Best Practices: Cardinal Health

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

With more than 33,000 employees in nine countries that serve more than 40,000 locations daily, generating revenue in excess of $100 billion, Cardinal Health is clearly a leader in the health-care industry.

But when the Fortune 21 company launched an endeavor to make sure each of its employees stood out as a leader in his or her own right, Cardinal Health stepped out as a true trailblazer.

Leadership Essentials, spearheaded by Lisa George, vice president of global talent management, and Jamillah Green-Davis, the former director of talent management, was intended as a "refreshing" of leadership competencies to identify behaviors to make each worker exemplary.

"We are a service business, so we create value through the results delivered by our people," wrote Carole Watkins, chief human resources officer at Cardinal Health, in her nomination letter. "When our employees behave consistently according to Leadership Essentials, we deliver value for both our internal and external stakeholders."

That value includes:

  • Self-aware, highly engaged employees who take ownership over their own work and help others do the same
  • Highly effective managers who trust and encourage their employees
  • High-performing teams that collaborate to make the whole stronger than the individual

"We build great careers at Cardinal Health by encouraging collaborators and partners at all levels of the organization," Watkins says.

Leadership Essentials strives to empower every employee to be a leader, and to perpetuate the company philosophy of "leaders, developing leaders, developing leaders," George says.

The ideas are broken into subsets for each level of employment or management within Cardinal Health: professionals and business support; managers of people, processes or projects; operations and manufacturing; directors and vice presidents.

The guiding principles include concepts such as maintaining a customer-centric focus with deep expertise, building strong relationships that foster teamwork and develop others, as well as numerous guidelines related to thinking and acting strategically, attracting and retaining talent, and getting into the trenches to do the work that needs to be done.

Following such guidelines helps every employee feel like an equal part of the advancement of the company, no matter what area they serve, says George, who previously worked for Godiva Chocolatier, Campbell Soup Company and The Limited.

"When you have leaders, developing leaders, developing leaders, it permeates the fiber of your culture," George says. "How you do business is a critical element to make sure people feel valued, letting them grow their careers and skills, and getting recognized for doing the best work possible.

"That doesn't just mean getting promoted. That is something a lot of people aspire to, and we have lots of opportunities. We also spend a lot of time just making them feel valued and recognized in the role that they are in, to keep their skills fresh, and feel excited and challenged."

Nicole Kraft is a freelance writer.

Reprinted from the August 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.