For top healthcare execs, leadership shapes legacy


Ruth Williams-Brinkley, president at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, said leadership is about training others to support the organization’s mission.

“It’s the ability to shape people, to mold them and to hold them up to do their jobs, and not do their jobs for them,” she said.

An effective leader must seek input from employees too, said Dr. Susan Turney, CEO at Marshfield Clinic Health System in Wisconsin.

Executives should have an open line of communication about workers’ concerns and be transparent about what they are realistically able to solve.

“We need to actively listen, because people are going to tell you things that are extremely important,” Turney said. “There are times when you listen and you can fix things, and times you can’t—but you also have to be willing to tell people why not.”

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Of course, being a leader also means making tough decisions. Liang said she has learned how important it is to remove someone from a managerial role when they’re not the right fit.

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“You’re the leader, you’re supposed to be doing something about it,” Liang said. The effects of a poor manager can spread, leading high-performing employees to disengage, she added.

Hundorfean said she uses employee engagement surveys to identify underperformers. She notes which managers or leaders are in the bottom quartile based on employee feedback, and if they’re in that spot again next year, they’re removed from the role.

“They get one pass, that’s it,” she said. “Do we spend that whole year trying to make them better? Yes. But the second time around, if they score low, that’s reflecting on my credibility—because I’ve got them as a manager or a leader.”

“The employees will thank you for that,” she added.



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