can look around at other teams that have a collection of maybe they’re good.
They’re not going to say they’re average, but they’re better than average players, but because they have a great system, they can actually win. And, um, it’s kind of interesting because that, uh, was brought, I don’t want to digress into sports doc all of a sudden. I was just gonna say, well, you know, that question was brought up on a sports talk radio, uh, asked the owner of the team. He got, he obviously it struck a nerve that he hadn’t, he’s heard this before because he told the guy to shut up on the air.
So it made big news, but I think it, um, you know, I think that just goes to the point, the business is the same as sports is. It’s like, we’re trying to get a collection of individuals to all pull the wagon in the same direction.
Yep. And you know, one of the, one of the stories that actually, it’s a story that I start out with in the book is, and to your point is with my son. So my son was in the sixth grade and he decided he wanted to try out for the school basketball team. The reality was that the idea of a tryout was a bit of a stretch because he went to this little Dickie, tiny school that was so small. If they could just feel the team they’d be doing good.
Right. So, you know, essentially any boy who wanted to play basketball got to play, um, and their coach was just a, a young guy himself. He had just got out of college and he liked kids and he was doing some youth work and he needed some extra money to keep his schooling going. Um, but he, so he wasn’t an experienced coach, but he knew how to design a system of how to play the game of basketball unselfishly. Right. And, um, as much as I would love to say, the first year, this, this team won the, won their league championship, the reality is that they lost every game. Yeah.
Second year they did a little bit better, but he kept working with them and how to play the game of basketball, according to his system, which is to produce unselfish team play the third year they went undefeated. Yeah. And,
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (14:52):
Uh, you know, that’s an important part because as a hiring manager, sometimes we get into the rut of, you know, we’re of course we want to seek out good individuals, but we think that we hire one standout individual in one position is going to change the course of the company. And I think the point that you’re making is so awesome is that, you know, w we have to, even in business, we win as a team, we lose as a team. So if we’re struggling in business, it’s because we’re not all pulling the same direction and we have to develop that support. Even the standout individuals need support for the company to be successful.
Yeah. Well, I love, I love the quote by Deming when he said a bad system will beat a good person every time. Right. So the flip side of that is, well, if a bad system will beat a good person, what happens when you have a good system? Right. Right. Now you just exponentially leverage the value of good people.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (15:58):
Yeah. And it’s interesting, you bring up Deming because of the very large company corporation I worked for in my youth, uh, we actually adopted the Deming method probably around the nineties. Uh, you know, we went through a corporate break up into smaller companies. And so, you know, we, um, we used to, we operated as a huge monopoly.
We were worried about the bottom line. It wasn’t the end all be all. But when we all became smaller public companies, then all of a sudden, you know, profits came first. And so it’s an interesting if you haven’t, you know, for those who have never read them in it’s, uh, if I remember the story correctly, I think he worked for at and T or bell labs, and then they kind of rebuked him and he went to China and kind of saved a lot of the Chinese industry, uh, Japan.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. When I went to Japan, you couldn’t get anybody here in the States to listen to them. He went to Japan. Yeah.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (16:55):
And I think it’s, uh, you know, it’s just in time inventory and some basically do it right. The first time type theory, but anyway, kind of a side note, it’s a, it’s a great, um, it’s still timely. I mean, I think he did this back in the sixties and seventies, but it’s still very timely information.
So, absolutely. When we’re talking about systematic leadership. I think the other thing that I just thought of is that, um, you know, a lot of times when we start a business, we, um, you know, it’s just us, or maybe one or two people. We don’t want to get bogged down in things.
And then all of a sudden, we, you know, in five years from now, we look back and we’re, uh, or we wake up one morning and now we’ve got 25 or 30 people working for us. We’re struggling. And now it’s like, now we need to implement something. So what, what is your, uh, I guess, what is your opinion on it’s really never too early to start the systematic leadership.
