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How Leaders Evaluate Leaders

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, December 4, 2012

Staying on message

Dealing with the new in healthcare is a constant concern for senior leaders. New terms are often understood in theory by senior leaders, but how they translate them into plans of action makes the difference between success and failure. Consistency in communicating goals and expectations is more critical than ever, says Marlon Priest, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer at Bon Secours Health System Inc., a Marriottsville, Md.–based multistate system with FY 2011 total net revenue of $3.3 billion.

"I lead a weekly clinical operations call with my CEO that involves chief nursing officers, CFOs, regional CEOs and CMOs every Wednesday at 7 a.m., focused on items that create value," he says. "We talk about the things that are important to do now and we stay on the subject for two to three weeks, so that the operators, and the finance and clinical leaders are having the same conversation. That way, we know the message and can hear the challenges they're facing."

He says constant evaluation of senior leaders can be a big challenge, even though there are many "hardcore metrics" that can easily be obtained from proprietary organizations such as the Gallup Organization.

Those are the objective metrics, but Priest spends a lot of time and focus on other success factors. For instance, are people contributing in the room? Are they smiling? He spends a lot of time making sure his direct reports are effectively communicating with each other, or in some cases, even communicating at all. He calls his subordinates and makes sure that, for instance, "one of my staff people is having a conversation with another staff person that they need to have a good working relationship with to solve challenges."

He also checks to see that email does not have a "gotcha" or otherwise nasty tone.

"I use that in addition to the traditional Gallup measures," he says.

It's a collegial atmosphere, and "they do occasionally say that I'm micromanaging. But if you aren't talking to each other between staff meetings, I need to know why. If you were, we could possibly achieve a goal much faster."

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