Measure and Improve Your Leadership Work System

Do You Measure and Improve Your Leadership Work System?

Effective leadership skills come naturally to some people (they are born with these skills). However, many more people with leadership responsibilities exist versus the number of people who were born with these skills. Additionally, few people train to be effective leaders as part of their formal education. If you consider these facts as a set, you may recognize the need to measure and improve your leadership work system over time.

Whether we want to admit it or not, most leaders lead like parents. This is the leadership model we demonstrate the most often. Also, it is the one that we are most familiar with. Unfortunately, a parental leadership approach will not lead to sustainable, high performance results. It is a harsh reality that we are hesitant to admit. We have a high percentage of ineffective leaders in our organizations. We pay these people significant amounts of money in many cases to be ineffective. Our leadership work systems are to blame.

EXPLORE MORE: How Does Your Work Team Structure Drive Operational Excellence?

Do You Want to Achieve Higher Levels of Leadership Effectiveness?

If you want better leadership results, you have to change your leadership work system. Fortunately, there are a few organizations out there who know this. They design their leadership work system to produce the results they desire. This work system helps leaders communicate a consistent mission and vision across the organization. It helps each of their leaders develop key skills over time. You cannot improve leadership effectiveness by simply sending your leaders to workshops or asking them to change.

Change the design of the in-place leadership work system if you want better results. What percentage of your work team leaders are effective leaders? How do you know? Does your leadership work system need improvement?

LEARN MORE: Buy my “Facilitating and Leading Teams” workshop workbook on!

If you would like more information about the leadership system improvement tools I have to offer, please send me an e-mail at

DISCOVER MORE: Measuring Leadership Behavior Effectiveness

How value added are your leaders?

For years, we have used tools and concepts such as lean thinking and six sigma to take the waste out of our front-line work systems. However, we neglect to use these tools on perhaps the most important, and costly, system in our organizations – the leadership work system. Think about it. How much does your organization pay out in leadership wages and benefits each day? Do you get value from what EACH of your directors, managers, and supervisors costs? If your leaders stopped spending time on what they spend time on each day, would your customers notice?

High performance organizations, such as those that pursue the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, make an effort to get high amounts of value from each of their leaders. They measure leadership effectiveness on a regular basis, at all levels of the business. Also, it is an expectation that each leader develops over time. They consistently evaluate the effectiveness of the various types of communication that leaders have with their people, both in meetings and on the job.

Most organizations do not consistently evaluate their leaders, beyond the use of the traditional job description and annual performance appraisal. They may use a 360-degree feedback tool on occasion. However, few companies link the use of this tool to their leadership development process (if a formally defined process exists). Why do we not search for (demand more) measurable leadership performance? Why are we content to assume that the monthly departmental numbers each leader is responsible for gives us enough feedback to determine if a leader actually does their job or not?

EXPLORE MORE: Process Improvement Strategies

Are your leaders ‘lost’?

Do your leaders send a consistent message about performance expectations on the job each day? Do they behave in a manner that is consistent with the organizational culture you desire? Is their daily time spent on activities that benefit the company the most? If not, you probably have some lost leaders. In other words, they have lost their way relative to the mission, vision, and values of the organization. Their daily behaviors are largely inconsistent with the organizational roadmap that exists.

We would like to think that the strategic plan we give out each year provides enough direction to make sure that each leader knows where we want to go. We hope that the monthly meetings we hold tell everyone where we are going and why. Unfortunately, the daily behavior of each leader on the job almost always overrides the contents of a plan or the message leaders state in a meeting. When leaders act lost, the hypocrisy is obvious. This hypocrisy affects personal performance contributions at all levels in the organization.

Most organizations do not have a formal approach to measure and improve daily leadership job performance. Many leaders act one way when their boss is around. Then, they act totally different when they think no one above them is watching. The resultant impact on team morale, focus, and performance is devastating. Lost leaders can do a lot of damage to an organization in a short amount of time.

What kind of direction do your leaders give to their people each day, both intentional and unintentional?

LEARN MORE: Do You Have Great Work Systems?

Would you benefit from a more effective approach to leadership?

Over the years, I have learned that the work team line leader is the key leverage point for making any improvement effort work. These people help execute the organization’s plans every day. Unfortunately, on too many occasions I see how most businesses, schools, and hospitals tend to discount, if not completely ignore, the effectiveness of these people. Rarely do they participate in planning efforts, development activities, or good performance feedback processes. We fail to include those who really make the most difference, good or bad!