Yeah, correct. Great question. Um, now in fact, uh, one of my first interviews, uh, in, in researching the book was with a young man at the time, at the time the strike took place, he was like 34 years old. He had been promoted to a leadership position within, uh, the largest of actually the large, uh, one of the largest engineering firms in the world, 19,000 employees.
So they gave him this, this promotion, and then he panicked, he got panicked because he realized now he is a leader and, and he’s leading teams, geographically dispersed. And he’s leading teams who have different skillsets and he’s leading teams who are attacking different markets. And, and, you know, as he explained to me, he said, you know, I was pretty good at managing projects, but now they put this thing of leader on me. I didn’t know I was supposed to do.
And, uh, of course, um, I said, so, you know, did the, the, the company sends you off to leadership training school for a month. And I mean, he’s an engineer, which means he gets serious about everything. Right. And his eyes got big, said, no, they didn’t give me anything.
Um, but so what he did do though, was what he did as an engineer, which was, he designed a system of leadership that was beautiful and within, um, three years, um, and he, so he was given this, he was one of 300 managing these, uh, managing this company a 19,000 people. And he was the youngest. He says, Dan, he says, I’m the youngest of these 300. The next oldest is 10 years older than I am. But the crazy thing is, they’re all asking me how to lead. Right. And so, you know, the, the, it, it’s never too soon, never too early.
Um, you know, I would tell, uh, an emerging leader, listen, um, if your company doesn’t give you some instruction of how to lead, you know, pick up my book or think about leadership as a system and how you are going to lead in a systematic way. And I would tell, uh, you know, S um, uh, someone who, um, like a one on one of my case studies is with an elementary school principal principal with 75 educational leaders that she’s responsible for.
I would tell her, and she did actually the exact same thing. Think about leadership as a system. And if you had to, if you had to design it as a system, what would that look like? And, uh, that works for the individual. It works for the emerging leader, and by the way, it works in the United States army with 2 million active reserve, um, you know, soldier. So it worked, it could work for an organization of any size.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (20:52):
Yeah. And so, uh, well, it’s interesting you bring up the school. So how does this work? If you’re in a, let’s just say you’re in a larger, we’ll just use the school as an example, you’re in a larger school district, that’s got really no policy. If you create this at your campus level, let’s say, um, do you get pushback from the higher ups are as long as they’re functioning?
Well, they really don’t care. I just, and it’s not only just the school districts, I’m thinking about, uh, you know, larger organizations that may be me as a manager. You know, my company’s not doing it. So what I do is I implement it for my team. How does that, how does that integration work?
You know, that, that’s a great question because I hear two things of two, two sides of that question. Um, one side is this person is an innovator. Um, they’re doing a great job. They’re a turnaround artist. Yeah. And they get that kind of, that reputation. The other side is, um, Hey, wait a minute. This person is making the rest of us look bad. Right. And to the point where, um, you may get actually moved out of the organization, because literally, you are making everybody else look bad. Right.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (22:09):
I would take that is if you get moved out of the organization. It’s probably not an organization that you really want to be a part of. Anyway.
Very true. Yeah. Yeah. Very, very true. So with, uh, with the example of a, of an educator, so one of the case studies I have is, is, um, of, uh, of a woman who was given her first job as a principal of an elementary school. And, uh, it was not an easy school. It was, um, um, uh, th the, the word that the trade language, it was a high percentage of free and reduced lunch students, which is a nice way of saying high, high poverty, um, low academic achievement, you know, et cetera.
And, um, when I, when I told her, I said, I wanna, I want to ask you about your approach to leadership. She literally looked at me and said, I don’t know anything about leadership. She went on. And then to, to explain the most exquisite and detailed a system of leadership, I found possibly outside the United States army.
Wow. But, uh, what she started with, uh, was, uh, uh, so finally I said, so if there are one or two words that would describe your approach to leadership, what would they be? And without a, without a beat, she said, well, this won’t be very popular, but love and grace, I’m thinking, okay. Yeah, that’s cool. That’s nice. I liked the idea that, you know, elementary school kids had a principal that loved them and she read my mind.
