Liz Cosline – What does she know about management anyway? By Barbara Zaga
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Who is Liz Cosline? What makes her think that she has anything new to add to the perennial search for the answer to the front line manager conundrum? And what is that conundrum? Simply put, why do front line managers continually fail to satisfy their executive level management? Even more importantly, why do they continually fail to satisfy themselves? ( McKensey report)
Who would know best what kind of front line manager Liz Cosline is? To answer this question, I searched out some people who worked for Liz, were her boss, or were her colleagues and I interviewed them. I got amazing feedback. I discovered that Liz had deep impact on those who reported to her, those to whom she reported, and even her colleagues. This impact extended far beyond the work place, and even more amazing, has endured through the years since they worked together. “Liz is on my short list of people who I’d stand in harm’s way for.” “Liz genuinely cared about her people. This filtered down so that the employees also began to care.” “Liz inspires her employees to achieve for her as well as for themselves.” “Liz’s ‘secret weapon’ is that she inspires her employees to do their best for her.” Across the board I heard the same comments. Liz is the epitome of fairness. She allows her humanity to show. She feels compassion for her employees and is not afraid to let them know. She treats everyone with respect, always. She makes expectations clear and holds employees accountable. Employees feel trusted, appreciated, and respected. Liz creates a team with common goals and then enables and facilitates the achievement of those goals. At all times, her employees feel that they are individuals creating a team, as opposed to a team whose only identity is a group identity.
What rewards can a company expect when front line employees feel like human beings rather than cogs in a corporate machine? This is a critical question. How much does it really matter if managers can inspire employees or not? What kinds of tangible results can be expected from this kind of this inspirational management? Here are some examples of the kinds of positive impact Liz had on her people. Throughout her management career she repeatedly produced outstanding results. During her tenure at a well-known package delivery company she consistently made budget. Courier performance improved, as evidenced by tracked data, like reduction in non-deliverable and reattempted packages, and an increase in on-time departures, among others. Adherence to policy increased thereby decreasing the need for disciplinary actions. On the company survey designed to enable employees to rate their own mangers as well as upper management Liz scored in the 91st percentile. The company goal was the 74th percentile!
Under Liz’s management in the patient transport department of a New Hampshire hospital, productivity steadily increased and attrition dramatically decreased. The transport job scope and responsibilities were expanded without increasing the worker to patient ratio. A highly successful new patient shuttle system was implemented from the ground up.
So, how does Liz do what she does when she “manages”? What are the techniques? Does she simply have talents that most frontline managers lack? Or, is there something that can be learned, something that, when applied, will dramatically change the prevailing current management environment? To answer this very important question, I went right to the source, and this is what Liz told me: “If any problem is going to be solved two initial things need to happen. The problem must be recognized at the source, and there must be a desire to correct this problem. There are tools, techniques, and ways of thinking that can be learned and practiced. But no tool or technique will do anything without going after the success of each individual to benefit the team as a whole.”
I have started to refer to Liz’s management style as “from-the-front” management, as opposed to the prevalent model of top-down. We already know that Liz had repeated successes throughout her management career. But can others embrace this style and also create successes for their companies? Where is the proof that positive changes will occur? And what about tangible results, the kind you can take to the bank?
Lisa Ruedemann , MS HSA , NHA a nationally traveled consultant, has learned and applied the principles of from-the-front management over a period of several years since first working with Liz to fine tune her own management techniques. As Ms. Ruedemann put it, “Liz helped me to listen better to employees to understand their needs so that they could do their jobs better and implement needed changes.” Ms. Ruedemann found that by working more through the frontline employees, and dictating to them less, she could consistently exceed the expectations of upper management. Ms. Ruedemann has worked on a contractual basis in several different long-term care facilities in the dietary department over the past three years. These facilities were experiencing varying degrees of distress, in some cases facing state or federal shut-down. In Wisconsin, Ms. Ruedemann saved the facility $30,000 off the dietary budget in the 3 months that she was there. In New Mexico, it was $75,000 over the period of a year. In Kansas, $38,000 in 2 weeks. Most recently, Ms. Ruedemann worked for five weeks in the dietary department of a facility in North Dakota that had failed inspection and was barred from accepting new patients until deficiencies were corrected. This equated to a revenue loss of approximately $211,000 over a three-month period! The monumental task of bringing the dietary department up to standard had defeated the in-house management. Ms. Ruedemann’s expertise and application of “from-the-front” management techniques enabled the employees to make the necessary changes in a very short time period and pass their return inspection. As a result, the facility can accept new patients. Ms. Ruedemann told me that “prior to working with Liz I knew the theory but I found it hard to put into practice. I now have a tighter, narrower focus with the tools needed to effect successful change.”
From-the-front management sounds like a formula for success to me. Now, how are we going to get there from here? More good stuff to come on this over the next few months.
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Barbara Zaga has 35 years of management experience. She is currently CEO of Glasstoration Technologies LLC, a glass restoration company specializing in the surface restoration of glass damaged by graffiti, scratches, acid, mineral deposits, etc. www.Glasstoration.com Email Barbara: Glasstoration@verizon.net