Tuesday, July 17, 2018

To the Point

No matter what position we hold within an organization, or what place we are in our career, we all need mentors. At the very least, we need colleagues with whom we can seek professional advice in order to get open and honest feedback as well as spitball ideas.

I am often asked what traits I look for in a mentor or colleague. I find myself drawn to folks that are open, honest and direct. Over the course of my career, I have learned the most from people that practice the art of being direct. I say “practice,” because I think there is a skill to being thoughtfully direct without intentionally hurting a team member’s feelings or belittling them. 

I realize that being completely open and direct can cause a bit of anxiety. You don’t want to make a colleague feel bad and or engage in conflict. There are also times when one’s instinct is to believe that telling folks what they want to hear is more comfortable than being honest and upfront.

However, the reality is that beating around the bush doesn’t ultimately work and it takes away from what is important—getting the job done. Being direct, straightforward and honest with colleagues is the only way to go in my experience. 

Direct communication has a lot of benefits, and there are ways to speak openly and honestly without being punitive or demeaning. By being direct you:

  • Build trust with your team. 
  • Demonstrate that you are honest and authentic.
  • Show that you respect colleagues by telling them the truth.

Being direct is also much more efficient than avoiding the problem. Direct communication cuts through the drama, saving energy, time and money.

They are ways to be direct while being mindful of others and their feelings. Here are a few tips:

  • Provide feedback that is about the quality of the work and not the person doing it. 
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Be constructive rather than aggressive.
  • Don’t put others in the middle. Speak directly to the source and focus on their work and not that of others.
  • Ask follow-up questions to make sure you are being heard and that you are both on the same page. 
  • Work to come to an understanding and get “buy-in” from the team member before ending the discussion.

The reality is that there are times when discussions with team members are not going to be fun, and you have to give feedback that is hard to hear. But if you approach the conversation with honesty and thoughtfulness, the news is much more likely to be received in the spirit in which it was intended, and you and your team can move forward with the great work you are looking to accomplish.

Friday, July 6, 2018

True Colors

I have spent the last several blog posts focusing on the lessons I learned from past mistakes. For me, taking on this exercise was not only about the lessons learned and the chance to be self-reflective, but also the opportunity to practice vulnerability.

When everyone spends so much time curating the perfect highlight reel for their Instagram story or Facebook feed, it’s now harder than ever to be open about what is really going on in our lives. While nothing is perfect, it seems that these days we feel the need to paint that picture. And so, I think, it’s important now more than ever to show vulnerability and be willing to admit to one’s flaws and foibles.

Traditionally and especially in business, I believe vulnerability has been viewed as weakness. This negative connotation has often prevented folks in leadership roles from revealing their true selves. And so, when I talk to other leaders and members of my team about this trait, I position it as “practicing vulnerability,” as I think we have to make a conscious effort to show others who we really are.

And while practicing vulnerability can be a scary proposition to some, I would argue that when it comes to leading a team, it has tremendous payoffs. By practicing vulnerability, you:
  • Demonstrate that you need others and signal a willingness to collaborate.
  • Create a sense of relatability and accessibility among your team and colleagues.
  • Inspire others to be vulnerable and follow your lead.
  • Build bonds of trust and loyalty.

At the end of the day, being perfect does not equate to being successful. Leaders who admit mistakes, are open and honest about the missteps and flaws garner much more than those who don’t. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Meeting in the Middle

I’m often asked by colleagues and those I mentor to define my management style. I’ve found, what they’re really asking is for my advice on how I manage a team. A friend recently posed this question to me, and as I had been thinking about the lessons I’ve learned through the mistakes I made, I realized that the way I approach the management of my direct reports today has been significantly informed by my learnings from the past.

Micromanaging is not my style. It never has been, and I can’t imagine it ever will be. I want my team members to feel empowered and accountable. I want them to trust me and know that I trust them. I want morale to be high and team members to feel like they are valued and have significant input in decision making. I feel like none of this is possible when folks are being micromanaged and the team leader is holding the reigns too tight.

