Over the last few weeks, I’ve been publishing a series dedicated to an article in the Harvard Business Review on the four behaviors of outstanding CEOs: 1) Deciding with speed and conviction; 2) Engaging for impact; 3) Adapting proactively and 4) Delivering reliably.
After reading the article and speaking with some of Pittsburgh’s best and brightest CEOs about great leadership, it is my firm belief that becoming an outstanding CEO doesn’t happen by luck, but rather by choice. It’s the choice to take risks, dedicate yourself to what you do, allow yourself to be passionate about your work and the people you lead and, ultimately, make an ironclad commitment to behaving like a great leader. In this fourth and final installment of the blog series, two of my peers at a recent Vistage meeting and I reflect on Behavior 4: Delivering Reliably. Insights are shared by Loriann Putzier and Dave Meyers.
Q: Loriann, let’s wrap up our discussion about the Harvard Business Review article on the four traits of great CEOs. Probably the most easily understood of the four traits is delivering reliably. Now, it’s easy to understand what that means, but in practice, it’s harder. Within your business, you often tell me that in your industry (senior and assisted living), you and your team face the challenges of high staff turnover. Tell us about how you can deliver reliably in a difficult industry, one that faces unique challenges.
A: I believe it’s several factors. Number one, delivering reliably necessitates having information from the person on the frontline, so that when you’re devising tools, systems, processes, the service experience, you’re doing it from a point of reality verses from the top down, where maybe you have a huge blind spot. That’s number one. Number two is practice, practice, practice. Early in my career, what I found most frustrating was that we would create a great tool system and process, roll it out, roll it out well, and then at three, or four months down the road, we’d see that it was already falling off.
What I have learned is that if it’s meaningful, it’s yours forever. As a leader, you have to have a meaningful routine – one that has a touch point with all those tool systems and processes, and that provides feedback up and down, to keep them meaningful, then to keep them in place, and have them become a productive part of the organization. It is not about simply moving on to the next program, but rather about incorporating your routine for the programs that are in place and then moving on to the next program.
Q: Dave, you’ve been sharing your insights to the Harvard Business Review article on the behaviors of outstanding CEOs. The fourth behavior is the ability to deliver reliably. That’s basically the premise your company is built on, so tell me about your thoughts on delivering reliably.
A: Absolutely. I learned this from Steve Jobs. When he had these meetings where he would introduce new products, he always ended his session by saying “And it’s available, today.” He never said, “It’s something that we’re working on and next year you’re going to see this.” No, it was “It’s available, now.” His deliverability was unparalleled and without peer. I was not used to hearing businesses say and deliver on what he said and did.
I’m not reliable, at all. My personality is the exact opposite of that; I was late for this meeting! I have a team that believes in what we’re doing, passionately, and they’re engineers, they’re customer support people who are really good at their jobs and they’re very reliable. They tease me and they make up for my shortcomings. Fortunately, I’ve been able to create a culture in our company where reliability is critical, even though the leader doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing.
Q: Like Steve Jobs, you’re a vision guy. You’re also passionate about the culture at your company, and you care about your employees and a lot of things in the community. So thank you for joining this discussion, being a part of Vistage, and sharing your thoughts.
A: Absolutely, Dave. With Vistage, it’s cool to see that I’m part of a community that’s all pulling in the same direction. Ultimately, we’re all trying to grow businesses to help the world.
That about wraps it up, folks. Join me for more NoBS insights, and keep an ear out for an upcoming podcast series on great mentors and leaders in my own life – from those who taught me how to dress the part (we’re talking first suit shopping here), to those who believed in me, took chances on me, and gave me my first professional break. More to come.