Measuring the System of Leadership

Someone famously said, “what gets measured gets done.” If this is true, then every organization should have a process for measuring its system of leadership. Since leaders are primarily responsible for the employee experience, this should be a significant opportunity for analysis.

In a well-written article published by Deloitte Insights (June 20, 2019) by the same title, the authors outline the value of measuring the human experience, just as we might measure the experience of the customer. The authors quote four Deloitte leaders: “It would be wonderful if we could have a common framework that applies across customers, partners, and workforce…this could drive an enterprise’s competitive advantage.”

The System of Leadership Creates the Employee Experience

My research into organizations that achieve long-term excellence suggests precisely this. They do it through a designed framework, and they deploy it with great care and discipline. This framework is what I call a designed leadership system. It is this framework or system that has the most significant impact on the employee experience.

Creating an Empowered Employee experience

I had been asked by the CEO of a rural hospital system to help them design a framework, model, or a system of leadership. He wanted a standard way of doing leadership to be developed that could scale across the organization. My first meeting was with the executive leadership team. Our objective was to identify the output of the system. After a lengthy conversation, Eileen, the COO, finally said, “we cannot deliver exceptional health for our patients unless our staff (workforce) feel empowered to go the extra mile. Our patients (customers) need a sense of empowerment because we want to do healthcare with them, not to them. And we are a community-owned hospital; therefore, our community (stakeholders) need a sense of empowerment to work together to create a healthy community.

Measuring Levels of Employee Empowerment

Empowerment became the central purpose of the framework or system of leadership. This system required individual leaders to model specific behaviors and routines to be effective. Furthermore, we had to determine a way of measuring the system. Eventually, we settled on two methods of measuring the experience of the workforce. They had other ways of measuring the patient and the community’s experience, both of which were already showing signs of steady improvement.

Employee safety. Working in a hospital is statistically more dangerous than working in construction. So, they began to measure the number of days lost due to workplace injury to measure their system of leadership and workforce experience. There was a double benefit to this metric. When an accident occurs in a hospital that causes injury to a worker, a patient is often involved. Reduce the number of accidents involving staff, and there should also be a corresponding increase in patient safety.

Fear. It should not shock anyone that fear is the number one killer of innovation, creativity, and empowerment. They already had a data system that allowed employees to self-report errors and near errors in processes and procedures without fear of retribution. In my naivety, I thought, “great, the fewer the reports, the better the performance.” “No,” they said, “we want the number of reported incidents to go up, not down. When the workforce is operating without fear, they are more willing to report their errors and near errors.”

The result? In one year, the number of days lost due to a workplace injury dropped by two-thirds. The number of self-reported incidents continued its steady increase, indicating the workplace was increasingly a place free of fear.