How to Identify and Develop Competent Leaders Among Your Team

Last Updated on May 9, 2022 by Owen McGab Enaohwo

Employee motivation acts as a driving force for an organization’s success.

As the hospital administrator at Arkansas Children’s Northwest, AnneMarie Witecki implements processes that enhance employee motivation and measure employee performance objectively.

AnneMarie Witecki is the guest in this episode of the Process Breakdown Podcast. She speaks with host Chad Franzen about strategies for employee motivation and developing leaders for success.

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Arkansas Children’s

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Show Notes 

[0:26] Intro     

  • Chad Franzen mentions some of the past guests who have been on the show including David Allen of Getting Things Done and Michael Gerber of the E-Myth.  
  • Chad Franzen introduces SweetProcess, a workflow tool that helps businesses to streamline their operations even in life-or-death situations.     
  • SweetProcess offers a 14-day free trial without a credit card.   

[1:15] Chad Franzen introduces the guest, AnneMarie Witecki.  

[1:59] AnneMarie gives an overview of Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

  • Arkansas Children’s is the only pediatric hospital in the state.
  • The hospital has a large campus in Little Rock with over 300 beds.

[2:48] What’s involved in AnneMarie’s day-to-day role at the hospital?

  • AnneMarie recently transitioned from being the director of operations to a nursing role—an operational leader among nurses.
  • The director of primary care services, AnneMarie manages the hospital’s growth in primary care and general pediatric care.
  • AnneMarie has also helped to develop some members of the hospital’s leadership team.

[3:56] AnneMarie talks about her process of developing leaders.

  • It’s important to find out what motivates people to do what they do.
  • When people show a desire to do more than the roles assigned to them, they may have the potential to be leaders.
  • When people give 60% effort to growing and doing more, she helps them complete the remaining 40%.

[5:42] What’s the process of finding out if people are willing to give the 60%?

  • People’s openness to feedback and their ability to think critically and solve problems is part of the 60%.
  • The willingness to take on more challenges and react to challenges without getting overwhelmed or defensive makes up the process.

[7:07] AnneMarie gives insights into the process of developing someone with leadership potential into a leader.

  • Leadership feels very subjective so it’s important to develop objective measures of success.
  • It’s hard to change people’s characters and attitudes, but you can hold people accountable for their behaviors.

[8:44] What do you do when someone you thought had the potential of a leader underperforms in a leadership role?

  • You need to have a transparent conversation with the person to understand why they are not delivering up to expectations.
  • If someone isn’t performing well, they are probably not happy with their job. So you might have to let them go where they’ll be happy.

[10:18] AnneMarie explains how to help workers know when they aren’t performing well on their jobs.

  • You need to give direct and instant feedback so people know how they are performing at every moment.
  • Instead of judging people on why they behave a certain way, give them objective feedback on their performance.

[12:19] Do you let employees decide to leave or do you decide for them?

  • AnneMarie prefers that employees decide to leave. But when they aren’t forthcoming, she helps them make the decision.
  • Give employees all the support they need to improve on their jobs. But when all efforts fail, it’s better to let them go.

[13:57] AnneMarie talks about using data to evaluate performance.

  • It’s important to put data in context to evaluate performance.
  • Putting data in context helps you to identify issues and proffer effective solutions.

[16:25] How can people find out more about Arkansas Children’s?

[17:06] Outro

About AnneMarie Witecki

AnneMarie Witecki is the hospital administrator at Arkansas Children’s Northwest. With several years of experience in healthcare operations, she has a unique experience in planning a greenfield hospital and managing a variety of operational areas in pediatric healthcare.

AnneMarie demonstrates the ability to identify and develop high-performing leaders. She facilitates great communication and trust among interdisciplinary teams with a people-first approach, motivating individuals to excel in their jobs. 

Transcript of the interview

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now let’s get started with the show.

Chad Franzen: Chad Franzen here, co-host of the Process Breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. Past guest include David Allen of Getting Things Done, Michael Gerber of The E-Myth and many more.

Chad Franzen: This episode is brought to you by Sweet Process. Have you had team members ask you the same questions over and over again, and this is the 10th time you spent explaining it? There’s a better way and a solution. Sweet Process is a software that makes it drop-dead easy to train and onboard new staff and save time on existing staff. Not only do universities, banks, hospitals and software companies use them, but first-responder government agencies use them in life-or-death situations to run their operations. Sign up for a free-14 day trial, no credit card required. Go to That’s sweet like candy, S-W-E-E-T,

Chad Franzen: AnneMarie Witecki is the hospital administrator at Arkansas Children’s Northwest. She’s an operational leader with a unique experience of project planning a greenfield hospital, and managing a wide variety of operational areas in pediatric healthcare. She has a drive for fostering great communication and trust among high-functioning interdisciplinary teams, putting people first, finding what motivates them to bring their best works… bring their selves to work every day and developing their strengths is her passion. Jennifer, thank you so much for… Hey, Marie. Thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you so much. How are you?