She said, that’s, I know what you’re thinking. And that’s not the way I’m, I’m using those words. Right. She, to me love, and grace means I can, I can have conversations with my staff that are difficult, but do it in a spirit of love and grace, right. Actually you just set up a spirit of love. Yeah. She said, and I can push people beyond what they think they’re capable of producing, but do it in a spirit of love.
Right. And, uh, and then she went on to describe how she really uses the values of love and grace to create a culture of collaboration. She wanted her staff to feel like they were valued and appreciated and loved. Right. But she really wanted her staff to collaborate together. Right. Right. So she went on and explained, like I said, an exquisite system of leadership to produce collaboration. But within an experience, total experience for her workforce of love and grace of love.
The funny thing was, she didn’t mention the word grace until the very end of the conversation. And finally I said, okay, so you haven’t meant, you’ve talked about love and collaboration. Where’s grace come in. And she does this, she pulls back the sleeve of her blouse. She has the word grace tattooed right here on her wrist. I thought, okay, this is interesting.
Right. She said, this is how we do innovation. That was like, the last question I had for her was how do you do innovation? She brought it up. And, uh, she said, um, it takes 10 years for a good idea to get out of the halls of academia into the classroom. Wow. She said, that’s too long. Yeah. But we have the lives of young people that stick that’s too much time.
Right. And so she says, I want my staff to feel like they have the Liberty and the freedom intelligently to innovate. And she said in the classroom, innovation is hard because if a teacher has spent two weeks teaching math in a way that’s innovative and it doesn’t work, that’s two weeks it’s gone. You can’t replace it. Right. That’s two weeks of two weeks of instruction that cannot be replaced. So she said sometimes our great ideas work. And other times they don’t, and that’s when we need to have the ability, I need to have the ability to still support my staff.
Right. And she said, we also need to have the ability to forgive ourselves. Right. Yeah. And, and as she does that, she says, teachers or teachers are passionate about education. And she points out to Kleenex boxes that are strategically placed around her office.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (26:33):
No, and that’s a good point. We have to be flexible if we’re ever going to try anything new. Mistakes are possibly going to be made. And we can’t, um, we can’t discourage innovation by, you know, crucifying those that try new things that fail.
I mean, anyway, we, we don’t, nobody really wants to fail, but it’s just part of the trial and error, unfortunately. So, and I think that’s interesting because, um, you know, as a young manager, uh, we didn’t think of it in terms of love, but, you know, we were a bunch of dudes out there. So we, we, uh, but it’s more, I think to that trust you build the trust because I had 12 individuals that operated as individuals, you know, they didn’t check on each other during the day, make sure everything was going good.
But once they begin to trust you and work as a team, worry about each other, you know, then we began to be successful together. So I think that’s awesome advice for anybody. So, uh, Oh, go ahead. I’m sorry.
Well, this, this teacher, uh, she did something that, um, could have been very, very dangerous. Um, so one, uh, one of the, one of the truisms about a system is it systems operate on rules and routines. She initiated a new routine that could have been dangerous.
Um, uh, most teachers in the country, um, they have to go through some kind of an annual evaluation observation, and it’s a pretty stressful time for anybody. Um, but she C she said, uh, she concluded that, that wasn’t going to be, that’s not, wasn’t good enough to enhance a value and an experience of collaboration.
So she installed something called peer review, and she said, you know, that could have gotten me in trouble with the union. In fact, the union could have come down. I could’ve could’ve come in and shut it down in a heartbeat. But she said they didn’t because we had developed this culture of trust of collaboration, of, of love and grace. And she said, um, the, the, the, the, my staff and the union, we had developed enough of a relationship that they trusted me, that I wasn’t going to use it against them.
Right. And it was all about collaboration and, and improving the performance in the classroom. And she said, because of that, nobody kicked back to her at all. Yeah.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (29:04):
You know, and that’s another thing, uh, the metrics that we use to measure employees, they should be, uh, we should use them for good and development into better the process, not as a giant stick, to beat people with. And unfortunately, sometimes it’s like, you know, we develop good metrics. We then use it as a tool to beat people up with, and then they find a way to skirt the system. So then our metrics are basically worthless for this anyway.
