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How Leaders Evaluate Leaders

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, December 4, 2012

Mastering communications

C.J. Bolster says healthcare organizations and their leaders sometimes don't give themselves enough credit for managing the huge volume of changes they've already been through in recent years, as healthcare has changed so dramatically.

Bolster is the national director of U.S. industries with Hay Group, a global management consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations translate strategy into results. He has extensive experience in healthcare.

"If you ask a nurse how they're doing their job compared to four years ago, it's an enormous amount of change," he says. "They have different relationships with physicians, with the electronic medical record."

He says CEOs need to manage the intricacies of developing a systemic way to help deputies understand how much they've already gone through and how they've coped.

"A core competency of a future leadership team is how to master internal communications," he says. Bolster , like Schlichting, says a combination of regular reviews along with constant communication is what he recommends to leaders hoping to get the most from their senior deputies. That and constant reminders of why they are in these jobs in the first place.

"That's where some of the faith-based organizations do such a great job—anchoring people in why they do what they do. Doing so provides a rationale so that the changes you're asking them to make are all about providing better service to the patient."

The best senior leaders do a good job of articulating what's central and unchanging versus what's changing—the processes to get there.

The past seven or eight years in healthcare have been very operationally focused, he says. What senior leaders were evaluated on has had large dollops of efficiency, quality, and satisfaction themes. But he's starting to see that, while those are still important, strategic implementation is critical. That may mean getting a new EMR system installed on time and on budget or being able to work out new relationships with physicians. For the vice president level, for example, effective CEOs have recognized and implemented process measures around strategic execution. For many of the larger organizations, healthcare is becoming more like running a professional service firm than running a hospital.

"Every organization we work with has a clear set of strategic initiatives for that year and for multiyear execution," he says. "Translating those into outcomes or process measures is critical."

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