AnneMarie Witecki: I’m doing well. How are you?

Chad Franzen: Boy, I am struggling here. Good, good. Thanks.

Chad Franzen: So tell me a little bit more about Arkansas Children’s Hospital and what you guys do.

AnneMarie Witecki: Yeah. I work at Arkansas Children’s Northwest is our satellite facility. Arkansas Children’s is the only pediatric hospital in the state. We have a large campus located in Little Rock, over 300 beds, level one trauma center, big NICU, big PICU.

AnneMarie Witecki: I work out of our Northwest Arkansas Campus in Springdale, Arkansas, which is really close to Bentonville, which a lot of people know is the headquarters of Walmart so we’re pretty popular that way. We have a lot of new leaders, new people coming into the area every day to go work for Walmart and their vendors. Up here, we’re a 25-bed facility. I moved up here to help build the facility. We have a big infusion center, a lot of outpatient services, and we’re just growing more and more every day.

Chad Franzen: What’s kind of involved in your day-to-day role?

AnneMarie Witecki: Currently, I’ve just transitioned from being the director of operations to a nursing role. I’m not a nurse, I’m kind of a operational leader hiding out among nurses. I’m the director of our primary care services so I manage the growth that we’re trying to accomplish in primary care so basically general pediatric care, people’s primary care physicians and how do we expand. A lot of what I do is trying to figure out how to expand in this region to provide more pediatric services.

Chad Franzen: And you kind of helped to develop some people on the leadership team. Is that right?

AnneMarie Witecki: Yes. I have gotten the opportunity in this role. I started working at Children’s straight out of graduate school, I did my fellowship in Little Rock with Children’s, and Children’s has helped me develop as a leader. In turn, it’s been one of my greatest joys in my job to develop other leaders and invest in them the way Children’s invested in me.

Chad Franzen: When you kind of target somebody who you think would be a good leader, what’s kind of your process in terms of developing them into what you think they can be?

AnneMarie Witecki: The first thing for me is to find out what actually motivates them. So it’s really easy for me to look at a high performer and think this person is going to be able to go to the distance. They can be a vice president one day.

AnneMarie Witecki: Originally, what I would do is start spending time with them, investing in them, but never actually ask them, “Why do you come to work every day? What do you want to do when you grow up?” You can ask anyone that, doesn’t matter how old they are, but taking the time to actually ask what motivates them is important because for some people coming to work, a job is just a job, and that’s okay. It’s hard for people to believe that, especially in healthcare, but if that’s all someone wants is to just come to work every day, go home and be with their family and invest in their personal life, that’s totally fine, and I might not spend the time I otherwise would in growing them.

AnneMarie Witecki: But if I find someone who thinks, “You know, actually I do want to do more,” it gives me the opportunity to figure out how much time to invest. I think what I’ve seen in the past is if I can see someone want to give maybe 60% effort to growing and doing more, I will give that 40. Then as we develop a relationship, I’m going to put more and more of my time and effort in. But it’s important to me to see and know that somebody wants to do more.

AnneMarie Witecki: And it’s intimidating. Some people think they never thought that they would get where they got to in their career, and they’re not born waking up thinking, “I want to be a CEO one day.” So sometimes you’re the first person to suggest to somebody that, “Hey, I think you have a lot of potential to be a leader.”

Chad Franzen: What do you do to find out kind of if they’re willing to meet that 60%?

AnneMarie Witecki: Their openness to feedback is a big indicator of that and someone’s willing… Their ability to demonstrate how they can think critically and solve problems that I present them, lots of times when I see people that volunteer to take on more challenges or seeing how they react to challenges. If we have an issue that comes up and it paralyzes someone, it’s not a great indicator that that’s going to be where I want to spend a lot of my time in terms of development.

AnneMarie Witecki: But working with someone who asks the hard questions of me, has that self-awareness to ask “What can I do better?” and some people, they ask to be grown and then, in turn, being able to take that feedback and not get defensive. So being able to tell someone, “You know, you’re really good with people, but you struggle with your project management.” If their response is, “Okay, how do I do that better?” that’s a good response. If someone wants to get really defensive about it, again, that’s also a learning opportunity to say, “This is something I feel like you’re really defensive about. Let’s talk about a different way to respond to that kind of feedback.”

