LeadershipQuantified - The Business Origin Story

by Leslie L. Kossoff

I’m not one for looking back, so when people ask me why I founded LeadershipQuantified, I’m not exactly sure what they’re looking for.

That being said, one of the things I’ve always found most important in working with my executive clients is to find out the “Origin Story” that led him or her to make the decisions being made.

So I’ve decided to use some of our time together on this blog to give you not only the Business Origin Story for LeadershipQuantified, but also insight into its evolution and why we became what we are. (That will be in other posts.) Throughout these posts you’ll also see where the core beliefs I wrote about came from…and why.

And with that, sit back and let me tell you a business story…

Origin Story 1: Something’s Wrong with This Picture

In my first year as a corporate animal, in my first career-oriented job, I was asked to sit in on a meeting with a consultant that my senior management was considering hiring. There were problems in the Receiving / Receiving Inspection area that were causing a world of problems further down the line and absolutely needed to be addressed.

(In a manufacturing organization, Receiving / Receiving Inspection is a key quality point as well as potential money pit if it blocks, slows or in any way negatively impacts production.)

At that time, the “initial” consultant costs would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars - which, at any time, is still a chunk of change.

The thing is, prior to that meeting, I had been working with a Receiving / Receiving Inspection team to identify how they could redesign their workflow to make it more efficient, effective and, most important, predictable. 

The team had done an excellent job and had presented their findings to senior management - only to be told that there was a consultant coming in to ‘take a look’ and that, once senior management had met with the consultant, they’d make their decision about how to go ahead.

What senior management didn’t know when the consultant meeting was taking place was that the consultant had come in, talked to the team members and had as good as stolen their presentation. 

The team members had been so psyched about what they had done that they shared their presentation packet with the consultants - who took it, fancied it up a bit, added some (questionable) numbers, put their company name and logo on it, their background “bona fides” information and presented it to senior management…who hired them.

Before the hiring, I pointed out to senior management what had happened - including showing them a page-by-page comparison of the presentations. They told me, “It will be okay. The team will work well with the consultants.” They also told me that I should facilitate that happening.

“Yeah. Right,” I thought. “And what world do you live in?” 

What I told them was, “This baby’s going to bomb.”

I was correct.

What Happened Next

When the team realized what had happened, they became angry and demoralized. They also lost all faith in their management.

The consultant’s gig went forward, of course, and the changes were put into place - but, as is so often the case (I learned later), once the consultant was gone, the employees went back to the way they had been doing things before the consultant was there.

That’s right. Even though, in this case, the employees knew they would benefit from the improvements - after all, they were originally the employees’ ideas - they weren’t willing to make them on an ongoing basis. Why should they? What was in it for them?

What I Learned

I gained two important lessons (among many others) from this experience that remained true throughout my career:

  1. Most employees in most organizations already know the solutions to the problems the organization is facing. What they don’t know is how to present their ideas and solutions to management in a way that makes them want to listen.

  2. Management doesn’t know how to listen to employees with the respect for their knowledge and expertise that they deserve. Because of that, management misses opportunities and makes decisions that lead to higher costs and, far too often, exactly the opposite result they’re looking for.

Origin Story 2: Look What We Could Do!

During that same year (it was a banner year for learning), the State of California was going through some really interesting labor law changes that impacted recruitment and hiring. The laws particularly effected manufacturing organizations - of which ours was one.

The core problem for my organization was that we were no longer going to be allowed to pre-test for the specific manufacturing skills experience we needed. Why? Because according to the new law, if a company was going to train an employee in those skills, they couldn’t determine hiring based on a pre-test of those same skills.

After all, if the employee wasn’t able to perform during or after training, there was always the option of terminating their employment during their probationary period.

That was all well and good, but, we asked, how were we to offset the costs of ‘bad’ hiring if we were constantly churning employees through training, paying their salaries and benefits all the while - and hoping they’d do well enough to be kept for the long-term?

I loved this question!

Why? Because I’ve always been what’s known as a “front-loading” sort of person. The earlier the start on identifying and solving problems and identifying new opportunities, the better. (If you’re a Deming person, it’s called Zero-Staging…and more on that in a future post, too.)

