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The Official Baldrige Blog

Business Excellence 101: Gain Unique Leadership Insights as a Baldrige Fellow

Leadership Insights as a Baldrige Fellow showing a businessman holding a light bulb that says Fellows Insights
Credit: ra2 studio/Shutterstock
Business Excellence 101 Blog Series

In this blog series, we are highlighting the many resources that are available to help you learn about Baldrige, improve organizational processes, and build long-term resilience.

A Win–Win for Executives and Organizations Alike

The Baldrige Executive Fellows Program is a one-year program that facilitates dialogue on all aspects of leadership. Participants are generally "C-suite" executives or accomplished leaders who report to the most senior leader in the organization. They represent a broad range of sectors, including manufacturing, service, small business, education, health care, and nonprofit, including government organizations.

The experience provides Baldrige Fellows with many benefits, including the following:

  • Accelerated leadership development
  • In-depth learning from world-class organizations and their senior executives
  • Relationships with other executives that will benefit Baldrige Fellows now and into the future
  • Knowledge of the Baldrige Excellence Framework® and its Criteria for Performance Excellence®, as well as the impact of systems thinking on organizations
  • Personal visits with role-model organizations and their senior executives
  • A deeper understanding of leadership; strategic planning; sustainability; core competencies; customer engagement; employee engagement; integration of processes, plans, resources, and goals; and measuring the right things
  • Focus on Baldrige core values and attributes
  • Ongoing virtual meetings to enhance opportunities to learn and share
  • Relationships with the cadre of Baldrige Fellows, who possess expertise often sought by others
  • Coaching by Baldrige faculty members, including an executive-in-residence
  • Completion of a capstone leadership project that addresses a strategic need in their home organization

As Baldrige Fellows learn and apply the best practices and solutions that drive results, clearly their organizations also gain immense value. Watch as Dr. John Jasinski, president of Northwest Missouri State University, and Baldrige overseer, talks about the Baldrige Fellows program’s distinct benefits and why he, as an employer, has supported Baldrige Fellows.

2016 Baldrige Fellows meeting with Harry Hertz, Bob Fangmeyer and Bob Barnett.
Harry Hertz, Bob Fangmeyer, and Bob Barnett speaking at a 2016 Baldrige Executive Fellows session.

Insights from Program Participants

Program participants (164 since the first cohort in 2011) consistently emerge with a broader perspective on how to achieve performance excellence® for their organizations. For senior leaders who are considering sponsoring a Baldrige Fellow, and for executives interested in applying to become a Baldrige Fellow, following are several inspiring takeaways from alumni.

Diverse Opportunities for Hands-On Learning

David Zaas, chief executive officer, Medical University of South Carolina–Charleston Division:

“I think the instructors, as well as the organizations we visited, were unbelievable in terms of their abilities to teach through real examples. They used their experiences to show what many different types of organizations can achieve using the Baldrige framework.

The other part of the [Baldrige] Fellowship that I thought was really valuable was the opportunity to interact with people who are outside of health care, and to learn and network with them and listen to their different perspectives. We tend to stay within the silos of our industries, but we learned a lot from each other.”

Steve Schloss, operating partner, Edison Partners:

“The Fellows Program provides senior leaders the tools, framework, relationships, and best practice sharing in a highly interactive and thought-provoking environment. We tend to move quickly and take little time out to learn and invest in our own growth. The one-year program commitment will have a true payoff personally and for my organization for the long term.” 

Innovative Focus on Performance Excellence

Meg McGoldrick, former president, Abington–Jefferson Health:

“The perception of the Baldrige Program prior to coming into this was that it's all about another quality program. I've since come to realize it's a whole lot more than another quality program. It's a program that from A to Z allows your organization to become more effective, more profitable, and just a better overall functioning company.”

Proven Road Map to Sustainable Results

Doug Griffin, partner, The Context Network:

“The Baldrige fellowship has really been an opportunity for me to meet with and learn from organizations that have won the Baldrige Award, from their leadership directly, about how the Baldrige Criteria have helped to make them more effective and make their organizations more successful. I think one of the more important aspects has been really understanding the results that they've been able to achieve.”

Jo Ann Jenkins, chief executive officer, AARP:

“I think the way forward for any nonprofit is to spend less time on administration and more time on advancing your mission. Of course, a certain amount of internal processes are inevitable and even necessary, but staying focused on core elements matters most.

•  Why does your organization exist? 
•  What are your core competencies? 
•  Who are you helping? 
•  What do they need?
•  How can you help provide it? 

The principles of the Baldrige Criteria are a vital tool in answering—and acting upon—those questions!”

Teamwork Approach to Continuous Improvement

Michael Woronka, chief executive officer, Action Ambulance Service, Inc.:

“I thought the program was outstanding in terms of putting different leaders from different organizations together and using a peer environment to develop the concepts and to work through the concepts of the Baldrige Criteria.” 

Timothy Mottet, president, Colorado State University:

“For me personally, I saw more clearly what I didn’t know. My own professional development gap analysis became clear after working alongside 25 incredibly talented Executive Fellows. I also learned that there is a similarity in problems across industries and types of organizations. We all share problems related to people, process, and culture. Getting out of your industry and seeing how someone in another industry has solved the same problem was most beneficial to me.”

Action-Based Learning

Eric Moll, superintendent and chief executive officer, Mason General Hospital & Family of Clinics:

“The mantra throughout the program was ‘learn by doing.’ The faculty pushed us to get beyond theory and concept. Personally, I loved this focus on action, even though at times it was uncomfortable when I had not attained mastery of the concepts. 
Action should not be confused with activity. Part of the action was tied to developing a clear approach. I learned that deeply understanding the reason for an action to solve a problem was an iterative process through which the more time spent on the front end, the higher the likelihood of success. 

As my [organization’s leadership] team spent more time thinking through the reason for [problem-solving] action, we were surprised how often our initial understanding of the issue became materially modified. This was initially fairly humbling and even frustrating for some of my senior leaders, but it made us more effective in our planning and execution.”   

Business Excellence 101 Blog Series

Previous Blogs
Business Excellence 101: Five Things to Know about the Baldrige Program
Business Excellence 101: Improve Financial and Operational Performance with the Baldrige Framework
Business Excellence 101: Batter Up! Nine Game-Winning Tips to Power Your Baldrige Journey

Join a Community of Visionary Leaders

Baldrige Executive Fellows Program

Become a Baldrige Executive Fellow

The Baldrige Executive Fellows Program® is the only ​nationwide hands-on leadership development program that is based on the world-emulated Baldrige Excellence Framework. Learn from senior decision makers from Baldrige Award recipient organizations and emerge with a broader perspective on how to achieve performance excellence for your organization, stimulate innovation, and build the knowledge and capabilities for leadership in today’s challenging landscapes.

What Executive Fellows Are Saying | Apply Today

About the author

Michelle Peña

Michelle Peña is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program at NIST. Her background includes degrees in English and Spanish from George Mason University, an advanced degree from George Washington University, and more than 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. 

Michelle is passionate about the benefits of personal development in the workplace and helping others become more emotionally resilient leaders in their community. Her blogs provide encouraging perspectives to help employees and businesses thrive and build a culture of continuous improvement.

As a digital marketing enthusiast, she also enjoys sharing motivational social media content and actionable growth strategies that professionals can use to empower their organization.

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