The Future of Leadership Development: How Healthcare Employers Can Get It Right
Leaders can come from a variety of backgrounds in healthcare. They may have financial, business or medical backgrounds. Because of this, cultivating leaders in healthcare has unique challenges. For example, those with skills drawn from the medical world have an intimate understanding of the tasks their medical staff members need to complete, but they may not have the management skills required to succeed in leadership positions.
Having leaders with a diverse set of experiences and viewpoints is extremely valuable — and with the rapid pace of change in healthcare today, great leadership is more important than ever. “Appropriately trained and motivated physicians are uniquely qualified to lead the multidisciplinary teams undertaking these efforts at truly improving our nation's health and productivity,” says Dr. Glenn Mitchell, Professor of Healthcare Informatics at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.
Thankfully, the skills that effective leaders need can be taught. Here are a few strategies to help build a quality leadership team at your healthcare organization.
Identify Potential Leaders
Leadership challenges in healthcare have remained consistent throughout the years, Mitchell says. “Leaders need training to be optimally effective,” he says, noting that many organizations haven’t taken the time to provide effective leadership training.
Mitchell says organizations also need to do a better job of finding new leadership talent, especially by identifying internal candidates who have the potential to move up. “Those with potential attributes that suggest leadership ability should be identified early and allowed to take the time to attend workshops and retreats that will make them more effective and pay back the organization's investment in them,” he says.
Provide Coaching and Training
Healthcare organizations need to provide structured teaching and coaching programs to help leadership candidates grow and evolve their skill sets. “It is tough in some situations to get people together physically,” says Alison Hendren, CEO and founder of Coaching Out of the Box.
HR should make it a responsibility to hold frequent training sessions and also give candidates the ability to train on their own time, by providing tools such as webinars and virtual meetings.
Hendren also recommends that organizations abide by a core rule for coaching and training, no matter how it’s conducted: Keep things simple and pragmatic. “It doesn’t have to take months and months,” she says. As an example, she cites a healthcare organization that held “coaching cafes” for its employees, where challenges and competencies were addressed in five-minute intervals. “Even in five minutes it is amazing what you can do,” she says. “It’s not that complicated.”
Implement Your Programs Now
Implementing training programs can be time-consuming. They require effort to plan, and they don't necessarily drive profits directly.
But effective training and coaching are incredibly important for organizational success, particularly when it comes to physician leadership. Not only are physician leaders well-equipped to help reduce the cost of healthcare, but they’re also better able to advocate for their patients’ needs. “In the interest of efficiency and reduction of overall medical costs, appropriate physician leaders must be brought back into prominence among healthcare leaders,” Mitchell says. “The interests of patients and their outcomes must have priority.”
Hendren says she has noticed another benefit to training programs — they improve organizational culture. “What we have seen is that people want to do work that’s meaningful,” she says. “They want to be included.”
Ultimately, creating powerful leadership teams is incredibly important for organizational success. From navigating change to creating a better environment for patients, effective leadership has the potential to be a powerful differentiator for your healthcare organization.