ATD Blog

6 Ways Healthcare Leaders Can Improve Communications Skills

Friday, August 7, 2015

Today’s dynamic healthcare landscape relies on highly educated and motivated leaders with strong managerial expertise to oversee large operations. The success of these leaders is determined by how well they clearly communicate with patients, staff, providers, business partners, insurance companies, and regulators. Indeed, without communication, there is no leadership, and without strong leadership, there can be no success in our current healthcare landscape. 

Fortunately, healthcare professionals have a good command of communication skills, but the breakdown in communications can occur anywhere in the care continuum. Consequently, it’s important that healthcare leaders continually work at polishing their skills in this area to ensure their operation’s continued success.

Here are six practical steps healthcare leaders can take to improve the quality of their communications.  

  1. Choose your words carefully.

    The more clearly and succinctly you say something, the more powerfully you communicate. Avoid clichés, slogans, and buzzwords.

  2. Be clear and specific.

    When explaining your vision, it’s important to be clear on exactly what your message is and what it means for the organization and the individuals who work there. Use only the words necessary to get your meaning across.

  3. Never trade clarity for inspiration.

    It’s not important for people to display waves of emotion from their choice of words, nor should they worry about being charismatic. Focus on the mission so that people will understand and take part in it.

  4. Don’t over-specify.

    Nothing will go as we think it might or wish it would, so leave enough room when communicating ideas that people can react as necessary to changing conditions.

  5. Note what is non-negotiable.

    Find the core principles of the message (or organization) and be sure people understand their importance. Then they will help create systems to support those principles.

  6. Stretch specifications and goals can improve innovation. When trying to move beyond what the organization has done before, use “stretch specifications,” which are goals or definitions that seem impossible. They can help people realize that business as usual is no longer going to work and that they need new approaches.

Bottom line: Strong communication skills build trust, ease tensions (with patients, staff, and providers), increase positive patient outcomes, and help boost professional satisfaction. With practice, effective leadership skills can become easy for today’s healthcare leaders to implement and also become beneficial as part of their routine.

About the Author

Dr. Blair Smith is the dean of informatics, management, and technology at American Sentinel University. Previously, he was of the dean of the College of Information Systems and Technology at the University of Phoenix. Dr. Smith was instrumental in the design and development of all degree and certificate programs at the university. He has taught computer science and information technology at a number of institutions, including Metropolitan State College of Denver, Park College, and Computer Learning Center of Anaheim. In May 2011, Dr. Smith participated on a panel for President Obama's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology.  As a consultant, Dr. Smith has assisted clients in solving a variety of business problems. He has conducted MIS staff and organizational evaluations, requirements planning, development of requests for proposals, disaster recovery and business resumption plans, systems analysis, design, project management, and implementation.  Dr. Smith holds a PhD in organizational management from Capella University, an MBA from California State University, Fullerton, and a B.S. in computer and management science from the Metropolitan State University of Denver. He also holds several IT industry certificates. 

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