Jacob Kupietzky is chairman of Healthcare Transformationa company dedicated to providing experienced interim managers to hospitals.
We hear a lot about the issues that healthcare executives and leaders face and will face over the years – the Great layoff, shortage of nursing and managerial staff, Covid-specific increase in hospital care, increased demand for flexibility in shift workpersistent problems caused by the sandwich generation and more.
But what we don’t often see discussed is how to succeed as a leader today. How do you enter an organization that is already under stress, where you may not know the culture and operations (maybe they have changed drastically or need to change drastically), and transform it into a highly functional, successful and well regarded healthcare facility?
Whether you’re filling out leave or leading an organization through a transition period, coming in as an outsider means choosing the work for you: building a culture, building staff, building trust. Here are five tips that can make that journey a little easier.
Tip 1: Get the Land Layout – Fast
When you’re new, you have a fleeting moment of grace, when people understand you’re still finding your feet and learn what to expect from you. Use this time wisely by learning the ins and outs of the facility, reporting structure, culture and relationships. Spend less time at your desk and more time understanding the organization you are now part of.
Tip 2: Meet your new colleagues
Just as important as getting to know the organization. It’s just as important that you get to know the people. Start building relationships with your team, colleagues and those for whom you are responsible. Set aside time to meet key stakeholders that you may not interact with every day, some of whom may be Outside the four walls of your building.
When building these relationships, keep the big picture in mind: Healthcare is already under pressure, and as a new leader or executive, you are by default a stranger to whom your employees entrust their careers and professional reputation. Considering how much mobility there is currently in this area, assume some of the professionals you meet assess you while you consider greener pastures elsewhere. Are you a confident, experienced leader who can improve the organization, or are you a glorified substitute teacher? Your life can become a lot easier if you can project that you are the first.
Tip 3: Build credibility
The ability to quickly build credibility and rally your workforce around you is an incredibly important skill for any leader or executive. While the “best” way to show confidence and get support will vary from person to person, keep the following in mind:
• Make sure your decisions align with the organization’s values and vision. If you start making recommendations that don’t fit the mission of the organization, people may assume the worst: that you haven’t taken the time to understand the people or the culture. Make sure you prove them wrong.
• Develop strong relationships with key stakeholders. Strong working relationships are essential to any functional organization and having allies throughout the facility will only help.
• Show your work. Be aware of the current state of healthcare, as well as your organization’s goals and patient care metrics, and let that information guide your decision-making. As a leader, trust can be made or broken quickly, and it’s essential that the actions you’re advocating are well-founded.
Tip 4: Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve
What do you want to achieve in your role? Do you keep the board chair warm during temporary leave, do you manage the organization while a new search is underway or do you fulfill a permanent position? Make sure your goals and expectations align with the organization’s expectations when they brought you in. And don’t be afraid to propose or encourage change. When you start working in a new hospital or healthcare system, it usually means that you bring a wide range of experience from different healthcare institutions. Your fresh view could find new opportunities for cost savings or areas for improving patient outcomes. In addition, you may not feel burdened by existing relationships and expectations – if an important but potentially painful change needs to be made, you may be in a unique position to make it. If you’re considering making changes, just expect a backlash from more established stakeholders and make sure your rationale is watertight and hyper-focused on the specific needs of the organization and community.
Tip 5: Create a positive work environment
The challenges of the healthcare sector cannot be underestimated. supply shortagesstaff shortages, constant turnover, sky-high salary demands—not to mention the toll on mental and physical health— can make leading particularly challenging. Do what you can to create a positive work environment. Take steps to make your facility as safe as possible, but also try to be as open, approachable and flexible with your staff. By doing this, you can help team members feel valued and supported and create an environment conducive to quality patient care.
In today’s healthcare landscape, change and uncertainty are the norm, and hospitals and healthcare organizations need their leaders to provide stability and smooth day-to-day operations. The sooner new leaders and executives get to know their environment and build relationships with their colleagues, the sooner they can make a difference to their organizations and patients.