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The Official Baldrige Blog

Our organization offers you GRACE (showing employees holding signs for gratitude, resilience, aspiration, courage, and  empathy)
Credit: sarayut_sy/Shutterstock, Studio Romantic/Shutterstock

I hope the recently completed holiday season was a joyous one for you. I find this season provides an annual time of reflection for me; a time to be thankful for the opportunities I have had and for the support of my family. It is for me a time of grace.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has multiple definitions for the word grace. The one I am referring to this time of year is, "disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency." Have I exhibited grace during the past year and can I do more in the coming year?

Five Graces

Apparently, similar thoughts were on the mind of Gary Burnison, the CEO of Korn Ferry. He recently wrote about his inspiration this time of year based on the five graces: gratitude, resilience, aspiration, courage, and empathy. As I reflected on these five graces, I began to contemplate the meaning of these graces from an organizational perspective, in addition to my personal perspective. I would like to share some thoughts from the organizational perspective.


While I am self-motivated to develop strategies, meet goals, and help my organization succeed, I have always appreciated receiving expressions of gratitude from my organization. A simple "thank you" for my idea, my output, my contribution to teamwork from teammates, supervisors, and senior leaders adds a bounce to my step and a sense of well-being as I go home to my family. How well is this simple act of gratitude practiced in your organization? I believe showing gratitude is a significant part of a senior leader's role in creating organizational culture and an environment for success. It is emphasized in the Senior Leadership item (1.1) of the Baldrige Excellence Framework® and is central to the Baldrige core value of valuing people.


In an organizational context, resilience refers to the ability to (1) anticipate, prepare for, and recover from disasters, emergencies, and other disruptions; and (2) protect and enhance workforce and customer engagement, supply-network and financial performance, organizational productivity, and community well-being when disruption occurs. This topic was covered in a recent blog.

The recent upheavals caused by the global pandemic and years of social injustice have challenged organizations' ability to be resilient. As we consider a time of grace, it is the people aspects of organizational resilience that factored large in my thoughts. Did our disaster planning and response adequately address the needs of our organizations' people? Are we providing the flexibility, support, and employee training/development to avoid similar significant disruptions to their well-being should future emergencies occur?

Agility and resilience is a Baldrige core value. Item 6.2c of the Baldrige Excellence Framework addresses resilience, including the important people aspects.


I enter each new year with a desire to be better, do more good, and achieve a more fulfilling life. We all are caught up in "new year's resolutions," our aspirations for the coming year.

But what about your organization? Is it taking a fresh look at its vision? Is it looking at the embodiment of that vision in strategic objectives and action plans for the coming year? Is it taking a fresh look at the drivers of employee engagement after a year or more of upheaval? What motivates your employees to stay with your organization in a volatile job market? What employee development will allow your employees to achieve their aspirations and also contribute more to the organization?

Valuing people and visionary leadership are Baldrige core values. Vision, strategy, and workforce engagement and well-being are addressed throughout the Baldrige Excellence Framework.


Everyone has needed courage to address the challenges of the last year. Families have needed courage to adapt to a new home environment that also became a schoolroom, an office for work, a confining environment in which to accept pandemic-related illness and unemployment, and a boundary to our mobility.

Organizations also needed courage. And those that displayed that courage were better prepared to survive and thrive going forward. Organizations needed courage to adapt rapidly to emergencies and disaster, to empower workforce members to make decisions, to deal with much greater flexibility in work schedules and supply-network outages, and to sacrifice aspects of lean management in favor of long-term sustainability.

And courage will continue to be necessary, because more change is ahead of us and not all of it is predictable. This change will require rapid organizational learning, a systems perspective, and innovation. These concepts are embodied in Baldrige core values and throughout the Baldrige Excellence Framework.


According to Korn Ferry Institute, there are three aspects to empathy. Cognitive empathy allows us to understand others' emotional experiences while maintaining a personal detachment. Emotional empathy allows us to feel what others are experiencing. And compassion allows us to set aside our own concerns to help others.

Organizations have had great opportunity to show empathy during this past year to their employees, their customers, their supply network, and their communities.

  • Cognitive empathy: Has your organization considered the challenges faced by your stakeholders this past year? Have you "walked in their shoes?"
  • Emotional empathy: Have you tried to feel the pain experienced by those stakeholders who have been most disrupted and challenged?
  • Compassion: Have you reached out to help your affected stakeholders? Have you made efforts to help employees and their families who were impacted by the pandemic? Have you supported social change through organizational change that addresses past biases, whether conscious or unconscious? Have you made special accommodations for needy customers? Have you been active in support of your local community as it addressed the challenges of a new pandemic lifestyle and its associated needs? Have you been a contributor to equity and inclusion in your community?

Concepts related to empathy are contained throughout the Baldrige Excellence Framework and are embedded in the core values that form the foundation of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. Four of the 11 Baldrige core values are central to organizational empathy: customer-focused excellence; valuing people; societal contributions; and ethics and transparency.

A Year for Grace

To all my Baldrige friends and colleagues, I hope you have a year of health, of safety, of peace — and also a year of grace.

2021-2022 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit feature image

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.

Purchase your copy today!

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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Grace is a beautiful thing in our lives. It should permeate businesses and organizations of all levels. Grace is 24x7x365 and is the glue of excellence in human interactions.

Great acronym! We will offer it daily for meditation about core values. Thank you Harry!!

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