Chad Franzen: Let’s say you’ve decided that this person has the makings of a good leader. What’s kind of your process for developing them after that?

AnneMarie Witecki: One of the things is to find objective measures of success. I think there’s so much in leadership that feels very, very subjective that even things, when we talk about why someone is a good communicator or why they’re a good leader, a lot of those things are based on our personal opinions. There’s developing someone in their current role, in which case, it is finding objective measures.

AnneMarie Witecki: So if something they need to improve on is communication with their team, of course, you have things like employee engagement surveys and polling to get feedback from staff on. But you can also do if I am working with someone on that, I ask them, “Okay, when we meet monthly, show me your agendas from some of your one-on-ones or some of your team meetings,” because that is a task. “I’m going to meet with these people one-on-one every month. I’m going to have an agenda. These are the things that we’re going to talk about. Then when I meet with AnneMarie, I’m going to show her these things and we’re going to go over it.”

AnneMarie Witecki: So it’s a more objective way for me to kind of gauge what someone’s doing, but then also to give someone feedback on that. It’s hard to change people’s characters and attitudes, but you can hold people accountable for their behaviors, and finding objective ways to kind of measure behavior is really important.

Chad Franzen: So you’ve got one process where you kind of target potential leaders. What about the other side? Maybe you’ve realized you’ve hired somebody or somebody’s on board and they’re not performing maybe up to what you might hope for. What do you do in that case?

AnneMarie Witecki: You hear it all the time in leadership that we spend so much time on our low performers that we forget about our middle to high performers and a lot of times you see, especially middle performers, kind of leave because they’re not getting that attention. That’s a real problem because our low performers are probably going to leave anyway. We probably want them to, so that’s not where we need to spend our time. Again, that comes to what’s motivating somebody because they might not… Sorry about that. So they might not actually want to be at work and we don’t want them there, either.

AnneMarie Witecki: I had a boss who used to say, our slogan at Children’s used to be we talk about care, love and hope, and he would always say, “You know, I think they need to find their care, love and hope somewhere else.” And that’s true because if someone’s not doing well at work, they’re usually not happy there, either.

AnneMarie Witecki: So instead of making things really difficult for them, I find it better to have a transparent conversation with somebody and that’s from a leader to a frontline staff person. Sometimes it’s that they have a lot going on personally and it has nothing to do with the job, and sometimes they’re not happy where they are. So what can I do to help them be successful somewhere else? Because 99% of people don’t come to work wanting to just create mayhem or do a bad job and bring down the team. They’re there, they want to bring their best and they just might need some help with that.

Chad Franzen: So do you have kind of a process that you follow in terms of either turning somebody around or helping them move on to other things?

AnneMarie Witecki: Yeah. For me, it’s direct, consistent feedback. When I first started out in leadership, I was really afraid of feedback. I didn’t want people to be mad at me. I felt like it was really harsh and really uncomfortable. The longer I’ve done this, the more I realized, it’s much easier to hear feedback in the moment and to tell someone, “Hey, yesterday, when you answered the phone this way, it wasn’t appropriate,” versus two months when I sit down and have a meeting with them and it’s dramatic and I come out with this laundry list of issues because that breaks down trust. So giving direct, consistent feedback is important.

AnneMarie Witecki: I had one leader that there was so much that had to happen in terms of improvement for her to be successful that there was a point where I did not think we were going to get there and we had that conversation where I said, “These are the things we need to do. Do you want to do them? I need you to go home and think about, is this something you want to do? Because if it’s not, that’s okay and we’ll take a different direction.”

AnneMarie Witecki: I think taking that judgment out of it, I think when we’re leaders and we’re really excited about leadership, we get disappointed when someone else isn’t and it’s like, “If they just did this, they could be so successful.” That’s not my place to judge why someone does want to do something or doesn’t want to do something. All I can do is tell them where they’re struggling, where they’re successful and then give them the option of what they’d want to do with that information. Again, that’s where I think just being direct is really, really important because then you let that person make that decision.

Chad Franzen: So in terms of somebody who maybe that you’ve kind of both have determined that they’re kind of a low performer, they’re not performing up to standard and they may have perfectly good reasons for that, do you find that do they usually make the choice to move on or do you have to push them out the door?

AnneMarie Witecki: I prefer for them to make the choice to move on because that’s best for everybody. Some people aren’t going to make that choice and then I have to make it for them, and again, that’s where that direct, consistent communication is important because from an HR standpoint, you’ve been building this case that makes things a lot easier, again, from an HR standpoint.

