By Craig Pirner, Managing Director
A lot has changed for health care leaders in the past year—including the focus of and delivery mechanisms for leadership development programs. But one thing is clear: It's a demanding time to lead in health care, and the degree of difficulty is high. And that means that development support for leaders is critical.
As leaders continue to navigate Covid-19 and its attendant economic effects; grapple with diversity, inclusion, and equity; and face ongoing limitations on traditional means of assembling their teams, here are three questions to help you focus on the most meaningful leadership development interventions in the year ahead.
Covid-19 is a marathon, not a sprint. We're seeing the mixed emotions that come with marathons. Many leaders feel pride in what their institutions have accomplished and are grateful for the camaraderie that has characterized the past few months. Simultaneously, leaders are exhausted: For months, they have faced ambiguity, translated for their teams frequently evolving guidance, and supported colleagues experiencing heightened professional and personal stress (while processing similar stresses themselves).
And many, if not most, health care leaders have performed admirably in the circumstances. Yet we must proactively address to what leaders are vulnerable during extended crisis: Unprocessed emotions risk becoming isolation, principled prioritization risks becoming avoidance, fast decision-making risks defaulting to command-and-control.
To ensure you address this question, focus on three leadership development imperatives:
For example, one health system with whom we work has assembled its senior leaders into small cohorts. Each cohort is participating in a 90-minute facilitated discussion about the emotions they have experienced and reflecting on how those moods affect the shadows they are casting as leaders. Evaluations demonstrate that the forums have lessened isolation—helping leaders understand they are not alone in feeling the emotional intensity of the past year—and that leaders appreciate a chance to process the paradox of needing to be vulnerable with their teams while also projecting confidence.
That said, the synchronous nature of those interventions—leaders coming together, live, as a leadership community—has, for many institutions, never been more important as a supplement to asynchronous, digital interventions in the flow of work. The very act of gathering has particular cultural resonance now, and learning and developmental leaders are wise to capitalize on that resonance by incorporating approaches that emphasize community-building, collective processing, and shared learning.
As senior leaders turn their attention to positioning their organizations to focus on the strategic plan and recover from Covid-19, they are likely going to be asking a lot of the workforce. For example, in the months ahead, executives may request that the workforce:
These senior executive requests will be translated and delivered through managers—and that will place a premium on managers who are informed, committed to effective communication, and empathetic.
Consequently, as you create your short list of developmental priorities, strongly consider three areas:
More than ever, the tone set (through word and deed) by senior leaders matters. Consider and seek input on what shadow senior leaders are casting with their leadership. In times of crisis, highly visible leadership is critical—yet, all too often, crises are when leaders reduce their visibility due to fear, endless meetings, or emmeshing themselves in operations.
Every successful senior leader knows that they must continue to invest in their own development. As you help senior leaders invest in the right developmental opportunities for this moment, strongly consider how your leadership development support for senior executives:
It's a demanding time to lead in health care, and the degree of difficulty is high. Leadership will be a deciding factor in how organizations evolve their pandemic response and recover over the next year. Use the three questions above to inform your leadership development strategy—and don't hesitate to ask how we may help.
Health care organizations that don’t have an effective succession planning process face two risks. First, these organizations may fail to achieve their strategic priorities because critical roles are vacant. Second, senior leaders may select future leaders who aren’t necessarily the talent the organization needs for tomorrow’s challenges. Download this infographic to help you build an effective succession planning process.
Create your free account to access 2 resources each month, including the latest research and webinars.
You have 2 free members-only resources remaining this month remaining this month.
Never miss out on the latest innovative health care content tailored to you.