It Gets Personal

As leaders, the first tool that you need to begin the journey of a lean based organizational transformation is a mirror. Look in the mirror and ask yourself is: “What does this mean for me?” Several years ago, Dr. John Toussaint published an article in the Frontiers of Health Services Management titled “A Management, Leadership, and Board Road Map to Transforming Care for Patients”.   My key takeaway from his research was that any transformation of this magnitude is “possible only when leaders are willing to change.”

The general hypothesis states that truly sustainable transformation requires specific personal leadership behaviors. It remains a real challenge for leaders to move from knowing conceptually over to practicing personally; i.e. the difference between knowledge and understanding. You have heard this concept before in the phrase of “acting your way into a new way of thinking.”

With the extensive research that continues in this focal area of leadership, it’s helpful to condense the collective thinking into five behavioral dimensions: Willingness, Humility, Curiosity, Perseverance and Self-Discipline. Today, let’s address Willingness.


We have to start with Willingness.  Willingness is defined as the quality or state of being prepared to do something. Knowing that your behavior models every activity and policy of the organization, a successful transformation then requires that you behave differently. Ask yourself, on a daily/weekly basis, how willing are you to change? Willing to learn? Willing to think differently? Willing to behave differently? Willing to potentially lead differently than you are today?

For each behavioral dimension, there will be one or more specific reinforcing behavior(s) to strengthen it. Willingness is supported and reinforced with the practice of Reflection. Hold up the mirror again. Do you set aside specific time to reflect? Daily? Once per week?

The reinforcing behavior of regular, quiet reflection will often challenge your current thinking and strengthen your willingness. Reflection is the practice of serious thought; an idea about something, especially one that is written down. Consider practicing reflection at end of your day with a few simple questions: What went well today? What could I have done better? How might I lead differently tomorrow?

As Michael Marquardt said in his book ‘Leading With Questions’, “Deep and significant learning occurs only as a result of reflection.”

Find your mirror, take a good look and ask “How willing am I to change/improve myself?”   My suspicion is that you are indeed willing to change, willing to improve yourself as a leader [depending on the day!].   Now mark your calendar with a regular time and place to take a personal time out for 10-15 minutes to thoughtfully reflect on a few simple questions.

Let me know how it goes…