Well, you know, that’s, that’s a great observation. Uh, one of the things that I learned that was, it was Rudy startling. I mean, it was, it was a real aha moment as I was doing this research was these organizations that perform again consistently at a very high level. I think they put more emphasis on measurement of the individual leader and actually tie, um, they, they ma they measure the leader against what’s really important, which most of the time is the engagement level of their staff. Yeah.
And so, um, uh, one of my case studies is actually a hospital down in your neck of the woods in Abilene. And another one was in Mississippi. Um, and I saw various versions of the same thing where they actually measure individual managers against the levels of engagement of their staff and their, and their specific targets. If they are within a range, then that’s good.
Yeah. If they fall, would fall below that range, they would bring in a coach or a mentor to work with that manager on an individual basis of helping them to achieve essentially a better relationship with their staff and to, and to capture more of that engagement, that psychological and emotional commitment from their staff.
Yeah. And if they fell below a certain threshold, either some kind of, uh, uh, of an organizational review was triggered, or they would just say, okay, we’re gonna, we’re gonna put you into a different role. And most of the time they, that person had, would take themselves out of that leadership role because they realized they just weren’t, they were, they just weren’t made for it. Right.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (31:21):
Yeah. And there’s no shame in that. I think that’s the other thing is, uh, you know, people look at that as a personal failure and it’s really not. I mean, if you’re a good at riding, if you’re good at math, if you’re good at teaching, that doesn’t always mean that you’re going to be able to be, you know, a manager, a principal, a supervisor, whatever the leadership position is.
So we need to focus on our talents and really expand. Now, not that we probably can’t study on our own or, uh, OBS observe other people to become a good leader, but sometimes it’s not, they’re natural leaders and some of us, we, you know, we have to work really hard at
It. Yup. Yup. So, are there
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (32:03):
Any other differences in, uh, the organizations that you see that operate under the designed leadership system? Are there any, um, any things that re other things that really stand out and do you have some examples?
Yeah, actually there’s, um, you know, sorta to explain that whole concept and, you know, fully, it’s probably a two day workshop, so I’ll try to do it in a couple of minutes. Um, but there’s, there’s two things that are just sort of the big ahas. Um, one I already made reference to it.
One is, is that these really high performing organizations, they intentionally design, um, or identify and experience for the workforce. And they, yeah. Coach teach, train every leader in every manager, how to produce that system or how to produce that experience. And it was, it was it’s different for every organization, but I found organizations that essentially said, uh, we want our workforce to have an experience of respect and everything, how they operate.
And this was another healthcare organization, how they delivered care to their patients, how they interacted with their workforce, um, how they structured and manage the workflows was all based on that core value and experience of respect.
So if you’re working for that organization, you could walk into that organization and know that your voice would be, would be valued, would be respected. It, um, you know, it, if you were, uh, a medical assistant, just coming out of school, that you would be respected that even the chief medical officer would treat you respectfully.
Um, I found, um, another organization, um, that was driven off of value of relationship happened to be a native American, um, healthcare organization in Alaska. They chose relationship because culturally it is, it is ingrained in their culture, um, the value of relationship. Um, but the other thing that really struck me was these organizations, once they identify this overarching value experience for the workforce and start driving everything off of that, some place in there, they become just fanatics about value.
And it really starts with, again, it’s the way the approach people, um, yeah, as, as, as you probably have seen most organizations look at people as an asset that has to be managed, which is a nice way of saying control.
Yes. Um, these organizations that have designed systems of leadership, um, and that are performing at a really high level. They see people not as an asset to be managed, but as a resource to be developed. And what really struck me was zero or their emphasis on developing the whole person, not just the technical skills, right.
They actually wanted to see their people become stronger, more self confident, more empowered at a personal level, as much as within the organization, because they realize that a person, a human being, nothing has unimaginable creativity and innovation just in there and a, and a walks in their door every morning at eight o’clock. And it doesn’t cost the organization a penny more. And so by understanding that their people represent a resource that can be developed, what they do, they end up creating better human beings and the value of that creative process, where does it go?
