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Perfect Pitch

The “elevator pitch” is a ubiquitous catch phrase in the business world. Can you describe your product, service or project in about 30 seconds—the time it would take to ride up 42 floors on an elevator with someone? Believers in the elevator pitch say if entrepreneurs can’t do it, they’ll miss out on funding, partnerships and other opportunities.

Phil Newbold, president and chief executive officer of Memorial Hospital in South Bend, IN, requires his entire staff to know and use the elevator pitch as part of the hospital’s overall emphasis on innovation. Staff members are trained to present their ideas as if they’ve stepped in an elevator with the CEO and have 42 floors to make their pitch and get the executive on board. The idea might be something as big as a change to a hospitalwide process, or as small as a new approach to scheduling—either way, the pitch has to be a good one.

Concise communication is a familiar goal in healthcare. Clinicians are trained in SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation), a popular technique used to efficiently convey clinical information from one provider to another. The Joint Commission surveys staff members’ ability to communicate effectively as part of its National Patient Safety Goals. As the most influential people in a hospital, senior leaders are also judged on their communication skills, although not necessarily by a regulator. Hospital executives talk to the board, their managers, their benefactors—but you’d be surprised how many can’t articulate their strategic vision without resorting to redundancy and jargon.

Newbold and other hospital leaders should train not only their staffs, but themselves, to perfect the elevator pitch: short, compelling and targeted to the audience, be it board members, staff or even the media. What is unique about your hospital? What demand does your hospital meet? What are you doing to promote transparency? If your C-suite team can’t answer these types of questions with a practical, passionate response conveyed in a concise manner, your facility runs the risk of watching critical opportunities and partnerships walk out the elevator door.

—Molly Rowe