Earlier in my career, my mistakes in managing were rooted in the opposite approach—giving my direct reports too much autonomy and freedom. As a result, I experienced moments where team members felt lost or unsure of their direction and tasks failed to get completed or projects remained stuck in place. I encountered a few situations where team members took their new-found level of authority too far and decisions were made that were not in line with our overall objects. Their struggles were a direct result of my choices as a manager and I own that.

Creating a management balance has its challenges but it’s totally achievable. I think over the years I have met my team members in the middle and found a way to create a healthy work environment that is rooted in a mutual trust and respect. I strive to delegate, manage from a safe distance, hold team members accountable and empower them to make decisions and take risks. For me, this is possible by practicing the following:
  • Providing clarity around a shared goal of purpose—clearly communicating the how and why so my team has the knowledge to move forward.
  • Operating from a place of transparency—letting everyone know what I expect from the start.
  • Developing a series of benchmarks and checkpoints for my team so they feel secure and we are all kept up to speed.
  • Building an environment where autonomy and accountability make the others possible.

At the end of the day, I want my team members to view me as standing with them as opposed to on top of them or completely out of the frame. My role as a leader is one of the things I cherish most about my work and is the aspect of my job in which I take the most pride. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

On Their Own

As I explained in my last post, I often think there is far more to learn in failure than in success—particularly when it comes to leadership. We all make mistakes—that’s a given. We also tend to beat ourselves up when that happens, and that isn’t productive. Over the last several years, I have started to see things a bit differently. I have begun to celebrate my mistakes. I now choose to see them as an opportunity to learn more about myself and as a tool to develop and improve my skills as a leader and colleague.

As a manager one of the mistakes I have made along the way is too often protecting my team members from failure. As a parent I have often felt the urge to jump in and solve problems in order to protect my child from disappointment or failure. I have experienced a similar impulse in my professional life. There have been times over the years when I have swooped in and taken over to prevent a direct report from experiencing a setback. 

While the desire to protect a team member comes from a good place, the results often don’t benefit anyone. By circumventing failure, I cut off the opportunity for them to learn how to be innovative and find solutions to recurring problems. And so instead of rushing to catch them and stop them from making a mistake, I had to learn to step back and let them try and figure it out—or fail trying. My goal in doing this is to teach team members to be self-sufficient, to problem solve and to take risks—three critical ingredients to success.

Nine out of ten times, team members will successfully navigate the obstacles in front of them. It might take a few recalibrations and coaching to get where they need to be, but for the most part, they get there. Occasionally, a team member is simply out of their depth and cannot succeed at their role. Frustration abounds on all sides. 

And while you must know when to step back, you also must realize when enough is enough and step in. There are times when a team member is not the right fit for a role or the duties assigned, and you must make the tough call and take the appropriate action. This is not pleasant for anyone but letting a team member flounder again and again is not helping them, the rest of the team or the organization.

When stepping back and removing the safety net, there are a few things to be mindful of:

  • Don’t let team members be paralyzed by failure after the first attempt. Coach them on recovery and teach them to scenario-plan. 
  • Let them know that it is safe to fail and the parameters in which to do so.
  • Help team members see the trajectory of their full careers—full of wins and losses—instead of focusing on the immediate success or failure.
  • Celebrate and celebrate publicly when failure leads to innovation or discovery.

Finally, and most importantly, be willing to tell your own failure stories. You are leading by example--which is huge. We all have failures to share and we all have a lot to learn from them.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Road Less Traveled

We’re often asked to benchmark our success—to celebrate what we’ve accomplished and impart to others what we’ve learned from our achievements. This is a valid and important exercise. There is a lot to learn from success. 

When you work hard and achieve something great, there is always something to learn—takeaways to deploy on future projects. You also feel good and want to share that with others. Success can be a great motivator, and you can certainly inspire team members with victorious war stories. 

But what if we step back for a moment and think about things a bit differently—take the path less traveled? What if we take time to consider our failures? What if we spent time reflecting on the mistakes, the missteps, the things we should have said and done?  