It gets passed on to their customer. Right. Right. And, and, uh, actually when I saw that, um, I had been trading emails with a woman by the name of Dr. Barbara Kellerman at Harvard university. When I saw this in this one healthcare organization, I was so blown away by it that I thought she’s going to understand what I’m seeing.
So I made an appointment to talk with her on the phone and, and pleasantly, she agreed immediately. And so I told her what I had seen, and she says, I know exactly what you’re talking about. Um, and she said, you need to read, you know, five of these books, all of which were terrific, but aren’t actually what her counsel actually helped me structure the second section of the whole book. Um, so let me give you, let me give you one example.
Um, so one of the case studies is with a small manufacturing company. Um, the name of it is as cast tailored, they design, um, uh, design and a manufacturer custom, uh, commercial furniture. And if you want to do business with them, uh, you need to get in line because they’re as picky about their customers as they are about their furniture. Oh, wow. Nice. And they literally can’t pick and choose the customers that they want because they deliver so much value.
Right. Uh, in the, in the, in the relationship that customers are, they are literally waiting in line to do business with them. Wow. Nice problem. To have nice problem to have. And, uh, uh, I was, I had a tour and then I had a couple of interviews with, um, and during the tour at the end of the tour, I said, so is there any overriding philosophy principle way you approach leadership and a guy named Todd who was the production manager stands up, walks over towards me.
He was kind of a big tall guy. I’m sitting down in this chair and he looks down at me. He says, we practice servant leadership. And you know, his body language was stunning. Um, but what they do, they use servant leadership as a way as the methodology for engaging every member of their workforce to find and eliminate waste and their, and their workflows and work processes.
Right. But, um, the, one of the things that was so fascinating to me was how they look at their people. They see their people 200 employees as the front line, essentially the, the frontline warriors in the battle for waste. And they coach train and mentor every one of their, every member of their workforce, not only to identify waste, but when they do see an opportunity to improve a system, to improve a work process, how to actually see an implement the solution.
So, um, you know, in a manufacturing or in almost any environment, there are certain titles that we use, you know, so-and-so is my boss, they’re my manager, they’re my production lead. They’re my CEO. They’re whatever. In this organization, they’ve dropped all of those titles and they use the word mentor.
So if I’m working for you, if you are my supervisor, I don’t refer to you as my supervisor, nor do you think of yourself as my supervisor. I think of you as my mentor, and you think of yourself as my mentor. So you’re mentoring me how to, if I see an opportunity to extract, you know, extract a waste out of the system, right? Your job is to mentor me in how to actually take us, find a solution and implement it. Your job is not to do it for me, but it’s to coach me and mentor me through the product process, by the way.
Um, if, if I see a, an opportunity to improve something in my house, they’ll coach me in how to, how to do a Kaizen, which is the Japanese term for, you know, improvement. Zell coached me how to do it in my own home. And by the way, I will get paid time off if I do a Kaizen in my house.
Oh, wow. Or on the company. Interesting. So I heard one funny story is one guy, uh, he had been with the company for awhile and, and he was, uh, you know, he’s probably mid thirties tells me this funny story of, uh, you know, he, he thought he was going to do his very pregnant wife, a favor by reorganizing their, her kitchen pantry. And, um, so he went to his mentor and said, here’s my Kaizen. Here’s what I’m going to do.
And his mentor coached him through the process of how to do that, according to how they wanted Kaizen to be implemented. So he did that and he got his paid time off. Unfortunately is very regular
Speaker 3 (41:02):
Wife. Wasn’t so thrilled. He reorganized her kitchen pantry. Now, since I haven’t asked him, whatever thing is probably,
But, you know, but the point is they want Kaizen to be so inbred into how they function, that they, they want it to be second nature. I heard a story of, of how one of their leaders had a sailboat, did a Kaizen on reorganizing their sailboat and still got credit. It wow.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (41:35):
Mindset though, because it, it really does need to be, um, uh, life outlook, whether it’s your business, personal life. And, you know, we learn things in our personal life that translate well to business as well. So if we figured out how to solve this problem here, we can take that to work and solve problems. I love that.
