For the past few decades I’ve been consulting with hospitals, clinics and physician practices to improve the patient experience. During this time period I’ve seen many projects succeed and unfortunately a few projects fall short of their projected goals. Those initiatives that lose steam or derail usually have poor leadership engagement. So here are my tips to help individuals overseeing any change management or continuous improvement project move beyond the tasks of management and be effective leaders.
First, one must acknowledge the difference between leadership and management. John Kotter explains that management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting and problem-solving. This is a complex task, but it’s not leadership. Leadership is associated with taking an organization into the future. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing and sustaining change!
So let’s start with vision. The changing landscape of healthcare requires thinking differently so:
- Be creative in your problem solving methods
- Seek new knowledge
- Question everything by asking why
- Look beyond the traditional metrics of today
- Identify what is over-valued and under-valued at your organization
But how do you get people to buy in? You must be open to what the individual and team requires. At times you will lead from the front, from within, and from the rear. One leads from the front by establishing the vision for the team and providing direction to the team to accomplish project tasks. Then, during the team’s execution of the task or project, it is important to lead from inside by monitoring the effort. Listen, watch, and assess to help the team make timely and effective course corrections when necessary. Finally, lead from the rear by allowing strong members of the team to exhibit their own leadership skills while taking time to work with those individuals who may be struggling as team members. Performing leadership from each of these positions will enhance trust in the leader.
Albert Einstein observed, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” If you’re a manager eager to transform yourself into a change leader, continuously challenge yourself to think differently and be flexible to the needs of your team so you can adjust what type of leadership the situation calls. Best of luck on your journey!