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The New C-suite: Sailing the Seven Cs (Part 1)

William K. Cors, MD, for HealthLeaders News, September 5, 2008

It takes strong leadership skills to navigate the waters of physician-hospital competition and collaboration. The questions to consider are "Where do you want your organization to be?" and "Where is it now?"

First of all, we probably have to invent a new C-suite for the hospital. Currently, we have CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CNOs, CMOs, and so forth, but is this sufficient? In addition to, or in place of the above, what we really need now are the following:

  • Chief change officer
  • Chief collaboration officer
  • Chief communication officer
  • Chief competition officer
  • Chief conflict officer
  • Chief culture officer
  • Chief cultivating influence officer

Regardless of the titles used in your organization, the point to consider is that a new set of leadership and management competencies is required to lead contemporary healthcare organizations. These new competencies or the "seven Cs" are:

  1. Embracing change
  2. Seeking collaboration
  3. Increasing communication
  4. Handling competition
  5. Managing conflict
  6. Influencing culture
  7. Cultivating influence

Embracing change
Change inevitably causes stress, and different personality types respond to stress differently. A working knowledge of primary personality preferences and their reactions under stress can help leaders diagnose and treat roadblocks in the process of embracing change. Tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Dominance-Influence-Steadiness-Conscientiousness Profile provide insights into seemingly inexplicable behavior. For example, many physicians using the MBTI show the following patterns:

  • Sensing, which is characterized by attention to immediate details and practical applications. When stressed, this style might have difficulty seeing the implications of the big picture and recognizing culture and trends.
  • Thinking, which is characterized by a rational and objective approach to decision-making. Under pressure, this style overlooks the effect of decisions on others and values product first and process second (if at all).
  • Judgment, which is characterized by focusing on a product that can be implemented and used. Under stress, this style is uncomfortable with uncertainty and might revert to controlling behaviors.

Seeking collaboration
It is important for leaders to understand that how they respond to conflict is a matter of their conflict style. There are two primary responses to conflict. The first is assertiveness, in which you seek to satisfy your own concerns. The second is cooperativeness, in which you seek to satisfy the concerns of others. Within these two primary responses, several outcomes are possible. These include:

  • Avoidance, by which neither party satisfies its concerns.
  • Competition, in which you seek to satisfy your concerns at the expense of others.
  • Capitulation or accommodation, in which you satisfy another’s concerns at your expense.
  • Compromise, in which each party gives up some of its concerns to satisfy the other. Although many people view this as the highest form of negotiation, it often leaves both parties feeling dissatisfied or manipulated.
  • Collaboration, a preferred method of negotiation in which both parties appreciate the conflict as a mutual problem to be solved. This allows the parties to discover new, expanded, or increased alternatives to satisfy their concerns.

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