As the old saying goes, “Organizing physicians is like herding cats.” So why would anyone want to be a clinical leader? What tips can help a leader success?
First, why bother being a leader? Simply stated, strong clinical leadership makes all the difference in any healthcare organization. Collaborative, communicative leadership helps inspire, teach, and harness the physician and technical workforce. Leadership reinforces the vision and values of the organization and spreads the organization’s story to insiders, partners, and customers. Leadership helps energize the team and optimizes collaboration. And, leadership builds efficiency, just one of the many rewards can far outweigh the required investment.
In a recent blog, I discussed the qualities of an ideal clinical leader. Now, I’d like to provide some advice to help any clinical leader succeed:
- Ensure that your goals, authority, accountability, time-commitment, and term-in-office are clearly documented. For example, suppose your organization includes 15 physicians and 150 technologists. You may want to establish a goal related to system training and expertise, such that each user is rated as a beginner, intermediate, or advanced user, and the average expertise grows over time. Achievements should be measurable and regularly tracked, with clearly defined and well-communicated deadlines. And regarding your own tenure, make sure you and others know that you do not have a lifetime appointment. Your success should be periodically reviewed before your position is renewed.
- As you help to achieve successive goals, be sure to communicate, repeat, communicate, repeat, and then repeat again. Your flock needs to understand where the organization is going and why. Think like a gardener. You may tend-to the soil and pull the weeds until the garden seems perfect, but sure enough, by next week, you’ll need to be tending and weeding once again. Learn to embrace the process.
- Consider that each of our leadership interactions has dual goals. Goal number one is to exchange information in order to collaborate toward an achievement. Goal number two is to improve the relationship so that the each successive interaction is more efficient. In other word, when leading, get the wheel moving AND grease it too. Leaders who frequently sacrifice relationships to achieve goals find that each goal becomes progressively harder to achieve.
- Forget consensus. After all, it’s called “leadership,” not “herdsmanship.” Since so many of us want to be liked and validated, it’s tempting to dream of leading with a broad mandate. It’s just not likely unless the organization is in crisis mode. In a crisis, any leader can get the whole herd stampeding on one direction (even the wrong direction). However, proactive leadership aims to avoid crises via visionary and timely achievements. So, how do you get the organization moving before it is urgent?
First, collaborate by listening to team members and advisors before making your own decision. In other words, do you homework so that you feel confident in your direction. Second, help create a sense of urgency by clearly painting your vision. Third, and perhaps most importantly, don’t expect or require everyone to listen or agree. Instead, observe your team and determine who’s with you. In any population of people, there are early adopters, mainstream adopters, and late adopters. The early adopters are driven by ideas. They are led by logic. Ideas are their reality. The mainstream adopters and late adopters are much more motivated by the actions of their peers. They follow the direction of the herd because they want to stay at the center, or perhaps they only feel safe moving across well-trodden soil. So, instead of consensus; instead of trying to lasso every last team member, think about pulling the herd by moving those early adopters who stand between you and the others
Let’s consider a timely and concrete example: the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Merit-based incentive program. While the rules are not yet final, it seems likely that by 2017, eligible physicians will be receiving a “quality score” that will impact their CMS compensation beginning in 2019. With the threat and opportunity still in the distance, most physician practices are not yet moving in a clear direction. Can you use the above advice to help avoid a crisis? Share your own tips in the comments below section.