That’s, that’s great. And, you know, mentors, that’s one thing that I always recommend, uh, you know, in that new hire process is, you know, we hire a person and just kind of dump them out there. So, um, you know, the, actually the idea of having a lifelong or company employment long mentor in the company that’s yeah. That’s great thinking that’s very forward.
Yeah. I, I thought it was, it was brilliant. I was in the tour, there was a woman who hadn’t been in the company very long. She was explaining how she was cutting, um, you know, big, big pieces of foam core material into smaller pieces for parts, for furniture.
Yeah. And, uh, she had identified, um, a way of getting five parts where they had been getting four parts out of the same amount of core material. Wow. So, you know, she’s describing this story. She says, I went to my mentor and, and my mentor walked me through the process. And my mentor said this, and I’m thinking who in the heck was her mentor, but there was this little lady standing next to her right next to her who was very quiet. Didn’t hadn’t said a word. And finally, so, you know, out of like, you know, exasperations or something, I said, so is this lady, your boss?
She, she looked at me like I was from outer space and she says, we just call them mentors. That’s great. But it’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a great word that describes the relationship right. Between, you know, the various hierarchies within the organization. Yeah.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (43:36):
That’s awesome. It’s a great story, Dan. We appreciate you taking time out of your day to be with us before I let you go. A couple of closing questions though. Uh, first off, what is a tool in your, um, either in your business life or personal life, a tool, a ritual, a habit that you just can’t do without, uh, every day.
Oh boy. Uh, great question. Well, I could say my computer, um,
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (44:07):
With all these virtual meetings nowadays, right. We couldn’t make it with yeah,
Yeah, yeah. But you know, if there was one thing I don’t always do it, but, um, when I do do it, my day always goes better and that’s always having a quiet time in the morning of reflection. Um, uh, when I do that, you know, and every, every bone in my body is saying, Dan, get gone, it’s time to get going, get work, you know, turn on your computer, you know, start reading your email.
But when I do that, it’s amazing. Um, how much more work I get done? Um, I’m 10 times calmer throughout the day and, uh, the day always just seems to be more productive. Yeah,
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (44:55):
That’s great. Yeah. And, uh, you know, I hear that more and more in these trying times is practicing gratitude and reflection and just being thankful, you know, of course the big things are health and all that, but we can also, uh, kind of relish in those small victories that we have every day. So, yeah, I think that’s great. Well, so, um, if somebody wants to pick up a copy of your book or reach out and chat with you more, uh, tell everybody how they can best do that.
Well, the best way is through my website, Daniel EDS, eds.com. Um, the, um, the, the hard carpet cover of the book is a available through my website. Uh, it will be available. The electronic version will be available on Amazon within probably the next three or four days. Um, and it will also be available on apples and Apple books and Barnes and noble and, um, all of the other, uh, bookstores, uh, as well, the electronic version, and eventually the hardcover book will be with on Amazon, everybody else as well.
Okay. Awesome. And, and, and I’m very Frank, uh, if, if any of your listeners would like to call me and just say, Hey, I heard what you’re talking about. It’s an interesting idea and want to just chat about it. Um, my number’s on the website. Uh, they could send me an email and would relish that opportunity now. Right.
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (46:16):
Well, again, thanks so much for taking time out of your day to day and appreciate all the listeners as well. Uh, this is Roy with the business of business podcast. You can always find firstname.lastname@example.org. We are still on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google play, uh, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we’re all over the place.
So get out there, check us out and, uh, be sure and share this episode with other people and other organizations. I think this is definitely a message that everybody needs to hear, uh, going through these times, especially now is really good time to take some internal looks and let’s come out with better systematic leadership, uh, processes on the other side of this.
So, all right. All
Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (47:04):
Right. Thanks a lot. See you next time, Dan.