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How Do Leadership Skills Impact Employee Engagement Scores?

July 25, 2018

leadership-skills-employee-engagementOne of my favorite things to do is our leadership “Impact Sessions.” A group of leaders take Select Assessment® for Healthcare Leaders (SAHL), which measures 18 specific leadership behavioral traits. Then we meet to identify:

  1. The biggest challenges facing their hospital/system

  2. The biggest barriers to success – with a specific focus on how:

    1. The group works together

    2. Various levels of the organization work together

    3. Individual and behavioral strengths and weaknesses manifest themselves

These sessions are always engaging.  The group gets to understand the underlying behavioral gaps that are at the root of persistent operational challenges.  Here’s an example from a recent Impact Session:

The senior team of this smaller community health system identified their biggest challenges:

A few findings stood out from their recent employee engagement surveys:

  • Managers reported that leadership’s attempts to create a culture of “accountability” felt more like a culture of retribution when managers don’t meet goals.

  • Staff and managers value their day-to-day work with colleagues. They do not, however, feel valued by the system.

The SAHL results across two groups – Senior Leaders as well as Managers/Supervisors were examined and compared. A few things stood out:

  1. Many of the long-tenured senior team members were strong in planning and organization, accountability, analysis/interpreting information, and results driven.

  2. They scored low in positive impact, openness to new ideas, social awareness/sensitivity, and delegating and empowering.

  3. By contrast, mid-level leaders and managers scored lower in accountability but high on innovation and adaptability.

What does all of this mean?

We are looking at a group of senior leaders who are smart, driven, organized, and expect results. They feel accountable to the system and expect others to be accountable. They are not necessarily great communicators, particularly when it comes to tough messages, and they don’t tend to look for new ideas or to naturally empower people. There is a disconnect between this group and how managers function and think. The managers are not naturally accountable, want to feel involved, and want their ideas to be valued and considered. This last point is relevant because this organization has been working to adopt “lean” thinking. Like many hospitals though, rather than building a lean culture, lean seems more like another project.

The Result:

  • Senior leaders are trying to hold managers accountable. Managers do not respond well because of their innate behavioral traits. As the leadership group does not communicate particularly well or provide a sense of empowerment, “accountability” feels to managers like programs being imposed upon them. So, when they fail to meet goals, there is retribution. The goal SHOULD be that managers and leaders feel like they are in this together and are working together for the benefit of patients.

  • Similarly, lean culture would encourage front-line staff and managers to always be looking for ways to improve processes – albeit within the lean structure. This group feels, however, that their ideas and innovations aren’t valued because they are presented to a senior team who doesn’t naturally value innovation or new ideas and aren’t adept at empowering subordinates.

Related: Three Steps to Building an Innovative Culture

There was a light-bulb moment for the senior team. They could see the frustration they were causing. The outcome?

  • First, enhanced awareness can lead to behavioral changes on the individual level.

  • Second, the team identified group and individual development and training initiatives to address specific issues. (Training and development is a worthwhile investment, but only when it’s targeted and designed to address identified gaps.)

  • Third, we started building the profile of leaders of the future for succession planning and near-term leader and manager selection situations.

These sessions are great examples of the power of healthcare-specific, leadership level assessments. We aren’t telling a leader he or she is “an introvert,” have “low EQ,” or that they are a certain personality “type”. Rather, we are examining the specific behavioral traits that impact effectiveness, in a very practical manner. We can combine this information with any past performance data and “perception” data by way of our 360 tools to really understand leadership potential and performance gaps so we can make leaders successful.

To learn more: 

healthcare leadership

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.