Being a clinician comes with a lot of responsibility, but not a lot of control. Often, you might find yourself thinking: “I have no power” or “I am just another cog in the massive health care machine.” It’s precisely this perception that contributes to burnout across the healthcare industry in the United States. But what if I told you that taking action against clinician burnout, without having to hold a title, is possible?
Leveraging positive influence is a critical leadership tactic that can do just that. Instead of enacting change traditionally, change is achieved by supporting others and strengthening connections. Meaningful and effective change does not typically stem from authority-directed, top-down leadership; instead, improvements arise from those who leverage local influence with the people at their elbows toward a common direction of better patient care. The relationships you build, the voice you bring, the example you set, and the passion you have for a better future help create change that is beneficial for patients, teams, and your personal health and well-being. And what’s more, it does not require you to hold a title.
So here are two practical takeaways to help you advance influence through relationships using the skill of influence to benefit you, your colleagues, and your organization:
- Identify the “influence currencies” others value most. In their book, “Influence Without Authority,” authors Allan Cohen and Dave Bradford discuss identifying the types of “influence currencies” that are most valued in organizations and individuals. These are: inspiration, task, position, relationship, and personal. For example, inspiration influence currency would matter most to someone who needs to find deep meaning in what they’re doing. And those who value the personal influence currency might appreciate gratitude, personal empowerment, one-to-one connection, and recognition. Ultimately, it comes down to knowing exactly what will influence your team towards more positive exchanges and accessing those levers as a local leader to foster influence and change. Believe me, these actions are more impactful on team behaviors than an executive that they never met.
- Use your own currency of influence to lead and create impact no matter where you are. Once you understand the “currencies” your team responds to, it’s time to learn just how you, as a clinician, can “spend” your influence to enhance your team. The satisfaction I’ve experienced personally and professionally is directly correlated to the fact that I’ve learned that leadership is all about relationships and helping people become their best. I consistently work to build personal relationships with colleagues and learn about them individually to better support them and their needs. It’s not about control; it’s about allowing your team members to realize their impact is significant. We support each other and share in the celebrations, both big and small. For me, it’s about what I can contribute to my clinical team and that it may be the one thing that no one else could have done.
Ultimately, your focus needs to be on what you can control, and that is the significant influence you have on those around you. Implementing this influence effectively fuels local culture, team engagement, and meaningful relationships where you tap your inherent leader of care teams’ role to help others soar. Becoming a force for good for a cause and people you believe in actually is control.
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Jacquelyn M. Bowers, MD, FAAEM, FACEP, is a physician, assistant professor, and the director of emergency services at OLHS in North Louisiana. Under her tenure, emergency services at OLHS have expanded and adapted to better care for mental health concerns and emergencies.