We continue our series today on executive healthcare leadership and will be moving to a more frequent format for much of the rest of the year. As we start toward the end of the year, we want to bring to a close this interview series, as well as intersperse some other timely topics that cause some reflection and thinking. Sometimes reflection and thinking seem to be put to the side since your schedules, as highly trained professionals, hardly can accomodate the press of all that is in front of you. This, however, is a deadly trap. Covey calls it Quadrant II – the area that is not urgent, yet is vitally important. Warren Bennis, one the major contributors to executive development theory and practice said “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult”.
With that in mind, our interview today is with a CEO of a large clinic system in the northwest.
What would you define as the the key ingredients for a leader in health care?
They need to be good critical thinkers. Physicians are accustomed to assimilating great amounts of data rapidly, but they are not trained, many times, to think within a business system. That requires a change in approach.
They need to be highly engaged and understand when the organization needs to go. Physicians need to ‘see it, own it, solve it, and do it’. There can’t be a “you owe me” mentality anymore. They have to ask key questions:
- What else can I do?
- What are the key points?
- What direction are we going?
Can you elaborate about the “you owe me” problem?
Entitlement sucks up huge amounts of valuable time. As leaders we have to help physicians to get out of the ‘whine’ mode. Teach them that it is about collaboration, moving forward, and seeing the bigger picture.
Where does the problem seem to come from?
I think it is learned behavior. The whole medical training system has traditionally focused on the individual and not the team, to some degree. Hyper-competetive residencies take that even further. So when these physicians are faced with collaboration situations, they don’t have the necessary skill set to address those needs.
How do you go about achieving engagement?
It many times comes from experience and if you can get an older physician, who is bought into the process of an engagement culture, to champion the benefits of engagement, you will see much better progress. If a physician can see that they will get out of it what they put into it, they start seeing things more clearly.
How do you go about teaching this culture?
You have to provide the environment of self-evaluation. Busy people don’t self-evaluate well. Sometimes this type of evaluation comes when the comfort zone is challenged. If you can teach them success and the concept of ‘if the clinic wins they win’, you can start to see change. You have to develop successes and define what value is for your system.