I had the great good fortune to be invited to attend the meetings senior management was having with an attorney the corporation brought in specifically for this purpose. I wasn’t senior management - yet - but they knew I was somehow going to be involved.

I recommended (and the attorney agreed) that we look at other options for where we might find people with those skills. If we needed to pay for them, we’d look at quality and price of the provider (e.g., employment agencies). If the provider was there and, for some reason, didn’t need to be paid on a by-person basis, we’d also look at quality and price - as well as how we might work with them on some expanded, customized basis to address our needs.

Happily, we were able to pursue the second option - and it worked.

What Happened Next

The State of California has one of the most impressive Community College systems anywhere. At that time, the State was not only funding the Colleges, but also Regional Occupation Centers (ROCs) associated with the Colleges.

At those ROCs, unemployed, under-employed and disabled people were given the opportunity to develop skills that would lend themselves to the then current employment market.

Our organization partnered with three local ROCs and, working with their instructors, expanded their curriculum to include skills that were future performance indicators for our hiring needs. (The ROCs couldn’t, by law, be set up to address our specific skill needs.)

We also asked the instructors to keep an eye out for the “best” candidates.

In exchange, we provided ‘donations’ to the ROCs for their use. We also co-branded with them so that candidates would know that our organization was helping them in their future success.

What I Learned

I learned a number of things from that experience, including but not limited to:

  1. Not all attorneys are jerks. (I had had bad experiences prior to working with this guy so it actually made a difference.)

  2. If you’re working in an organization - whether you’re in HR or otherwise - you really need to have a basic understanding of employment law in your State. It makes a material difference to how you manage.

  3. Colleges and Universities can be excellent corporate partners - and not just for research grants or sponsorships.

Origin Story 3: We Spent How Much?!?

And still in that same year (like I said, it was banner), the first major project I was asked to do was analyze whether a supervisory skills training program the company had been using for the past three years was netting us any results. The program was up for renewal, had already cost the company over three million dollars (yes, $3,000,000) and, frankly, no one had any idea whether it had been worth it.

I loved this question, too.

Why? Because even then I had no patience for “cookie-cutter” approaches to learning.

During my university career (I collected a Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and Master of Science before I was done), I had sat in on too many courses that were as good as being phoned in by professors who clearly thought they had better things to do.

Then, as I worked on outside projects with local businesses, I saw that the same thing was happening in training. People were forced to sit in courses for hours - or days - that had no connection to what they really did in their real jobs.

How could it apply? The trainers were training the same thing everywhere they went.

Even if the employees enjoyed the training, most of them would speak of it as a waste of time. After all, nothing in their real job was changing. They were being trained new skills or concepts that weren’t being implemented or supported once they left the training room.

But their work was still sitting on their desks - and, now, they were hours or days behind or had worked after training when they were supposed to be relaxing with family and friends.

This was not a win. I wanted to know if the same thing had been happening in my new corporate job.

It was worse.

What Happened Next

Not only had the company spent the three million, but lost productivity from the time involved accounted for what I estimated as between an additional ten and fifteen million dollars during that same period.

With no Return on Investment (ROI) at all - not even in morale. Particularly not in morale.

I performed a multi-variate analysis (my professors would have been so proud!) looking at measures from a variety of different perspectives. 

I used hard measures (quantifiable) and soft (attitude surveys, etc.). I looked at production, productivity and quality numbers in the areas for the supervisors who had been attending - not only looking at the time when they were in the program, but before and after. 

I compared numbers to other production areas - both manufacturing and white collar (because office type supervisors had to attend, too). 

No matter how I looked at it, this had been a waste of time and money. The contract was not renewed - and I got thank-you notes from supervisors who had and had not yet attended for making it go away.

What I Learned

There was some key learning from this experience that I carry to this day:

  1. Before initiating any training or development program for any level of employee, make sure you know why you’re doing what you’re doing - because if you get it wrong, you’ll only make people angry.

  2. Training and development needs to be customized to the needs of the individuals - not just the function or the organization. If the people participating don’t see an immediate win from what they’re learning (i.e., if they can’t successfully apply it in their real jobs), you’ve just wasted a lot of the company’s time and money.

  3. Training and development can deliver ROI just as any other investment in the organization. If it doesn’t, you’re doing something wrong.

Which Leads Us To…

…today.