How do we solve this problem? How do we make sure that all of our work leaders act and perform in a manner that is consistent with what we want to be and where we want to go? The answers are simple. However, they involve letting go of some deeply entrenched belief systems. Beliefs drive personal behavior on the job. In turn, they also affect plan execution and systems design.

DISCOVER MORE: Ten Ways To Change Work Culture

How consistently do your leaders lead?

What is the greatest failure of most organizations, outside of neglecting work team leaders in general? It lies in our failure to ensure that desired high performance behaviors are practiced consistently and that key skills exist, or are being developed, as time goes by. For example, how many of your leaders continue to improve their computer skills to keep pace with technology shifts?

How do you ensure that each leader maintains a consistent focus on the needs of both your internal and external customers? Also, how do you make sure that each person you pay to be a leader consistently treats each of their people with respect and dignity? Do your leaders work to build stronger personal relationships with those people they depend on to get the job done each day?

If you are interested in the leadership systems and improvement tools that I have to offer, send me an e-mail at

EXPLORE MORE: Work Team Leader Coaching Options

How can we monitor the performance of supervision to help ensure they effectively support the leadership work system?

As with any type of supervision or process ownership, use a balanced set of metrics and reports to track leadership behavior and task effectiveness. For example, you could conduct a ‘bottom up’ Leadership Index  for each work team leader by his direct reports at least once a year as a behavior effectiveness metric. Also, hold each work team leader responsible for the safety, cost, quality, and people metrics that his or her processes produce over time (in the form of trend lines and a balanced scorecard).

The impact of work system changes and team development activities should be evident in the process trends. A key mistake most organizations make occurs when we expect an external department, such as Safety, Quality, Engineering, or Human Resources, to manage the process results in these areas across multiple process groups.

How can we monitor daily work team leader performance?

As a plant manager, I expect each of my process owners (and myself) to provide four things each month. First, each process owns keeps a key project list for their processes. Second, they list a monthly summary of their key accomplishments and challenges. The third item is a performance summary spreadsheet that shows DAILY process inputs and outputs. I expected my supervisors to spend 30-60 minutes a day on these items. Since they use a spreadsheet to compile and organize them, I can review their progress at any time. I simply look at the spreadsheet itself, the results trend lines posted in their process areas, and/or their hard copy monthly report (or intranet web page). My “Personal Kaizen Operational Excellence” certificate process is specifically designed to help you install a similar process for your work team leaders in your organization.

LEARN MORE: Facilitating and Leading Teams Workbook

How can Great Systems help you improve your leadership work system?

For over 40 years, I have helped design leadership systems in a variety of organization types, both small and large. These experiences help me discover value added, simple ways to set up systems to measure leadership effectiveness. They also help me link the results of this regular measurement to a formal leadership development process and make sure that all leadership communications are both coordinated and value added. Lost leadership is the primary power restrictor for this power system. These tools help you eliminate that barrier. Also, they help you move more rapidly forward towards higher levels of performance.

DISCOVER MORE: Measuring Leadership Behavior Effectiveness

Do you have leadership work system questions?

If you have interest in the leadership work system designs and improvement tools that I offer, send me an e-mail at Better yet, let me help you further improve your leadership work system via these avenues:

Pursuing Process Excellence workshop – If you want to accelerate your organization’s pursuit of process excellence, this workshop is for you. The design of this one-day workshop helps each participant (all leaders) identify the key constraints that hold them back in their pursuit of process excellence. Participants also define the key processes they personally own and the waste streams that these processes contain. Finally, participants define the measures and actions that will drive future process waste reduction and increases in customer value.

Stop Management Madness workshop – In this workshop, you learn how to measure meeting and e-mail communication effectiveness and costs in the same manner that we analyze the performance of front line work processes. You also learn how to define typical meeting defects and rework, and how to make process improvements to reduce meeting waste. Examples of systems you can use to increase meeting process owner accountability, alignment, and leadership skills will be also be shared. Finally, you learn how to significantly reduce e-mail waste and improve overall communication effectiveness.

How to Improve Your Leadership Work System workshop – The design of this one-day workshop helps accomplish three goals. First, we define and evaluate your existing leadership work system. Then, we explore best practice approaches to leadership work system design. Finally, we make key choices about how to improve your leadership work system to produce better results.

Keep improving!

Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer, Great Systems

Please email me your questions at

LIKE Great Systems on Facebook

CONNECT with me on LinkedIn

CHECK OUT my Author Page

FOLLOW me on Twitter: @greatsystems