I met recently with a group of physician executives who told me, among other things, that they need more practical, down-to-earth lessons on leadership. Too often we forget that someone who assumes a power position and has responsibility over other people's careers doesn't necessarily have the wherewithal to lead others.
I do not remember hearing about leadership courses in medical schools, although some schools may offer them. And there may be schools that would offer leadership courses if they felt there was enough interest. But most physicians in training are filled to the brim with clinical matters and probably wouldn't be too interested anyway.
My view is that leadership is the sum total of hundreds of thousands of small words and tiny actions. This is especially true in healthcare because it is a people business. And in today's environment, we have to count on people more than ever. That's why motivation becomes so important, because it makes people feel good about where they work and why they work. It has everything to do with leadership.
Consider the price of not saying thank you, please or you're welcome. What's the cost of never showcasing the people you work with in your newsletter or at a party? In short, what's the price of not making people feel important? I believe the price is enormous, for you, your organization and, for that matter, the entire healthcare industry.
Also consider the high price of turnover and shortages. We are seeing that right now with nurses. If people aren't happy and satisfied, they either leave or make others want to leave. The end result, of course, is low productivity, not to mention staffing problems and all the headaches that come with that.
It all comes down to people: how you talk to them, how you listen and how you make them feel good about who they are and what they do. That, more than anything else, is the essence of business success. So if you are a leader or aspire to be a future leader, ask yourself if you are helping to create a place where people really want to work. More importantly, do they know what they are working for?
Look in the mirror. Good employee morale starts with you. If you want to create a sense of fun, you have to lighten up first and do the little things a leader knows are important, like stopping by an employee's desk to say hello. Learn the first names of all the people who work for you, and maybe something important about them, like their hobby or spouse's name. Believe me, they'll remember that you took the time to be interested.
Become a symbol of trust. People will be looking to you for guidance and to see how you comport yourself on a day-to-day basis. Once you lose people's trust, it's hard to get it back. Most of the time you never will.
Finally, develop good listening skills. A book written by Julius Fast calledBody Language is probably the best work I have read on the art of listening. Everyone likes to talk, but who is going to listen? The smart leader, that's who.
Becoming an effective leader requires a commitment. But it will pay off in the end with increased morale, productivity and profits.
Look, listen and lead,
Charles S. Lauer