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By Hugh MacLeod Thursday. Feb 27, 2020

Sustainable Quality Improvement - Emotion, Inspiration, and Creativity Featured

Quality is made up of interconnecting circles of complex activity; however, we are conditioned to see and think in quality straight lines. What we see depends on what we are prepared to see. Without exploring assumptions, healthcare organizations will be held hostage to indifference to quality failure and will be unable to reach quality improvement potential.


By harnessing and a leveraging emotional intelligence, inspiration and creativity, healthcare organizations can bring to the surface the fundamental issues that suppress organizational ability to spring forward with sustainable quality improvement.


Daniel Goleman in his book, Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, suggests “actions of the leader account for up to 70% of employees’ perception of the quality climate of their organization. Emotional intelligence is a key element of self-awareness and the ability to self-regulate. The leader personifies this capacity. This is the embodiment of self-integration.”


My personal emotional intelligence growth awakened me to the leverage potential of harnessing three powerful quality improvement truths: reflection fuels, people matter, and relationships make the difference.


Three Powerful Quality Truths

In my January 2020, ISQua Podcast - “Humanizing Quality Improvement”, I talked about three consequential ‘humanizing leadership’ realities that profoundly impact the ability to lead quality improvement effectively and help regulate the well-being and quality strength of a healthcare organization.


1. Reflection Fuels. Leaders operate within a web of people relationship systems, and the health and power of these relationships are dependent upon the level of trust they carry within. Leaders cannot expect to harness the inspirational and creative human energies of healthcare organizations, and relationships within them, if they fail to fully understand the impact their behaviour has on those who bring quality visions and goals to fruition. Reflect on this…when the leader lacks confidence, the followers, quality commitment.


2. People Matter. Too often, a “people matter” concept value statement is limited to the words printed on a piece of paper. It is not enough to merely recognize the role and significance people have within the healthcare organization; there must be a commitment to alter organizational “people matter” mindsets. Employees who are engaged are more open to innovative ideas and new tools. They are open to create and inspire new ways to enhance the work they do, rather than just performing the bare minimum required.


3. Relationships Make the Difference. Emotional intelligence helps to create the glue that holds the fabric of a human health system together, and the elasticity, bond, and effectiveness of the quality glue is determined by the overall people relationship welfare of your healthcare organization. Healthcare organizations do not exist of fragmented parts, but rather a series of human systems within a larger and connected human system. We are aware that structure follows strategy and function follows form, but relationships run the show. Without relationships, there is no quality strategy implementation, and there is no quality function, to begin with. What goes on between people; defines an organizations quality and more importantly, what it can become. 


Organizational spaces made up of people relationships is where important quality handoffs between functions happen, and where an organization has the greatest potential for quality improvement. It can also be a space of misinformation, misunderstanding and missed opportunity, for reasons I will highlight in my next post.



Coleman, D. “Primal Leadership: Unleashing The Power Emotional Intelligence.” Harvard Business Review, 2013.

Short, R. “Learning In Relationship.” Learning In Action Technologies Inc. 1998

MacLeod, H.B. “Humanizing Leadership.” FriesenPress, 2019.

January 2020, ISQua Podcast - “Humanizing Quality Improvement”


ISQua Expert & Member, Hugh MacLeod retired as CEO of the Canadian Patient Institute in 2015. Currently, he is an Adjunct Professor of the School of Population & Public Health at the University of British Columbia.


Hugh has recently published his first book 'HUMANIZING LEADERSHIP: Reflection Fuels, People Matter, Relationships Make the Difference' which has been described as 'Candid, concise, and skillfully delivered leadership advice.'


Registration for ISQua's 37th International Conference in Florence, Italy (30 August - 2 September 2020) is now open, and discounted rates are available for Early Bird registrants, ISQua Members, applicants from low-income countries, and students. Please visit the conference webpage to find out more -


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We all have two vocations in health care – to do our job and to continually improve