A Monthly Publication from Citrin Consulting
September | 2011


IN THIS ISSUE

Courageous Leadership

TED Talks

The Health Care Corner

 
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Courageous Leadership

Leaders Who Get the Job Done

My wife and I got home from vacation last Saturday and decided to go to Whole Foods to pick up some food for a gathering she was having the next day. We arrived around 8:30 PM and with the store closing at 10 PM, I expected to have enough time to peruse the store, find our favorite goodies, and line up menu items for the next day. We consulted a few staff about specific items such as how many quesadillas would be in pound (3) which cheese would be flavorful (Barber's 1833 cheddar) and were glad to see that Bison meat has dropped in price to a more reasonable $7.99/lb. from $12.00/pound.

As we got ready to check out, we whipped out our canvas bags and I got ready to begin sacking. I almost always do this so I make sure heavy things are on the bottom and I can manage with as few bags as possible. Just as I began however, a young woman named Sasha came over and began to put things in the bag. As I started to hand her some items, she looked me straight in the eye and said "I've got it handled, sir." I wasn't sure I could believe her but I stepped aside when I realized she meant business. She rearranged items as they were coming down the belt and bagged our food items perfectly. She got the second bag going at the same time and after a little finagling, all our items were in the two bags including a special wrapping to keep the bison cold. This experience led me to do some research on what kind of an organization might be encouraging this kind of employee behavior and in fact whether Sasha is a leader at work.

Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet. Whole Foods motto encapsulates their belief that grocery shopping goes beyond providing good food choices – They are really about changing the world. And with a 34-year history of growth and revenues approaching $10b, they are clearly doing something right. Whole Foods hiring practices are decentralized which means that regions and stores are able to customize staffing to meet the needs of their particular communities. Their core value statement includes helping make their employees happy. The company views it's hiring practices as giving it a competitive advantage and their employee's passion and excitement as key to serving customers instead of just selling groceries.

Whole Foods Market's hiring and staffing models include some unique characteristics that promote leadership among employees who, by the cultural nature of the organization are more engaged and connected:

  • Hiring is team centric so that a new hire may be interviewed by multiple employees and then is "voted on" after their orientation and training period by other team members to determine whether they will be added to the team.
  • Every three years they hold a company wide vote to determine the health and benefits package.
  • 90% of stock options go to non-executive team members along with an open book financial management program.
  • A salary cap limits cash compensation for all employees to 19 times the average full time team member.

Author Robert Kelly describes what he calls the "Small L" leader in his book, How to Be A Star Performer At Work. These are people who take on leadership roles to get things done. They win the respect of their colleagues and customers for getting the nitty-gritty of workday realities completed. While Sasha may not have done the most important leadership job at Whole Foods that night, she certainly showed that she could make my grocery shopping visit a bit easier and in doing so, she demonstrated that leadership can happen just about anytime, and at all levels of an organization.

 

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TED Talks

Julian Treasure is an expert on sound. He studies sound and advises businesses and organizations on how best to use it for listening and expressing. In the 7 minutes TED Talk, he shares 5 very excellent tools to help each of us become better listeners and tells us why it is so important in today's hectic world. Click here to listen in

 

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The Health Care Corner

Health Care Reform and Helping You Become a Better Consumer

Regardless of your position on health care reform, you would think most everyone would be in favor of some new rules that are out for public comment requiring health insurance companies and employers to provide "plain English" explanation of health insurance coverage. Similar to what might be posted on the "nutrition facts" labels found on food, the idea is that this information would help demystify health insurance information so patients could make more informed choices.

An example, provided in a New York Times article indicated that under the new rules, costs for medical procedures would be itemized so that consumers (or patients) could see how much it would cost to treat diabetes, a heart attack or to have a baby. Part of the requirements would be for insurers to respond to have an FYI section of your benefit description that would answer straightforward questions such as "What is the premium cost?" "What is the deductible cost?" " Do I need a referral to see a specialist?" What is the cost of XYZ procedure?"

Of course, regulation of any kind are not free and the government estimates that it would cost insurers and employers $50 million a year to compile the information annually which would be very complex given the myriad types of insurance. And while if the government estimates that it would cost $50m, you can be pretty sure, the figure would be closer to $100 million or more. But in a healthcare economy of over $2 trillion, that figure seems small to help each of us become better health care consumers.

 

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