HTH Organizations Focus

Healthcare Organizations Should Focus on These 6 Capabilities

Friday, December 15, 2017

We have no choice…we must think differently about leadership within the healthcare system. Complexity within the industry will only accelerate in the future, propelled by sweeping healthcare reform and market transformation. These dynamics will impact the way healthcare is delivered and managed. Creative thinking and adaptive leadership will be required to make hospitals, health systems, and networks sustainable as the healthcare delivery landscape transforms.

Based on research, the Center for Creative Leadership has identified six essential organizational capabilities that are a prerequisite for success in this new world order. It was useful to hear various leaders and experts emphasize these capabilities during the most recent ATD Healthcare Summit.

1. Talent Transformation

Healthcare organizations need visionary leaders who can inspire and develop employees, build and mend relationships effectively, lead and motivate teams, and engage in participative management. This requires a shift from an all-knowing perfectionist to an open and curious explorer. During the Summit, expert DJ Mitsch reminded us of the transformative power of coaching. By asking the tough questions, a coach can help healthcare professionals adapt mindsets to make such individual and team transformation possible.

2. Engagement and Well-Being

Employee engagement and well-being impact the very mission of a healthcare organization. Research shows that when nurses feel empowered and satisfied in their role, quality of care is positively influenced. During a concurrent session, consultant Jill Christensen highlighted four key organizational practices that effect employee engagement:

  • hire people whose values match those of the organization
  • create a clear link between people’s work and the goals of the organization
  • foster a culture that encourages two-way communication
  • recognize people for their contributions.

In her keynote, trainer and consultant Vicki Hess shared thoughts on reigniting our own engagement by harnessing knee-jerk reactions, identifying negative emotions, and taking one positive action at a time.

3. Collaborative Patient Care Teams

Delivering safe, quality, and compassionate care is the primary mission of any healthcare organization. Given that roles within the patient care team are highly interdependent in nature, collaboration skills are crucial. On that note, Su Niedringhaus and Lee Massaro shared with attendees the acronym “GIVE” to highlight effective communications:

  • generate rapport (focus on the other person and make a human connection)
  • inquire deeply (pay attention and ask questions)
  • voice empathy (acknowledge the other person’s feelings and experiences)
  • exit with confidence (clarify agreements and next steps).

4. Boundary Spanning

One person or organization cannot solve the most pressing challenges in hospitals and health systems. Expertise, ideas, and support from multiple perspectives and stakeholders are required. Healthcare leaders must develop the ability to bridge departmental, cultural organizational, and industry divides. They must learn to break down barriers and silos and lead across traditional boundaries. Boundary-spanning leaders draw on networks and relationships as they work system-wide. Lori Gravelle, director of compliance and credentialing at Charlotte Radiology, modeled boundary spanning by sharing how compliance and HR professionals can collaborate to enhance compliance behaviors and attitudes in employees through recruiting, onboarding, performance management, and training.

5. Capacity for Complexity, Innovation, and Change

Charlotte Hughes, an internal consultant at Ascension Health, encouraged more use of design thinking in healthcare organizations. Design thinking is a process for generating innovative ideas and solving problems. Embracing design thinking requires mastery of three competencies:

  • empathy for the end user (gained by observing behavior and drawing conclusions about what people want and need)
  • rapid prototyping and testing of potential solutions
  • tolerance for failure.

The Center for Creative Leadership highly recommends this. Leaders need to help move populations from old established processes to new models of effectiveness. Design thinking can be a powerful method to make this a reality.

6. Resource Stewardship

Cy Wakeman, a clinical psychologist and author of No Ego, warned about “drama” —interactions focused on gossiping, venting and worrying about a future that is unlikely to happen. In her words, this is one of the biggest time and energy resource drains on organizations. We agree wholeheartedly. Resource stewardship requires individual ownership and accountability for the decisions that will, ultimately, allow the system to thrive and manage its resources judiciously. This can’t happen in organizations plagued by high levels of drama.

The U.S. healthcare system is considered by many to be broken, fractured, and unsustainable. Yet there are examples of hospitals and health systems that are showing tremendous success in transforming their cultures to provide efficient, quality care and superior patient outcomes.

The impetus for this is collaborative leadership. By clarifying organizational needs and leadership challenges and by developing capabilities with a collaborative mindset, healthcare clients can understand the interconnections between their business and leadership strategies. The type of collaborative leadership components described above has the power to transform healthcare organizations and networks, improving the system today and for the future. Just imagine how this might benefit patients, families, and caregivers.

About the Author
With over 30 years of experience at CCL, Cindy has contributed to many aspects of CCL’s work: research, publication, product development, program evaluation, coaching, and management. Cindy co-developed two of CCL’s assessment tools, Benchmarks and the Job Challenge Profile, and co-edited three books for talent management professionals: The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development (Jossey-Bass, 2010), Experience-Driven Leader Development (Wiley, 2013), and Using Experience to Develop Leadership Talent, (Jossey-Bass, 2014). Her most recent publications include Change Now! Five Steps to Better Leadership (CCL, 2014), which guides leaders through a process of crafting and enacting development plans, and Direction, Alignment, and Commitment: Achieving Better Results through Leadership (CCL, 2016) which helps leaders diagnose leadership issues in groups. As a result of her research and applied work, Cindy is an advocate for using on-the-job experience as a central leader development strategy, for seeing leadership as a collective endeavor, and for integrating constructive-developmental theories of human growth into leader development practice.
About the Author
Deborah Torain is a strategic business partner with the Center for Creative Leadership. Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, Deborah works to build and manage relationships with a wide variety of CCL clients, leading to the design, development, and delivery of customized CCL solutions. Deborah has led CCL’s business development efforts within the healthcare sector, working with nonprofit, faith,- and community-based health networks, academic medical centers, for-profit systems, public health entities, and the Veterans Health Administration. Deborah holds a BA in communications and public relations and a master of higher education administration, both from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in leadership studies at North Carolina A&T State University with a research focus on physician leader development. She can be contacted at
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