Moses, Lean Six Sigma, and The Importance of Trust and Leadership
OK, a catchy title but what does this article have to do with Moses? Stay with us until the end. There is a point to all of this.
Engaged employees, according to qualitative surveys and studies (Glint, Gallup, etc.), need to have trust in leadership-that is a given- but both trust and leadership are also separate qualities that must be considered separately for an organization to thrive. For instance, when it comes to organizational efficiency and effectiveness, for an organization that embraces the principles of Lean Six Sigma (LSS), the leadership of the organization must also embrace and buy into the philosophy of LSS. Otherwise, the efforts are futile if not supported by executive leadership and are destined to fail.
Leadership must also “Walk the Talk” or say what you do but do what you say as well, without exception or favoritism. For instance, in collections, pro-consumer attorneys may make the argument that a collections agency incentivizes employees with a commission structure that promotes and rewards bad behavior by breaking the law to recover the most money which rewards the employee (who is on a commission bonus plan), the agency, and the client. Therefore, it is important to have audits and a system of checks and balances for compliance with the law that can be proven to counter that assertion in a court of law.
Laws and regulations also require trust. Take, for example, a HIPAA breach, that requires self-reporting by a “Covered Entity” medical provider and its Business Associate (BA) vendor to report a breach of “Protected Health Information”, PHI, within a certain amount of time when it knows that a breach of information occurred. The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, (HIPAA), requires that all Business Associate Agreements (BAAs), which have a contract between a “Covered Entity” and itself, being a vendor, (“Business Associate”), contain language that any breach of PHI be reported to the CE within a certain amount of time and be “cured” or it can result in contract termination. Any breach also carries certain responsibilities under HIPAA depending on the size, and scope of the exposure. Egregious breaches can even result in enormous fines and even criminal liability. But again, this requires the agency (BA) or the provider (CE) to proactively, self-report, the breach on its own. This is where trust and leadership meet at the highest level of integrity to “do the right thing” no matter the consequences.
Trust and the requirement of self-reporting something that could be so detrimental to an organization’s financial viability seems to be counter-intuitive to human nature and the concept of self-preservation because as we know, when it comes to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one’s security and safety are important at the lowest levels of the pyramid and that requires a paycheck. When companies fail, the safety and security of their employees fail until their employment is replaced.
We all have opinions, whether we express them publicly or not, and our personal level of self-righteousness affects others and the companies we work for. In some situations, we may express those opinions and in other situations, we may not feel comfortable expressing them. An organization built on trust allows for safety in exchange for honest feedback, right or wrong, instead of having leadership rely on an army of “yes” men which precludes honest feedback and the ability for leadership to make informed decisions. Organizations with self-righteous leaders will soon find themselves working in an organization with a lack of trust amongst its employees whether it pretends to solicit honest feedback or not.
Humble leaders, with a servant-leadership mentality, that encourage and solicit honest feedback with no negative consequences, will make better-informed decisions in the regular, everyday, business world. This is not the case in other environments, like in law enforcement or on the battlefield, where leadership must make good and timely (sometimes instantaneous) command decisions that are sometimes “life or death” decisions or are governed by political forces with little regard to the frontline staff’s opinions and observations. That can readily be observed today all over the world.
When we lead by example and with conviction, we are not afraid to speak about it because we believe so strongly in it and are willing to engage in debate about it to persuade others to defend their positions. Standing by our conviction through healthy communication we can engage others and build strong, healthy, and trusting relationships with others in the organization and even outside of it. This builds a strong culture of high-performing teams, client-partner relationships, and organizational strength and profitability.
At the same time, we must be humble enough to listen to others challenge our convictions, speak their minds and be mature enough to consider whether we may be wrong or at least take into consideration what they are saying to see if it alters our belief and conviction in any way. When you lead by conviction and your conviction is right, you will engage others around you and inspire them. For a great example, one needs to look no farther than Exodus, the Second Book of the Law of Moses, where Moses gained the trust and led the Israelites out of bondage, or slavery in Egypt.
Moses did a whole lot with very little. He listened to others and kept an open mind but was efficient, effective, valuable, and right. Is that not Lean Six Sigma? He took chances where others may not have or doubted him. He was honest even when the news was not so good. He faced adversity and challenge (even death) but was ultimately successful. He was a humble servant leader. He helped end the period of oppression for the descendants of Abraham and fulfilled the covenant promise that they would multiple, thrive, and live in the Promised Land and become a great nation.