Proven Insights that Drive Innovation A classic definition of a leader is one who has a vision and

communicates it in a way that inspires others to achieve it By Stefan Werdegar and Bernie O’Donnell

By Stefan Werdegar Manager of Professional Development, HIMSS

spots” and how to compensate for them. This increases their ability to innovate and contribute. Hidden strengths may be identified and capitalized on while weak- nesses may be complemented by using the strengths of others.

By Bernie O’Donnell Lead consultant and CEO, Performisys LLC


rganizations that successfully drive innovation consistently incorporate three tenets into their strategy and execution. These tenets form the founda- tion for creating the high-caliber work culture necessary for innovation to thrive. Even successful organizations typically have a blind spot as to their potential to improve.

The right people in the right places A major derailer of industry-leading per- formance is not having the right people in the right “seats on the bus,” focused on the right initiatives, at the right time, with the right resources. Getting the people right means starting by attracting, identi- fying and selecting those candidates who best match the organizational culture. It’s more than skills and personality! Over- looked attributes when hiring/coaching often include decision-making style, per- sonal motivations, values, interests and personality derailers/blind spots. They also involve ensuring that you asses indi- viduals against key competencies. We, uniquely, sort competencies into

three groups: expertise, traits and char- acter. By using diagnostic assessments, organizations gain insight into the traits and character of their job applicants as well as into those of their current leaders and team members. Insightful leaders are then better able to coach and develop their people. One critical aspect is helping indi- viduals understand their personal “blind

Armed with deeper understanding of their teams, leaders may better determine who to assign to what project and how to form teams that will drive innovation and execute change initiatives. Essential to this data-driven approach is the creation of a performance model based on the characteristics of top performers. Note, it is critical that “fit to the model” be cor- related to job performance. This correla- tion validates the model’s effectiveness. Armed with this insight, leaders and top performers may better understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses; and, openly work together to build a cohesive environment of high trust. Months, even years, of learning how to work with team- mates can be eliminated.

Closing the people performance gap Jim Collins’ classic book Good to Great states that once you feel the need to man- age someone, you know you’ve made a hiring mistake. That implies we shouldn’t have to manage people. Gee! But, we know there is a noticeable performance gap between those we must manage and those we don’t. It’s virtually true across industries that one-third of the people drive two-thirds of the performance results. Organizations that create a high- performance culture are adept at sizing and closing this gap. They focus on the top one-third for performance and work to place the bottom one-third in better- suited positions. Less effective organiza- tions spend hours of management time and training dollars trying to improve that bottom one-third, but with only occa- sional, minimal success. Even worse, these organizations restrict the contributions of the top one-third by forcing them to adhere to processes, poli- cies and practices that were designed to “manage” the bottom one-third. A more effective approach is to give your top peo- ple the freedom to perform. This requires trust but that trust develops quickly among top performers whose selection and development were guided by proven performance models. And, properly


engineered performance models allow for all of the strengths of diversity—just not diversity where you need unity, such as in your values. If customer/patient service is important then we don’t want people who don’t care about others or their prob- lems. Value mismatches hurt everyone!

Building a high-performance leadership model No organization can effectively drive innovation or optimize performance without a well-defined leadership phi- losophy and approach—one that is exem- plified, communicated, and enforced by the entire leadership team.

This is the

foundation of the company’s culture and is most efficiently created when built on a proven model that is easily customized to leadership’s desired purpose, values, etc. Exceptional leaders do things that the others don’t. A classic definition of a leader is one who has a vision and com- municates it in a way that inspires others to achieve it. To that foundation of 1) vision/inspiration and 2) communica- tion, we add 3) timely, accurate decision making, 4) proper management of the organization’s resources, and 5) effective staffing and organizational development. Aptly named the 5 Focus Factors, we find that leaders generally do all five, but rarely excel in all.

Our challenge to you is to focus on

improving each one of these factors across your leadership team. Get every- one behind it by promoting a vision of the positive impact it will have. Once started, momentum will build to tackle additional factors. It will take on a life of its own. HI

Stefan Werdegar is manager of professional development at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). He is also founder and president of Career Sharma, an Austin-based consulting practice, providing executive coaching for individuals and leadership team development and talent management for organizations. He can be reached at or 214-704-9957.

Bernie O’Donnell is lead consultant and CEO of Performisys LLC, a Dallas-based consul- tancy that focuses on igniting uncommon performance through the right strategies effectively executed by the right people. He can be reached at or 214-484-2010.

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