Boards need to invest in physician leadership.
The stakes have never been greater, the competition has never been more intense, and the expectations to advance the health of a population and deliver an exceptional experience while improving value only continue to grow. In what is believed to be the most challenging and volatile landscape the healthcare industry has ever experienced, the role of the physician leader will be a crucial element to achieving sustained success.
Not only is there a roaring call for new physician leaders, but there are robust demands on physicians in existing leadership positions to effectively meet the ever-changing challenges that their organizations are faced with. To that end, Gallagher Integrated looked to Fast Company’s February 2017 publication, Lessons in Leadership, for insights related to how leaders across various industries and businesses are driving change and shaping their future.
In December, 2016, Fast Company convened more than 200 of the top businesses and cultural leaders to speak at the second annual Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York City. Leaders from Facebook to filmmaking, from Google’s Jigsaw division to professional golf, delivered thought-provoking perspectives on how they find purpose in their work and translate that to inspire those around them. Fast Company editors and writers then created a special report highlighting approximately 96 of those speakers as a means to inspire,guide, and energize continued creativity and progress despite the uncertainty of the future.
“The truth is that innovation comes from every group. When you walk into a store, there’s a guy in the back who looks like he is just stocking shelves. He may have the best idea. You have to take your ego out [of the equation] and recognize that the idea could come from anywhere.” David Lauren, Vice Chairman and Chief Innovation Officer at Ralph Lauren
We distilled this down to five core competencies that new and existing physician leaders will need to embrace for inspired and lasting effectiveness:
- See obstacles as opportunities
- Embrace limitations, exercise persistence, and thoughtfully balance patience with a healthy sense of urgency to thrive amidst resource constraints and competing priorities.
- Stakeholder connection is crucial
- The ability to repeatedly translate complex information into language that a variety of audiences can understand. Funnel different perspectives into one lens to “tell a story” that is inspirational and attracts support.
- Be present
- Actively listen to all points of view and embrace what you may not want to hear.
- Get into the weeds a little
- Attempt to understand a day in the life of other team members, recognizing that the next great idea can come from anywhere…maybe where you least expect it.
- Balance data with instinct
- Find ways to appropriately utilize data in a manner that doesn’t stifle creativity within problem solving and innovation processes
“You have to get to the place where you aren’t made comfortable by the fact that everyone is the same, but rather feel inspired by how different we are. We get better problem solving that way.” Regina Dugan, VP of Engineering at Facebook
How Boards Must Unleash these Competencies
Effective health systems boards should consider these three initiatives to maximize the development of the above five competencies:
Board Action 1: Assess Physician Leaders.
Too many boards do not know how many physicians are in active leadership roles for:
- Medical staff officers
- Chairpersons of Residency program
- Committee and Council Chairpersons fro quality assurance activities
- Medical Directorships for service lines, clinical departments, referral support coordinators, community outreach endeavors
- Vice President of Medical Affairs
- Chief Medical Officers (CMOs)
Wise and experienced Board leaders ask managers to develop and publish comprehensive information on the numbers and age profiles of physician leaders in all leadership positions, and then display these in a “physician leader organization chart”. Many health systems have 25-45 physicians with over 40% of their time in leadership roles beyond their traditional clinical care delivery roles. The number in these roles is increasing, as is the amount of money allocated to support the time and expertise of the physicians.
Board Action 2: Measure Physician Leader Performance.
It is not enough to know how many physician leaders are in your organization, but how well these physician leaders are performing. You must know: (1) the degree to which these physicians understand and are doing well in their leadership responsibilities, (2) how satisfied are they with system and staff support provided for them to succeed in their leadership work, and (3) how is their performance as a leader being measured for continuous improvement. Too many organizations only engage managers in their annual leadership performance review process/software systems. Physician leaders need to not only be clear about their leadership roles and responsibilities, but also the need to participate in 360 degree review of their work and results by supervisors, subordinates and colleagues. There must be time allocated once per year to have a conversation between board leaders and leaders of the administrative and medical staffs. Large medical groups like Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic and Ochner have been developing and conducting such reviews for several years to drive their culture to ever levels of higher performance for patients, communities and the organization itself.
Board Action 3: Celebrate and reward high-performing physician leaders.
Once physician leaders know their roles, and are being supported to continuously strengthen their competencies, health system boards need to be more intentional and creative in how to show appreciation for their good work. Recognizing and celebrating leadership gains is valued by all administrative, nursing and physician leaders. This recognition takes many forms, ranging from cash, travel, access to future education, parking, subsidy of medical malpractice coverage, photo bios on billboards or walls in the hospital, and personal thank you notes from the Board Chairperson and CEO.
Access to the full February 2017 Fast Company publication, Lessons in Leadership can be found here.