Sailing with the Winds of Change: A Healthcare Leader's List of Must-Haves

The healthcare sector is one of the most dynamic of all industries. Because of the demand for optimum patient outcomes, and because it deals primarily with the preservation of human life; change is inevitable, fast and necessary.  Those responsible for change initiatives are healthcare leaders and managers. Numerous improvements and transformations have come about through keen leadership and through the participation of healthcare staff. 

Management in healthcare is like learning to sail. If a leader is oblivious to the changing tide, wind direction, and upcoming weather disturbances, they risk getting lost in the sea.  Similarly, in a healthcare organization, the sea of complexity is coming from all stakeholders, with the unrelenting pressure of the need to meet both compliance requirements and profitability projections.  To be successful, managers need to be equipped with the right tools and should embody the qualities of a transformational leader.  

What Does it Take to Become an Exceptional Healthcare Executive?  

Change as we see it today is primarily driven by the challenges of managed care that grows more diverse year by year with the increasing demand for quality care. This fact necessitates focusing on healthcare executives who are tasked with successfully introducing and bringing about change, especially now that organizational transformation has created more diversity in leadership and management. 

Becoming a leader in healthcare is not for the faint of heart. The fast-paced life in this industry pushes leaders to be flexible to changing practices yet resilient to the challenges posed by transformation. To become an effective manager here are just some of the traits that are needed:

The Right Education, Training and Experience

Most leaders and managers are required to have a basic education in their field plus a master’s degree. Furthermore, leaders must be committed to professional development and continuing education. They achieve this by undergoing accreditation and training to enhance knowledge and managerial skills. Experience is important, too. Although practices and trends tend to change over time, experience allows leaders to master implementation skills.

Having the Right Attitude

To be effective leaders, managers should have the ability to establish and maintain an effective working relationship with patients, support personnel, other health professionals, and employees. This means being able to smile, recognize people’s achievements, and work with grace under pressure. It is also important to have the ability to resolve conflicts within your organization.

Keeping Current With Trends, New Practices, Guidelines, and Research Outcomes

Remaining current is being on top of the line as well as on top of everything else. It creates foresight which enables leaders to anticipate organizational needs and to recognize areas of improvement. To do this, having a medium for receiving new information, and having a platform for information dissemination is a necessity.

By staying current, not only do we mean being knowledgeable of research outcomes but also of employee progress regarding their assigned tasks. This allows a manager to be aware of the status of their department or organization with regards to the achievement of goals and objectives. 

Ability to Proactively Institute Change

Before change can be asked of employees, or implemented in services and processes, change must emanate from the leaders first. To achieve this, managers should keep an open mind to new developments while maintaining a balance between evidence-based research and the uniqueness of their organizational needs. Managers should have a clear understanding of how to institute changes and have a clear picture of the expected outcome. They should be able to initiate and sustain the processes needed for accreditation and to practice lean and kaizen principles.

Excellent People and Communication Skills

Think back to the people you have worked with that were effective leaders, regardless of whether they were managers. These types of individuals are usually distinguished because of the way they handle and mobilize people, and their ability to communicate effectively regardless of role or title.

Great leaders achieve this primarily by obtaining feedback often and from many sources, so they understand who is working to get things done and who isn't. They quickly learn that if a process or project is off track or if the tasks that need to be accomplished are not progressing in a timely fashion. Closed-loop communication and feedback also lead to employee engagement because the staffs feel they have a voice in the development of processes, procedures and clinical standards which encourage teamwork and collaboration.

Continuous Training and Evaluating of Employees     

Implementing change includes continuous staff training on new policies, initiatives or procedures and following up that training with an evaluation to ensure that employees understand and follow the process or task correctly.  

Effective Delegation

An exceptional leader doesn't try and do it all themselves. They delegate appropriately to ensure that the implementation of changes is progressing smoothly. Sometimes, this also means having the right perspective to understand when to obtain the services of outside resources who are more equipped to handle the job.

Promoting, Building and Sustaining a Culture of Collaboration and Teamwork

Finally, being able to influence the work culture is very important. Employee engagement relies not only on monetary compensation but more so on how satisfied and happy employees are with a culture that is nurturing and collaborative. Workers excel where there is recognition, respect, and a genuine desire to help abound. Fostering a healthy work culture can be done by being self-aware of one’s leadership attitude and skills, and by being an epitome of positivity. Another way is having strict and specific policies on maintaining harmony.

The manager's challenge of implementing transformation and change in healthcare organizations is great. Without the leadership qualities we mentioned above, managing in healthcare is like asking an untrained person to sail a boat in the harsh tide.  It is hard to feel confident without the right tools, knowledge, and skills. You might find yourself lost in the sea of change instead of arriving your intended destination. The pressure for leaders to keep up with the ongoing changes is overwhelming. 

There are innovative tools available to managers to help them bravely confront change. ManageUP has come up with brilliant solutions to make this happen. Contact us today, and let us know how we can help you.