I didn’t know it at the time, but each of these experiences had a measurable impact on me, my perspective about organizations and even how I worked with my clients. (One day we’ll talk about  consultants and “Planned Obsolescence” - but that’s for another day.)

If you look at the key descriptors of the LeadershipQuantified Resources content and components, you’ll see exactly how these stories eventually helped determine how we work and why we do what we do.

Each LeadershipQuantified Resource is:

  • Self-managed.

  • Self-directed.

  • Immediately implementable.

  • Measurable.

  • Repeatable.

Add our business model of partnering with Universities and the LeadershipQuantified Business Origin Story becomes perfectly understandable as it is manifest today.

Now, how we got here? 

Well, that’s a tale of the past seven years starting as I sat at my desk in my apartment in Paris, looking out on a dark evening and thinking about what could be…all of which we’ll talk about in Le Deuxieme Partie (Part Two).

See you then!

In Partnership With...

by Leslie L. Kossoff

One of my goals as I began developing LeadershipQuantified was to establish a business model that supported universities through their Professional and Continuing Education divisions. (I’ll explain why in a moment.)

That’s why I’m so very happy to announce that LeadershipQuantified has established our first University Partner: The College of Professional and International Education (CPIE) at California State University, Long Beach.

There are both personal and professional reasons why I’m so pleased about this - but let’s start with the professional…because there’s nothing like going through the rigorous review process than having your materials assessed for acceptance by an accredited university.

LeadershipQuantified was founded on a set of core beliefs (I’ll write more about these in future, too). Specifically, we know that:

  • Employees have the majority of answers that their organizations need. They just don’t know how to make their cases in a way that resonates for management.

  • As a result, organizations hire consultants and coaches unnecessarily - leading to increased costs and severely reduced employee morale and innovation.

  • Learning how and what to measure in an organization is key to every employee’s - and every organization’s - success. The problem is, measurement techniques and quantifiable, implementation-based thinking methodologies are rarely included in developmental programs.

  • The role of the organization - both for employees and independents - has to change in order for organizations to have the operational and innovational capabilities…and success…they seek.

  • Every person deserves a satisfying and productive work life and the opportunity to fulfill their dreams, goals and potential.

…and those are just a start.

Our core beliefs have driven what we do from the inception of the company. Now, with our University Partnership, we are expanding our reach beyond our previous markets to employees at every organizational level, independents, entrepreneurs, small business owners…and more…across all industries, sectors and geographies.

Which leads us to a bit more personal piece of this picture - specifically, why I invited CSU Long Beach to be our first partner.

Reputation and Relationships

When I first began my consulting career, one of my mentors recommended that I contact Cal-State Long Beach’s “Extension Services” to see if they would be interested in a Certificate Program on what was then a new concept, Total Quality Management or TQM.  (Now, of course, we know TQM as Quality, Lean, Kaizen, ISO and any number of other improvement initiatives and mandatory certifications that are all based on Japanese Management Techniques.)

As my mentor explained to me, “CSU Long Beach has a great reputation, they’re great to work with and you’ll benefit from their community outreach.” 

She was correct.

I had the great good fortune to meet with a shiny new Program Manager named Penni Wells, who saw what I saw in the possibilities for people’s growth. Happily, over the next 20+ years, we’ve worked on any number of developmental programs - all focused on helping professionals and their organizations succeed.

With that history - and their continued excellent reputation - I wanted CSU Long Beach to be our first partner…not least because I knew that if the LeadershipQuantified Resources weren’t up to their rigorous standards, we wouldn’t get the deal.

(I have to take a moment to thank Regina Cash, the former Director of Academic and Professional Programs at CPIE, for her championing our  partnership. We started with a handshake and ended with that partnership - and, now, Regina is an Associate Dean at Cal-State LA. Good job, Regina!!)

Digital Badges and Micro-Credentials

Which brings me to another benefit of our partnership with CSU Long Beach: Digital Badges and Micro-Credentials.

We knew that as long as LeadershipQuantified Resources passed their assessment, they would qualify for Certificates and Continuing Education Units (CEUs). But continuing education at CSU Long Beach was going further. They were adopting a Digital Badge system to enhance and increase the value of professional development programs for all their students.

