The Importance of a Strong Leadership Development Pipeline

By Marty Parker

As leaders, part of our job is to help identify and develop the next generation of leaders – to recognize those people on our team who have the skills, passion, and aptitude for leadership (whether it’s leading a team or moving to the leadership track within the organization), and to support their career development.

I recently sat down with Bernard Lord, CEO at Medavie, to talk about how that organization approaches leadership development and the important role that a strong leadership pipeline plays in corporate culture.

The interview has been edited for length, but you can listen to the full conversation here.

Marty Parker:
Bernard, as the CEO, what is your role in sustaining the culture and building the culture at Medavie?

Bernard Lord:
As a CEO, I feel part of my work of course, is strategy and helping in developing strategy. But as well, my role as CEO includes motivating people and inspiring our teams. It’s leading, making sure that, as a CEO, I lead by example, and that I lead the organization in terms of delivering on our strategy, reaching our goals, as well as making sure the execution is there.

But in terms of the culture itself, it’s making sure that, as leader, as a CEO of the organization, with our executive senior leadership team and the whole team frankly, that we continuously build a strong culture within the organization. And I feel that as we strive to be a trusted leading health solutions partner, it’s important for us to have the right culture.

You can have the best strategy in the world. You can put in place an execution plan and have everything in place. If you don’t have a motivated, engaged, talented workforce, and people that believe and share your values and believe in your purpose, if you don’t have the culture to support it, the strategy will never be implemented successfully. And that’s why it’s so important to build a strong, vibrant culture within an organization like ours, especially an organization as diverse in terms of the businesses that we have, the services that we provide, the products that we sell, as well as the geography. We’re not all at the same place, we’re not all there at the same time doing the same thing. So what really unites us, what keeps us together, is our sense of purpose, our mission, and the glue of all of that is the culture within the organization.

Marty Parker:
You’ve taken, at Medavie, a big step forward and a commitment in terms of your leaders. When it comes to your leadership competency framework, how do you use that to develop your leadership capacity at Medavie?

Bernard Lord:
It’s very important and we don’t take that for granted and we don’t just wait for it to happen on its own. It’s something that we know that we have to be deliberate in nurturing and building over time, and that transcends the organization… The core values that we have, they have to guide our actions and they guide our actions and our behaviors internally, as part of our leadership framework.

It’s also part of how we integrate talent within the organization. And the view that we have, we’re a large employer in some of our communities, and we’re a smaller employer in other communities, but basically we want people that want to work at Medavie. We don’t just want people that work for us or work with us as employees because that’s the only job they can have. Sure, we want people to have a decent living to be able to take care of their families, but we really want to attract individuals that have talent and competencies, and that are aligned with our purpose and our values. And that speaks to how we nurture and develop leadership as well within the organization.

So it’s not just about having a job and doing a job, it’s also making sure that we’re aligned in our values and our mission. And I really want for our people that work within Medavie, I want it to be meaningful. And what I’ve noticed with the younger generation and frankly, our generation as well, that [they] are evolving, people aren’t just satisfied by having a job. They want to be able to do something that is meaningful, that they feel that they’re helping someone in their community, that they’re developing the local economy, that they’re having an impact. And that is part of our overall development of employees and of our leaders internally.

Marty Parker:
Why is it important to you as a leader, Bernard, to have a strong development pipeline of people and future leaders in the organization?

Bernard Lord:

Leadership and a CEO, you have strategy, you have culture, and succession are [all] key components of every CEO’s responsibility, and I would say every board’s responsibility as well, overseeing the role of their CEO. They have to make sure that strategy is in place and then you have the structure and the people to implement the strategy. You have to make sure that the culture is in place (so the glue that keeps all of this together) and the heart and soul of the organization has to be there as well. But succession is key.

And succession is key at every level, because there’s always some turnover. There’s always some churn in every organization, and you don’t want to be surprised by someone that decides to leave because of whatever reason – either they win the lottery, they have another job, they decide to run for office, whatever it is they want to spend more time on, retire early, retire late. Whatever the reasons are, it’s important to have a great succession pipeline in an organization.

The approach that we’ve developed and we’re building within Medavie is that we want to make sure that we have people internally that can fill vacant positions when they become vacant positions, whether it’s at the leadership level or at the management level, but we also, from time to time, want to recruit from outside. So to bring new ideas and new blood and a new way of looking at things. So we feel that the blend of internal talent that is nurtured and developed as well as bringing outside people from time to time gives us the blend that we need to continue to grow and succeed as an organization.

Marty Parker:
Wonderful. Looking ahead, three, four, five years, Bernard, what do you see as critical to aligning your people to your culture and continuing to sustain your high performance culture that you’ve built at Medavie?

Bernard Lord:
Well, it’s a never ending journey. If one thing is really important it’s not to take things for granted. So even though we’ve had success, even though we’ve been recognized, we have to be vigilant and continue to improve our culture and strengthen our culture and adapt where we need to adapt. And that means… making sure our leadership in the organization continues to understand the value and the importance of our culture and our values, and that we continuously activate our values internally at all levels.

So when we’re onboarding new employees, we don’t take for granted that the previous employee understood the values and the culture and how we do things within Medavie, but every single employee in the recruitment aspect is important. Because as I said earlier, when you can recruit individuals that are as passionate as we are about the well-being of Canadians, that want to make a clear improvement to how people get access to their drugs, their medication, their treatment, or receive direct service, that is the best way to strengthen our values and continue building our culture.

But the key thing for us is just building on the success we’ve had, not be complacent, and be willing to continue to change and improve. It’s not because we’ve done a lot of things right that we cannot improve. We have to show that we are willing to continuously improve. And that starts with me, with our board, with our senior leadership team and with everyone in the organization.