Physician Executives Forum Newsletter
January 24, 2014
Future Leaders in Peak Performance: A new hybrid of competency, authenticity and inclusiveness
Joe Siegler, MD
President and Founder
Spheres Executive and Physician Performance Coaching
Healthcare has grown increasingly competitive, and the companies that will flourish in this fast-moving, ever-evolving marketplace will have to promote a new form of leadership that addresses emerging priorities. A review of current business trends in healthcare reveals that the traditional task-driven, hierarchical-based models of operating systems do not account for sufficient speed, innovation and flexibility required to face fierce competition. John Kotter’s writings on the need for an additional nontraditional operating system have invited organizations to add a ”second operating system” to address these new nontraditional functions. Leaders of the future will need to successfully oversee or participate in both operating systems. The second operating system components must be seen as vital as the traditional.
It is clear that there is an opportunity for a new leader, one who has the skillsets, values and personality to adequately inspire their organization into a greatness that produces high-performing individuals, teams, senior leaders and even the staff-as-a-whole. This new prototype of a leader understands that success of the organization will depend on applying multiple innovations to the patient experience as well as to staff engagement in ways that are earthshattering and not simply talk. Inclusiveness and diversity will surely play a big role in the success of boards, clinical and administrative team productivity, and culturally sensitive patient care potentiating clinical outcomes. In order to produce this degree of effective innovation, each leader must bring diverse team members together to work toward common goals. The end game will be to inspire teams of clinicians, executives, senior leaders and staff to create new inventive programs that optimize patient experience—the ultimate metric outcome of the future.
Therefore, new leaders will promote achievement of clinical indicators for ACO relationships, traditional key performance indicators (i.e., productivity) and also introduce the vital emphasis of broad positive experience of both knowledge workers (highly trained physicians, executives and medical personnel) and customers (patients)—beyond anything we have seen up to this point in the evolution of healthcare systems. Medical care is steadily shifting away from a hospital/specialty and doctor-focused enterprise, and is moving towards a patient-oriented focus. Therefore, in the emerging paradigm, customer care is paramount to all else. This has been a long time coming, and is probably happening now because of the emphasis on metric clinical results and new cultural standards of covering most Americans with insurance. Shortages of primary care physicians also necessitate multi-disciplinary team approaches for handling potentially huge numbers of newly enrolled patients. Therefore, multi-facility and multi-disciplinary approaches will become the norm for each individual patient. For example, using a single specialist will no longer be sufficient as healthcare will increasingly utilize a multi-modal approach provided by high-performing leaders, teams and the entire staff.
The striking need for enhanced metric outcomes in disease management of individual patients also predicts a renaissance of behavioral health services (mental health and addictions) because of the valuable potential impact they can have on optimizing clinical results as well as the organizational bottom line. These rematerializing services provided on-site or locally, will also morph into exciting forms of new approaches and services such as:
- online or video services
- new ideas to manage mental health, addiction and recovery success
- new tools to foster compliance and wellness of patients
- peak performance coaching of physicians, executives, senior leaders and teams
The smartest system leaders will design and implement second parallel operating systems—those that are flexible, innovative and inclusive. For example:
- The leaders of the future will need to create an inclusive culture by valuing people for their authentic selves, appreciating knowledge workers (doctors, nurses, technicians, etc.) and demonstrating respect of staff in multiple ways.
- Team productivity is extremely important in achieving clinical and organizational key performance indicator metrics, more so than the performance of any single individual. Fostering a healthy, respectful work environment will be vital as team productivity becomes the vehicle of success. Research is revealing a fascinating finding that intra-team socialization predicts a higher performing team. Pentland reports that the success of teams is related to spontaneous socializing between team members1. Therefore, socializing teams will perform at higher levels, and as healthcare boards and teams become increasingly diverse, it will become imperative for skilled leaders to creatively breakdown the sense of ”difference” between team members and encourage intra-board and team socialization to foster peak output of each team. If a workplace culture is competent, inclusive and empathetic, then the staff will be more comfortable being themselves with their peers, which would result in greater intra-team socialization leading to higher performance. Services developed in this fashion will be more culturally sensitive and will serve the people from the community better with greater empathy and identification of unique needs. It is vital that all leaders examine their organization and consider the possibility that their strongly held personal beliefs and practices may actually work against the inroads into inclusion and possibly be experienced by patients and staff as imposed beliefs and practices—clearly the very opposite of effective business practices and trends.
Many leaders already claim significant advances in staff engagement and patient satisfaction (much more focal a metric than broader patient experience). That may be the case, but there clearly is a lot further we can go for each health system is a work in progress. For example, some physician and executive leaders who are fairly green are often selected for their ability to manage projects forward. They may be responsible for negotiating with staff and delivering on clinical metrics. Such a leader can make gains in project advancement, but some may have trouble with second operating system goals of innovation, emotional intelligence, transparency and inclusion. Objective ”left brain” skillsets of such leaders are needed by most organizations, but so are warm interpersonal skills of openness, inclusion and respect. According to business trends, in the future, through careful selection and training of leaders, transparency and interpersonal respect have to dominate as cross-system practices. This doesn’t mean that leadership has to agree with everyone. It means discussion has to be on the table and fair. These new peak performance practices have the potential to create a new and positive leadership style that I call humility of position.
It is clear that inclusion and interpersonal respect both need to be a core practice for true organizational success—for culturally sensitive approaches to staff and patients must rule. This clearly pertains to differences of many groups of staff and patients, which cannot all be listed here, such as income, gender, race, orientation, religion, disability, community, citizenship, age, etc.
As healthcare companies shift away from hospital and practitioner-based service and move to a patient-centered approach, there will be a greater need for organizational cultures that simultaneously improve the environment for knowledge workers and all staff, as they continue to revolutionize the patient experience more and more over time. Porter and Lee call this the value agenda: achieving the best outcomes at the lowest cost—that everything is ultimately about the patient2. Maintaining high-performing teams of all types requires the guidance of competent, respectful and humble leadership. Without innovative second operating systems, traditional operating systems alone will not work in future healthcare systems that are measured by the resulting metrics of patient experience, staff engagement, and key performance indicators.
Some of the most interesting ideas in business leadership are coming out of a few highly successful companies like Netflix. We cannot be sure which of these new second operating system approaches will also work in healthcare, but it is vital for leaders to be aware of innovations in other industries that are catalyzing company growth through greater staff and customer engagement.
These are exciting times. We must find, hire and groom the leaders of the future. They will be diverse, kind, smart, innovative, inclusive, fast, humble and able to build the second operating system to achieve key organizational and clinical results. These are lofty goals, but the reward will be exponentially worthwhile. This new paradigm will be appreciated by many and make it cool to be both competent and decent.
I welcome your thoughts and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773.529.1200.
1 Pentland, A. April 2012. “The New Science of Building Great Teams.” Harvard Business Review.
2 Porter, M., and T. Lee. Oct. 2013. “The Strategy That Will Fix Health Care.” Harvard Business Review.