Becoming the Best

…these principles become the basis of intentional actions and deep commitments that enable each person at every level of an organization to bring his or her best self to work.

- Becoming the Best, page 5

Who doesn’t want to be the best? The best self, best team, best partner, best investment and best citizen. Harry Kraemer—former CEO of Baxter International Inc., a multibillion-dollar global health care company, professor of one of the most popular courses at Kellogg School of Management, and executive partner with Madison Dearborn Partners, one of the largest private equity firms in the United States—shares his four principles that will help you be the best.

Becoming the Best is designed to help you first learn and then apply those four principles in five key areas that define what it means to be a world-class leader and build a world-class organization. Not only is reading this book good for you, it is good for your team, your organization and even the world! You see, Kraemer donates his proceeds from the book to support his favorite charity called One Acre Fund—addressing the problem of hunger in Africa.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Five Key Areas

"…the need and desire to become the best through values-based leadership have never been stronger or more critical."
- Becoming the Best, page 8

All sizes of organizations are confronted with ethical issues. It is crucial that people at all levels adopt a values-based leadership approach. This means they are committed to doing the right thing at all times—and doing the best they can do. It is a way of thinking, acting and operating at every level of the organization.

The five key areas that define what it means to be a values-based leader and build a world-class organization include:

  1. Best self – to actualize who you are meant to be and to positively influence and lead people, you first need to relate to them.
  2. Best team – all team members understand and appreciate what, why and how they do what they do and how that fits with the goals of the organization.
  3. Best partner – the organization and its vendors and suppliers forge a partnership to enhance customer experience.
  4. Best investment – everyone focuses on providing positive and meaningful action that support the mission which results in generating a return for the owners. The company commits to developing its greatest asset – its people.
  5. Best citizen – everyone is focused on making a difference in the world.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Your Best Self – Four Principles

"The two fundamental commitments—to do the right thing, and to do the best you can—will keep you grounded in reality, no matter what occurs."
- Becoming the Best, page 22

You likely realize that leadership has nothing to do with titles and everything to do with the ability to influence. But how do you achieve that leadership?

Kraemer calls his lessons values-based leadership and explains that values-based leadership is founded on the four principles of self-reflection, balance, true self-confidence and genuine humility. Applying these four principles enables the creation of a values-based organization. If you want a best team you must first nurture your best self. This becomes the bridge to building your best team.

  1. Self-reflection – purposefully seek feedback to keep you grounded in reality. Be prepared to do two things: to do the right thing and to do the best you can.
  2. Balance and perspective – see a bigger picture, recognize you don’t have all the answers.
  3. Self-confidence – revealed by asking two questions:
    1. Have you reached a point in your life where you are willing to say “I don’t know”?
    2. Can you admit to having made a mistake?
  4. Genuine humility – never forget who you are, appreciate and respect the unique value of everyone.

These values-based leaders speak about ‘we’ not ‘I’. They strive to be respected rather than liked. The leader almost always holds his or her opinion until everyone else has spoken during group interactions and spends 90 percent of their time listening. This listening enables them to relate uniquely to each team member which is critical to motivating others since each person is motivated by different things.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

The Best Team – Foundation of Success

"On a best team, every person knows that what he or she does truly matters, and commits to doing—and being—their best."
- Becoming the Best, page 49

A best team is obviously strong in competence, character and teamwork. Recruiting, developing and retaining people who operate as their best selves is paramount. But there is a foundational piece that often is missing…

Does each individual in your team know how his/her particular function contributes to an organization’s larger mission? If they don’t, it will be impossible to have a best team because there is no clear, elevating goal to create alignment. They need to come together with a sense of common purpose. Helping your team identify their common purpose—the difference they make in the world—is an essential foundational key to success.

I work with pharma companies and an outsider might think it would be easy to be connected to your purpose when you make a product that saves and improves lives. But even then, it is astounding how few individuals and teams are connected to their purpose. Helping them do this should be a top priority for leaders wanting to create best teams.

Kraemer assures us that each one of us can begin right now by simply reflecting to discover our values and priorities, goals and desires. Ask yourself:

  1. What is my life purpose?
  2. What matters most?
  3. Where can I make a difference?
  4. How can I reach my full potential?

Of course, becoming your best self is a never-ending process. It is, rather, a lifelong journey. When taking this journey to develop the fullness of your potential there is no limit to the good you can do in your life, company, community, country and the world.

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Jill Donahue

ABOUT Jill Donahue

Everything I do is focused on improving patient outcomes. I do that by being a student and teacher of ethical, effective influence. I teach pharma people and health care professionals how to improve their ability to influence others...
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