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As a leader have you heard colleagues say, “We probably are not going to be able to do some of these things because it’s going to take a long time and we’ve got so many other things that we are required to do” or “You want us to do one more thing”? I certainly heard this as an academic leader, from colleagues as well as from students in my classes. This thinking was a challenge for me as a leader, and is potentially a challenge for leaders at all levels and in all organizations:

How do we help colleagues in our organization (or department) understand that when we do certain things, we not only take less time from other processes, but we provide better service (e.g., care, learning environment, etc.)?

How do we sustain morale, employee engagement, low turnover, productivity, and service (e.g., student learning, patient care) while implementing change (e.g., reduce costs, collaborate across departments, integrate new systems) and without imploding our organization?

1. Determine where your organization/school/department is ahead of the curve.

What do you do well?

What behaviors make your high-achievers high-achieving, that is, what do they do well?

Capture your responses to these two questions, include your leadership team in the response process, so that you and your team identify what you have done well and do well – wins. Communicate these wins to your colleagues through reward and recognition. Communicate these wins in a specific way that connects with both internal and external constituents.

2. Create consistency and reliability in processes to standardize the way your organization/school/department does something in an attempt to build efficiency and effectiveness.

What processes are in place (i.e., what needs to be completed) in order to meet an outcome/goal?

Identify metrics used to measure or asses processes. How are processes aligned to performance?

Are there existing or potential accelerators to consider?

When thinking about these three questions the challenge is not understanding the standardization process, it is making sure that we do it. It is not understanding what needs to be done, it is how to manage the process to get it done. For example, we identify what needs to be done is improve student achievement; what helps us get there? This begins a shift in our thinking and communicating about process (systems) to behavior (human performance).

3. Shift communication to the solution, to how we get to the goal.

Explain the research outcomes (i.e., these teaching actions have proven results at improving student achievement) and then talk about the behaviors, the actions, the Must Haves® to achieve the desired goals.

Our goal as leaders is to work with colleagues to identify the mandatory behavior that needs to be followed in order to accelerate results, to be more efficient and more effective, and to get better desired outcomes. As leaders we help colleagues with these behaviors when we model rounding, coaching, and reward and recognition behaviors/actions, and when we talk with them about their individual professional development.

4. Build the foundation for sustaining process and behavioral change with an objective, weighted performance measurement system.

Identify priorities for each individual.

Determine the objective metric(s) for how each priority is measured.

Provide a weight to each priority.

Tie performance conversations with values. As leaders this means we tell high-performing colleagues why we want to keep them, and we develop high and solid performers. We also have conversations with low performers. This step helps leaders deal with the performance gap and helps leaders get the evaluation process right.

These four tactics represent leaders’ action and execution of their commitment to excellence. The end result is the limiting of “this is one more priority” and “there are not enough hours in the day” thinking that we read about at the beginning of this post and the movement of the organization and its employees toward a culture of excellence.

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This post represents the author’s reflection about content on an internal company video by Quint Studer, the Founder of Studer Group; post content is adapted from the video. Books available on the content include:

Studer, Quint. 2003. Hardwiring Excellence. Gulf Breeze, FL: Fire Starter Publishing.

Studer, Quint. 2008. Results that Last. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Studer, Quint. 2009. Straight A Leadership. Gulf Breeze, FL: Fire Starter Publishing.

Pilcher, Janet, and Largue, Robin. 2010. How to Lead Teachers to Become Great. Gulf Breeze, FL: Fire Starter Publishing.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the fifth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.