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The Official Baldrige Blog

To Do or To Be...Is That the Question?

Person jumping on I can do it text over cliff during sunset.
Credit: PThira89/Shutterstock

My thinking on this topic was triggered by reading a recent interview of Michael Fisher. He is the CEO of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, a 130-year-old hospital and pediatric-research center that ranks among the best in the United States, and has 16,000 employees. In that interview Fisher talked about his leadership style which includes making daily "to do" lists and holding himself rigorously accountable. He carries the list with him all day and makes notes as he acts on his to do's. Recently, with the impact of COVID-19 heavily impacting his institution and its people, he started developing a daily "to be" list, indicating what he wanted to be intentional about that day at work. The day of the interview he decided to focus on being generous and genuine. He hoped he was that every day, but he decided to be intentional about focusing on those behaviors that day.

As I first read about focusing on his "to be's", I had a totally different thought process. I thought about the current "to do's" and the future "to be's". In other words, I was focused on the need to balance current operational needs with the longer-term strategic needs.

I quickly realized that both "to be's" are important for both leaders and organizations: the behavioral to be and the strategic/visionary to be. I also realized that some of the to be's were behaviors and attitudes I could address today and also make part of my organizational or societal vision for the future. For example, I immediately thought about being more aware of my unconscious biases (today) while contributing to my organization's pursuit of social equity and a better society for the future (strategy). I could focus on greater personal resilience in times of challenge so that it pervades my attitude today as I interact with others, and focus on building a more resilient organization for the future, a strategic mandate for survival. I could focus today on establishing an environment that encourages innovation, by asking for ideas and supporting intelligent risk-taking to secure the future sustainability of my organization.

I also realized that not all "to be's" had this dual focus. Today, I could practice being a good listener, more transparent, and/or more caring in my daily interactions. Strategically, I could focus on our future state by determining my organization's future core competency needs and building them through training, acquisition, or hiring. I could focus on forming key strategic partnerships; designing next generation services; or, contributing to building a community of excellence in my local community.

The Baldrige Excellence Framework helps us focus on organizational strategic "to be's" through the questions asked in the Strategy category (category 2) . My recent Insights on the road to performance excellence blog discussed some of the "to be's" that will be key considerations for most organizations in the new post-coronavirus normal. They include organizational resilience, ecosystem establishment/participation, defining your place in a data and digitally-enhanced economy, and your role as a socially-responsible organization.

But what about your personal "to be's"? Do you ever contemplate how you want to show up at work today? What behaviors should you emphasize (or change)?

And how about your personal future "to be's"?

  • What career are you aspiring to? How will you prepare?
  • What plans do you have for your family? Are you building the necessary foundation?
  • Are you concerned about your community and social equity? How will you start contributing today?
  • And, for people like me, how do you want to spend your retirement years? Have you discussed plans with your life partner? Are you saving, learning new personal competencies, and/or thinking about how to give back to your profession and your community?

In the end, it is not a question of "to do" or "to be". It is a question of how well you organize your to do's and how well you attend to your behavioral and visionary "to be's".  Today is a good day to start your action plan!

2019-2020 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit cover artwork

Baldrige Excellence Framework

The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.

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Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care

About the author

Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

I am Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon, and Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program. I joined the Program in 1992 after a decade in management in the analytical chemistry and chemical sciences laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the home of the Baldrige Program. I started my career at NIST (NBS) as a bench analytical chemist.

My favorite aspects of the Baldrige Program are: (1) the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers from all sectors of the U.S. economy who serve as volunteers in the Baldrige Program, who participate in the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, and who represent Award applicants at the forefront of the continuous journey to performance excellence, and (2) the intellectual challenge of synthesizing ideas from leading thinkers and from personal research into Insights on the Road to Performance Excellence and other blogs that tackle challenges at the “leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice,” and contribute to the continuous revision of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework.

Outside of work I spend my time with family (including three beautiful granddaughters), exercising, baking bread, traveling, educating tomorrow’s leaders, and participating on various boards and board committees.

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It was a best article which I had gone through, thanks for sharing with us!

Very insightful article.

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