7 Skills Successful Healthcare Leaders (Including Physicians!) Use Regularly

On-site leaders set the tone in healthcare. They ensure that safety, quality, and patient satisfaction are top priorities by working to impact the level of service delivery every day. If you are in a leadership role in a healthcare setting here are 7 skills you’ll need to use frequently to keep your teams focused and on track.

1. Feedback and coaching

Provide feedback to staff on the quality of their work and their interactions with patients. Identify ways for them to improve. Sing their praises when they demonstrate desired behaviors. Pull them aside when they’re underperforming. Help de-brief staff after a difficult interaction. Talk through alternative approaches and solutions. Provide a balance of challenge and support as needed. Remember the old adage: Praise loudly, criticize gently.

2. Role Modeling: Walk the Talk

Leaders work in a fishbowl. Every action taken (or not) and every word spoken (or not) shapes the culture of the workplace. Show up every day with the attitude, energy, and approach you ask for from others. Demonstrate ideal interactions with patients and family members, colleagues and subordinates. Admit your mistakes. Be an example to others of how to treat people and do good work.

3. Communication (Articulate the Big Picture)

Give voice to the mission, vision, and values of your organization and work to keep them at the centerpiece of everything that you do. Create shared purpose by helping those you lead connect the dots between that mission and the work they do. Help them see the ways that the seemingly inconsequential parts of their job impact others. Talk about it in team huddles, staff meetings, and one-on-one with members of your team.

4. Recognition

Find ways to recognize staff individually and collectively. Praise specific ways they serve patients, help colleagues, or make a difference to the team.  Say “Thank You” often. Recognition from an on-site leader has been shown to be a more powerful workplace motivator than money and perks.  A seemingly small dose of recognition can have a large impact.

5. Goal Setting

Identify, set, and drive toward goals. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T.- Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.  Set-up a few “easy wins” for your staff to get buy in and keep them motivated.  Discuss team and individual goals in annual performance reviews. Give your team something to strive for.

6. Talent Development

Working in healthcare is demanding and can take a toll on even the most resilient staff member. Invest in ongoing training and development for patient-facing personnel and their front-line managers that focuses on emotional intelligence, negotiation, conflict resolution, and quality improvement. Carve out time for members of the team to take advantage of learning opportunities, especially those that allow them to engage with peers to share problems and solutions.

7. Selection and Hiring

Not everyone is cut out to work in healthcare. Too often leaders prioritize finding someone quickly at the expense of finding someone suitable for the role.  Partner with human resources to engage in a selection process that focuses on the core competencies the applicant needs to be successful in the open position. The extra time you spend now is still likely to be less than the time you would spend later if you have to remove an ineffective employee.

In the high-stress, compassion-demanding environment that is healthcare it’s incumbent upon front-line, mid-level, and clinical leaders to keep healthcare personnel engaged and invested.  Indeed, if you don’t…who will?

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