I realize this can be difficult, and sometimes stirring up memories and feelings that you would rather leave alone, can be painful and challenging. Taking the time to really evaluate our mistakes requires one to be vulnerable. And while vulnerability is hard, it is also incredibly important. By being vulnerable, by allowing ourselves to see who we really are—warts and all—and letting others see that to, we attain a level of honesty, clarity and a way of being in the world that is invaluable.

Today, and thanks in large part to social media, we spend a significant amount of time curating our world to look perfect to the friend or follower. We obsess on capturing the perfect moment and positioning what is happening in our lives to be viewed like a “best of” highlight reel with the desired goal of driving up likes and engagement. But what if we spent some time reflecting on the moments we chose not to share and really taking a hard look at what we experienced and what we can learn from them?

In the coming posts I’m going to challenge myself to do just this and share with you some of the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I think there is often far more to learn in failure than in success. 

While we will go more in depth in upcoming posts, here is a quick story to share. I am incredibly passionate about what I do. When explaining to my team a new program or initiative, I tend to get excited and pumped up about what lies ahead and this can sometimes be overwhelming for people. The excitement can cause me to move quicker than the time needed for other team members to process the idea. And while I have a completely solid and well thought out rationale for why we are tackling the project or idea, in the past I have not been as effective as I should have been in clearly communicating that to others. 

As I think back, there have been a few times over the course of my career when I am working with a team member to resolve something that has gone wrong with a project, and after some back and forth, it is revealed that they had no idea (or the wrong idea) as to why we were doing what we were doing. If they were lost, then of course, there were going to be mistakes. And that is completely on me. I take full responsibility for that.

And so how do I apply this knowledge today? I am currently spending time walking the whole Tampa General Hospital team—all 8,000 of them—through our new strategic plan which will serve as a guide for the organization over the next several years. As I prepared to do this, I intentionally and clearly built into my presentation addressing the “whys.” I made sure to stress the “and this is why” as I went through each section of the plan, leaving time for the team to challenge assumptions and ask questions, until they fully understood the plans being put into place. With this approach, everyone from the physicians to the maintenance staff, are clear on our direction moving forward.

I look forward to sharing some of my journey with you in the coming weeks. As always, thanks for engaging with me. I welcome your thoughts and your feedback.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Health Leaders Media: Move Over Star Wars; Hospital Command Centers Take the Spotlight

Command centers give health systems a leading edge to manage capacity and improve patient experience.

Health systems face growing capacity challenges and patient experience suffers when access is limited, or delays occur between transitions in care. In response, hospital command centers featuring sophisticated technology are springing up across the country. 

Two new facilities in Florida were announced during the last week of May, joining a list of others that have launched or announced new initiatives since last fall. 

Today’s command centers supercharge the operations many hospitals have in place to manage transfers and bed placement. The new breed uses advanced technology featuring predictive analytics and artificial intelligence. One key advantage is real-time data with information about incoming patients, ED and OR capacity, bed availability, and discharges. 