AnneMarie Witecki: I think interpersonally it’s always difficult, but sometimes if it’s a leader, it’s not necessarily leaving the organization. Sometimes it’s taking a demotion and moving to a step down and creating an environment where that person feels it feels safe to do that. But there are times where you do have to have that direct conversation and say, “I think it’s time for you to look for another job.”

AnneMarie Witecki: Then there’s times where you’re actually terminating someone, which is never a good place to be, but you can sleep a lot better at night if you know that you have done everything you can along the way to make that person successful and to grow them or to help find them a different place in the organization and that’s what’s important. It’s just that they might not acknowledge it and you’re always going to have people that say it’s their first time hearing about this, and you have like a laundry list of kind of items that you’ve already talked about in the past. But, yeah, I always prefer for someone to make the decision themselves to leave because it’s a much more amicable way to do that, but it doesn’t always happen that way.

Chad Franzen: I wanted to ask you about using data to evaluate success. Do you guys do that and how so?

AnneMarie Witecki: Yes, we use a lot of data. I think sometimes we have that analysis paralysis here. I know especially I do, I love data.

AnneMarie Witecki: What I have learned, especially in healthcare is, again, that’s where I think that the data is it’s objective, it’s facts. Now, of course, data needs context and that’s something that, as I have grown as a leader, I’ve developed more and more that you can’t just put data in front of everybody. You have to understand the context around it.

AnneMarie Witecki: I think a good example where I’ve seen data be really successful in evaluating success is identifying issues. So when I managed our ancillary services, the pharmacy was one of the departments that reported up to me and we had a big issue, a patient dissatisfaction issue, where we had patients waiting, they were here all day if they came in for an infusion and they might be here for two hours before they ever get their infusion started.

AnneMarie Witecki: What we had to do was actually look at we’re trying to figure out where is the breakdown happening? This team is saying that they’re getting the medication upstairs right away. This team’s saying, the nurses are saying they’ve never seen the medication. So being over the pharmacy, one of the things we implemented was, okay, what you’re going to do is our Epic, our EMR documents a lot of information. I have that. We had to add another step in that process to document what time the medication arrives to the floor because with some of those medications, we have to physically walk them up. What we found was that our turnaround time was within 45 minutes. The issue was it would get upstairs and sit there for a long time.

AnneMarie Witecki: Now that’s kind of using data to CYA and say, “It’s not us, it’s them,” which isn’t helpful. So the conversation then became, “All right, how do we make sure that we’re communicating that the medication got here when it did so that the nurse knows to give it?” So that’s a way that data helped us identify an issue, but that allowed us to be successful in the end because you had one group thinking these meds are sitting in the pharmacy and they’re not doing anything about it and you had the pharmacist thinking the nurses are ignoring this medication. Everyone’s blaming everyone versus working together towards a solution. Data helped us identify what that solution could be.

Chad Franzen: My final question for you today, AnneMarie, is how can people find out more about Arkansas Children’s?

AnneMarie Witecki: Yes. We have a large Twitter presence, @archildrens is our website. We have a large LinkedIn presence as well, Arkansas Children’s. We are growing across the state like crazy. We’re trying to expand our reach and reach more and more kids in rural Arkansas. So those are the best ways to really find out about us.

AnneMarie Witecki: I’ll put a plug out there, too, that we have a lot of openings for leadership positions. Of course, a lot of openings for frontline positions, just like everyone else, but we are always looking for leaders. And we don’t just take leaders from healthcare. We know we have a lot to learn from other industries, so we’re always looking for operational leaders with other industry experience as well.

Chad Franzen: Okay. Sounds great. Hey, I really, really appreciate your time today, AnneMarie. Thank you so much.

AnneMarie Witecki: Thank you, Chad. Have a great day.

Chad Franzen: So long, everybody.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the Process Breakdown podcast. Before you go, quick question. Do you want a tool that makes it easy to document processes, procedures and/or policies for your company so that your employees have all the information they need to be successful at their job? If yes, sign up for a free 14-day trial of Sweet Process. No credit card is required to sign up. Go to, sweet like candy, and process like Go now to and sign up for your risk-free 14-day trial.

Owen: Hi. This is Owen, the CEO and co-founder here at Sweet Process. If you’ve enjoyed listening to this podcast interview, actually, you know what I want you to do? Go ahead and leave us a five-star review on iTunes. That way, we get more people aware of the good stuff that you get here on this podcast. Again, go on to iTunes and leave us a five-star review. I look forward to reading your review. Have a good day.

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