If I had to choose one health care leader action that would allow us to meet the often overwhelming challenges facing so many organizations now, I would choose, without reservation, to develop people and raise their capacity to deliver results. In health care, creating significant and sustainable progress on key priorities remain slow or regressing. Team engagement is falling, patient experience is stagnant, and workforce instability threatens much of our industry at a time when margin pressures are becoming more and more the norm. What approaches are accessible to meet the significant demands of current conditions? Not unlike a team, athlete, musician, or military unit, the investment in the skills of people is one of the most optimal, effective, and essential capacitors for the conditions before us.
Interestingly, the commitment to ensure that leaders, teams, and clinicians are well-equipped and fully prepared to accomplish our big objectives remains sparse. We aspire to higher team engagement, yet we don’t consistently develop leaders with the skills to engage their teams. Gallup reports that 70% of engagement is attributed directly to their supervising manager, at a time when leader variance on proven engagement behaviors is incredibly high. This only shows that developing leaders to raise their capacity to engage their teams is foundational and necessary in a strategy focused on workforce stabilization.
The same holds true for any system-wide effort. For the last decade, I have watched hundreds of organizations invest in patient experience data collection and deliver individually attributed results to clinicians. Do you think clinicians know what actions to take from that data? To this day, I have yet to meet a clinician who could articulate specifically what they need to do differently based on the numbers sitting in front of them. Data in the absence of tools to act upon said data is no different than making a diagnosis without following through on treatment. It is time to invest in people development strategies that yield improvement for patients, teams, organizations, and the communities we serve.
Of all of my professional endeavors, helping colleagues become their best selves as a team leader and as a colleague has been my best and proudest moment. Watching clinicians rediscover the experience of creating impact, learning new patient connection techniques, and being who they always wanted to be, has often been transformative for them…and me. There is nothing like guidance and encouragement to watch someone soar.
The time has come to develop people so the flatlines and performance regressions can be replaced by continuous improvement, a mastery journey, and a culture of coaching and development of the skills to build a better future state. To keep our talent, build a culture of safety, manage end-of-life, advance patient engagement, deliver value, have a difficult conversation, run a meeting, be a good colleague, and bring out the best in those we lead, we must have the skills and behaviors to bring those things to life.
Coaching and developing people is a signal to our teams saying, “you matter, we believe in you, we are here for you, we are beside you, and we are here to help all of us get better together.” Our care teams need those signals now more than ever to stay, engage, and endure the work ahead. That, my colleagues, is why I choose the development of people as the singular most important leader action and organizational strategy to achieve the imperatives before us.
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Stephen Beeson, MD is the CEO and founder of Practicing Excellence. An author of two national best-selling books, Dr. Beeson has become a national thought leader in building organizational approaches and cultures that support patient connection, team collaboration, and transformative leadership.