Opening in 2016, the command center at The Johns Hopkins Hospital is generally acknowledged as the first hospital to launch a concept of this magnitude in the healthcare arena. As additional health systems see value in this approach to capacity management, these new facilities will operate at the leading edge of a trend that will grow over the next decade:
  • Florida Hospital in Orlando, a member of Adventist Health Systemannounced its new facility on May 31, perhaps the first in the new generation of command centers that will orchestrate care for multiple hospitals in its system. This facility will coordinate patient care for nine central Florida hospitals, which include about 2,900 licensed beds, more than 2 million patient visits a year, and 640,000 ED encounters annually
  • Florida Hospital operates at 85% to 100% capacity, and many of its logistics issues stem from incoming transfers from its sister facilities. 
  • "It is interesting we're going to spend all this money—$15 million—on a technological solution, but it really has an individual person at the center of it," says Eric Stevens, CEO of acute care services at Florida Hospital. The center will bring a new level of technological sophistication to programs already in place, and help the system meet its strategic objective to improve the patient experience. 
  • "The core of our product is a high quality clinical outcome," says Stevens. "We think that this technology, in many ways, will help meet all the noble goals we have."   
  • Tampa General Hospital, a 1,010-bed non-profit academic medical center in Florida, announced its new "care coordination center" on May 29. The focus will be to advance care coordination, help enhance patient safety and quality, and improve efficiency.
  • "We are reinventing how we deliver healthcare by creating a coordinated, patient-centered system of care," said John Couris, MS, president and CEO, in a written statement to HealthLeaders Media. "We are designing it in a way that will provide better support and improve efficiency for our nurses and physicians."
  • Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut opened a Capacity Command Center in January, combining real-time data analytics with physical colocation of key operational services to enhance coordination, safety, quality, timeliness, and efficiency in patient care. The facility was developed jointly by the Yale New Haven Health Clinical Redesign initiative, the YNHH in-house analytics staff, and Epic.
  • Rush University Medical Center in Chicago announcedtheir facility last October; in December; the Humber River Hospital command center in Ontario opened its doors.
GE Healthcare Partners is helping many of these healthcare systems develop the technology used in their command centers and offers a product-agnostic approach with the ability to work with whatever IT systems a hospital has in place. In 2018 the firm will help install 10 new command centers, serving 30 hospitals. 
Mandy Roth, June 7th 2018

Health Leaders Media

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Loyal and True

As I have said before, health care is its own animal when it comes to a free market economy. Health care does not operate like cars, groceries or other commodities. You can’t build loyalty among health care consumers only with incentives like points or cash back rewards. When it comes to health care consumers, there are more complex barriers you must overcome in order to transform them into repeat and loyal customers.

Like all providers of goods and services, as health care providers, we all strive to provide consumers (patients) with the highest quality service (care) that will hopefully result in a positive experience and predisposition to return if additional services are needed. However, unlike with other transactional experiences, a positive patient experience and satisfaction does not directly correlate to loyalty. It can certainly help to move the dial in the right direction, but in the case of health care, satisfaction alone does not drive loyalty. 

While a patient might have been highly satisfied with the treatment they received, there are still barriers that can prevent a patient from returning the next time they need care. These could include:

  • Uncertainty. Not knowing if he/she needs care and which level of care is the most appropriate.
  • Research. Relying on various sources to find the right provider. This includes searching online, talking to their primary care doctor or even getting recommendations from friends or family.
  • Access. Not being able to easily make an appointment. This could be as a result of technology or capacity issues at an office.
  • Location. The location of the provider is either difficult to find or too far away.

So, what can we do to overcome these barriers and ensure their loyalty?

Here are three key steps to help get the patient back through your door:

Communicate next steps in their treatment plan before the leave their initial visit. Let patients know what their follow up care should entail and when they should pursue it. You can do this through warm hand offs to a follow up provider in your service network or even co-locating services in the same building. Have your team make the follow up appointments to ensure a seamless experience for the patient. Ongoing communication with the patient after they leave can also help prompt them to take their next step in care.

Motivate patients to return by helping them understand the health benefits of ongoing care and the burdens (financial, emotional and or physical) of foregoing care. This will inspire them to reengage.

Stay top of mind by continuing to reach out and initiate contact once they have left your facility. Provide them with opportunities to engage in wellness and lifestyle offerings—yoga, meditation or exercise and fitness classes. Often providers can leverage community partnerships to help facilitate and cost share these opportunities. By expanding offerings from treatment for illness or injury to wellness services, providers move from being a one-time medical solution to an ongoing health partner.

At the end of the day, patients want to know there is one place they can go to meet all of their health and wellness needs. From a patient’s perspective, loyalty can not only offer convenience, it can also help cement a level of comfort knowing that they have a medical home to turn to. And from a provider perspective, by reducing barriers and providing opportunities for engagement, you will increase patient loyalty and grow your business and brand.