Effective Leadership In Healthcare “It Goes Beyond Metrics”
By Sean M. Weiss, CMCO, CPMA, CPC, CPC-P, CCP-P, ACS-EM
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – Albert Einstein
The fundamentals of running a medical practice get overlooked more often than not, due to the focus on revenues, denials management and “Metrics”. Many issues if ignored for any extended period of time can lead to significant problems down the road. Anxieties are running high these days and practice managers find themselves more often than not having to walk a fine line so as not to chase off any of their employees due to the fact we are already working with Skeleton crews, larger workloads and the inability to increase wages for staff. The days of having high rates of turnover in medical practices have to slow down to ensure stability for the practice and to control the costs associated with losing an employee.
My primary focus for 15 of my 21-years in healthcare has been on regulatory compliance, auditing and audit/appeal representation for physician and hospital groups. However, I really found myself on a lot of engagements getting involved with the management or lack thereof within the organization, and as such found myself playing more of the role of a coach, teaching managers and physician leaders how to be “Effective Leaders” and helping them to maximize the skills of their employees rather than focusing on the negatives. One of the things I quickly realized is managers in many cases function more as firefighters or not able to delegate, which detracts from their ability to really lead their staff towards success. Many times we are more focused on the type of frosting on a birthday cake than with how many months out we are with our A/R or why people keep quitting. Things must change if we are to thrive in these economically challenging times.
With significant instability in our health system spurred by those on Capitol Hill (lobbyist, Congress people and Senators) we have to stabilize what we can control internally to offset the outside distractions (Audits, Compliance, MACRA, MIPS, etc.) created by those who most likely never worked a day in a medical practice or hospital but believe they know better than those of us who have dedicated our lives to this industry!
What is lacking in most practices these days is effective leadership. “Leadership is the skill of attaining predetermined objectives with and through the voluntary cooperation and efforts of other people.”
There are three key words in this definition:
- Skill: Leadership is a skill that is inherent to a degree but fundamentals can be learned through management techniques, practice and then using best practices to perfect them
- Attaining: Leadership requires achievement. Leadership is not the skill of working hard; it is a matter of giving a “best-effort” and accomplishing the goal. Good leaders always focus on the process that drove them to favorable results.
- Voluntary: An effective leader is able to enlist and motivate employees to accomplish desired aims voluntarily.
Effective leaders know who they are and how to get people to respond in the manner that’s conducive. Effective leaders understand what needs to be done to drive success and the necessary steps required to achieve an optimal outcome even if resources are limited. An effective leader must understand how to enable others to act, inspire a shared vision, model the way, encourage others to succeed, teach, coach, manipulate and Consult.
Strong leadership is not only necessary for survival in the business world; it is a key part of effectively navigating the world of business… Leadership ability, is clearly attributable to things like education, life events, and trigger moments so, how do we best define leadership? Could you say that “Leadership is the interaction between leaders and followers and how one achieves direction, alignment, and commitment in the other” or that, “Leadership is where you are creating an environment where your people go beyond the norm and do more than even they would have expected they can do” or, could you say, “Leaders make others feel like they are more and so they then want to do more.” Any way you cut it, effective leadership has to come from the top and there needs to be a level of consistency with your message otherwise staff is left guessing at what message you’re trying to convey.
I want to share with you a story by an unknown author that I believe is appropriate especially for those of you struggling with leadership and role in your current employment… This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about it, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have…
What does this story tell us? If you are not an effective leader providing a clear vision for your staff then you wind up nowhere!
Contrary to popular belief leadership and managing are not the same… The U.S. Military says, “People are led, things are managed.” It is critical to understand that managing is looking retrospectively, backward; being reactive. Leadership is forward-looking, seeing what comes next… Stanley C. Allen said, “Leadership involves remembering past mistakes, an analysis of today’s’ achievements and a well-grounded imagination in visualizing the problem of the future. This means you have to have a plan. Every day when you walk through that front door to your office, you need to be structured and prepared to deal with the necessary and accept the fact that being ill-prepared is worse than being ignorant. You must proceed with diligence and a commitment to yourself, leadership and your staff to demonstrate you are ready for anything because you understand the problems of today and the solutions needed to keep them from being the problems of tomorrow.
What kind of leader are you, and do you possess the competencies to effectively lead? There are 4 core competencies I focus on when speaking with healthcare professionals that I believe they must possess to be breed success. All of these are learned except for one, which plays a critical role in whether one is capable of leading and ties directly back into the point I was making earlier about genetics and its role in one’s effective leadership:
- Clinical (learned)
- Financial (learned)
- Marketing (learned)
- Psychological (innate)
The takeaway point is, it’s more than just genetics that makes an individual an effective leader and even if you’re not born with it, you can still learn to be an effective leader.
There are 4 main types of leaders (Others exist but are not addressed in this article and include: The absolute dictator, the benevolent leader, the unpredictable leader, the one who avoids responsibility, and the democratic leader) and each one has their pros and cons. How do you know what type of leader you are? Take a look at each of these and see where you fall. Maybe you are a combination of two or three or maybe you see a little of each in you.
There is no one right answer as to what makes an effective leader but it is important to understand the type of leader you are so you know how your staff views you and more importantly; how you view yourself.
The Drill Sergeant – Their positive attributes are: they act decisively, they are results oriented, value consistency and past experience, and show determination. Those attributes that can be viewed as negatives include: they value action above wisdom, show impatience, can be abrupt or even rude, can be stubborn or unwilling to adapt, and they don’t listen to subordinates.
The Coach – Their positive attributes are: they tend to acts logically and methodically, they are team oriented, the value teaching and delegating tasks, and display long-term commitment. Those attributes that can be viewed as negatives include: They tend to employ hierarchical and controlling attitude, Individual performance can go unrecognized, dump too much responsibility too early, and can set unrealistic, overly ambitious goals.
The Negotiator – Their positive attributes are: They tend to acts cautiously, avoids unnecessary risks, they are people oriented, embrace change and creative input, and demonstrate an openness and willingness to listen. Those attributes that can be viewed as negatives include: they can miss opportunities by waiting too long, they want to be liked more than they want to lead, and they lack structure and organizational skills; they suffers from “paralysis by analysis.”
The Innovator – Their positive attributes are: they acts intuitively, they are vision oriented, they values enthusiasm and big ideas, display charisma, and are very personable. Those attributes that can be viewed as negatives include: they can be impetuous, take unnecessary risks, they lack follow-though and is easily distracted, they can overlook key details and be too optimistic, and finally, they Rely solely on charm as a way to motivate.
Were you able to identify the type of leader you are from the above? If so, do you now have a better understanding to how you may be perceived by your staff? Do you have what it takes to affect change in your organization?
Sean M. Weiss is a Partner with DoctorsManagement and serves as the Vice President of Compliance. Sean is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant with more than 20-years of service in healthcare working with and for some of the Nation’s largest and most respected health systems. Should you have questions or are wanting to speak with Sean regarding his services in your organization email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact him at 800-635-4040.