I quote Penni:

The LeadershipQuantified Resources qualify as Certificate Programs through the College of Professional and International Education. This means they meet the depth and breadth of their subject areas as well as the number of hours required. For an individual to receive a Certificate, there are assignments, projects and/or other deliverables that must be successfully completed. The Certificate, itself, is a tangible representation of an individual’s having met the requirements, and includes the Student’s Name, College Name, Title of the Program and Date Awarded. Students often include them in resumes or reference them in digital applications.

Digital Badges are the online, graphic representation of the same thing - but better! They include the information on a Certificate and they validate and provide evidence of the competencies achieved by the learner. They are portable, connected to data provided by CPIE and can be attached to digital applications or online professional profiles, such as LinkedIn.

Digital Badges more accurately illustrate competency than a CV or a resumé. They specifically identify skills learned and concepts demonstrated - and access to viewing Digital Badges is available 24/7.

Digital Badging for non-credit programs is very new - CPIE is one of the first to award them. Those successfully completing a LeadershipQuantified Resource will receive a Certificate, Continuing Education Units and a Digital Badge.

Going forward, we will be expanding the offering to include digitally-awarded Micro-Credentials based on completion of associated Resources.

We couldn't ask for more in a University Partner - which brings me to why this model was so important to me from the first.

Individual Development and the Importance of Online Education

Society and corporations are at a crossroads.

In the past, there was a social contract that ensured ongoing employment by an enterprise that would allow employees to start - and end - their careers in the same organization.

It may seem that that was a long time ago, but, in fact, it wasn’t. The changes we’re seeing - but not yet addressing - in the corporate / societal contract began in earnest in the late 1980s with the earliest stages of “outsourcing.” But even then, it was more often the case that a company’s employees would be moved to the outsource provider than that they were simply let go.

As time went by and the world saw a few recessions and the near-collapse of the global economy (remember 2008?), it became easier and more profitable for companies to change their social contract - particularly with employees.

You can call it “side hustle” or the “gig-” or “shared-economy,” but we’re seeing more movement of people - and less organizational consistency - than ever before.

Lifetime employment, in most industries, no longer exists.

At the same time, the constant changes in the education systems around the world - moving to larger classes and matriculation based more on the ability to test well than to learn, think and apply - have been working against us.

The outcome? Organizations of all sizes, across sectors and industries around the world need the best people to succeed…but neither are they fully investing in their own people nor are they getting the caliber of people they need from the education system as it stands.

That puts everyone’s success at risk.

It’s this challenge that led to my goal of building partnerships with universities.

The more that we can create a virtuous circle of educational institutions, professionals - both employee and independent - and organizations…all understanding that they need each other to succeed, the more likely that success.

For LeadershipQuantified, I and our Experts are dedicated to providing the targeted, next generation learning that individuals need to succeed - no matter where they work nor what their relationship with the organization might be.

For organizations, we are dedicated to developing the leaders they need in a timely, implementation- and action-oriented way that is both visible and measurable. Immediately.

And, finally, for our University Partners, we are dedicated to creating a revenue source for our partner institutions that assists them in expanding in new, innovative ways to address society’s current and future challenges.

It’s a win all the way around.

Welcome to the LeadershipQuantified Blog

by Leslie L. Kossoff

For those of you who know me, it’s lovely to see you again. For those who are new to me, welcome. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

When all is said and done, no matter what the gig is or was, the given has always been that I’d write to and for my executive clients. In the days before blogs, I had the Kossoff Executive Advisory. Then, over the years, I wrote…and wrote…and wrote…for the blog on my consulting website, articles for magazines, journals and newspapers worldwide, white papers, books….

Why?

Because words matter. Communication matters. Connecting matters.

That’s why this blog exists.

From the moment I conceived the idea of LeadershipQuantified, I wanted to make sure we had as many ways as possible to help any and every person who finds their way to us.

Whether it’s working with and through our Partners, with you, directly, in our Resources, our Community - and, now, this blog - our commitment is to do our very best to give you what you need to develop into the leader you want to be - and that those you lead need you to be.

So, with that in mind, starting now - with this blog post - get in the habit of commenting, please. We need to know what you need so that we can do our very best to deliver it to you, here, and through all our various channels.

Once again - and, now, to you all - it’s a pleasure to be here with you.