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A New Year's Resolution: Develop Healthcare Leaders

January 13, 2016

resolutions.jpgI had the honor of kicking off a leadership institute program for 150 healthcare leaders at a large system. Managers, directors and supervisors – from every conceivable health system department. Some were new to their roles, others experienced leaders.

I always start these sessions by asking the group to identify the most important challenges facing their health system and it’s always interesting to hear the variety of responses. For the most part, the group appreciated the larger struggles presented by our changing healthcare landscape, but it’s interesting how they prioritize them. We talked about things like:

  • Moving to “system” thinking

  • Adapting to the concept of value-based purchasing

  • Being asked to do more with less

  • Changing care delivery models

  • And most importantly, how to protect the mission and culture through these changes

Then we make a list of the challenges facing them in their roles and, more importantly, how they’ve changed over the past few years.

A common theme: the need to develop people.

Historically, as managers, particularly, they were just individual contributors with new, almost administrative tasks, but now, they are asked to build and develop their teams, to coach, and teach – more than ever. Most admit they were never trained on these skills – and were looking forward to the program that was starting that day.

We kept getting back to that one, important point. How to meet these challenges while staying true to the mission of the organization. We had a lively discussion. Invariably in these sessions, we get down to something important. While these people aren’t necessarily at the patient’s bedside every day, their effectiveness as a leader impacts patients and their families in an important way. Their job is really to help the system tend to the “business” of healthcare while keeping patients at the center of the decision-making process. They need to become a better leader because it helps the organization perform and that helps the organization to fulfill its mission. Every day people show up to work in that building to do their jobs, and at the same time, patients and their families show up putting their lives and faith in your hands. The hard part is not getting so caught up in the business that you forget about the mission. 

Programs like this are critical in that they arm leaders with the tools to be effective. For instance, each of the attendees in this session had taken our Select Assessment for Healthcare Leaders, which identifies individual potential in 17 key leadership behavioral areas. From this program and the results, each individual will be creating a developmental program to improve performance in their lower performing areas. Most had never participated in a personal development plan that is this focused. 

We also look at the group as a whole because if they score low, in aggregate, for instance on “positive impact”, then they need to give serious thought to organizational communication strategies. If they score low in collaboration, then as multiple departments and disciplines come together on team-based initiatives, there needs to be structure and development around more productive collaboration.

I always appreciate the opportunity to do these sessions because it’s a chance to feel the energy of a room full of emerging leaders who realize that the work they do every day, even if it’s not at a patient’s bedside, has a real impact on people’s lives!

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.