INTRO COMMENTS: Hello and welcome to Modern Healthcare’s Next Up, the podcast for emerging healthcare leaders. My name is Kadesha Smith, I'm your host. I’m also the CEO of CareContent, a digital strategy agency for healthcare organizations.
Today, we are going to be talking about the qualities that make a successful leader of a healthcare organization.
Climbing the ranks to a leadership role — and being successful once you’re there — requires more than the right personality and the traditional skills, like managing finances. It requires softer skills, like empathy, like knowing how to create a diverse and equitable organization, and leading in both the best and most challenging of times.
Our guest today is Darci Hall, Chief Learning Officer, Providence St. Joseph Health. Darci is going to share her insights on those special somethings you need to be an optimal leader in your healthcare organization.
SPONSOR MESSAGE: Before we get into our discussion, I’d like to acknowledge Masimo, the sponsor for this episode.
Masimo is addressing the most pressing healthcare challenges of our time through versatile platforms that enhance the care experience. Stay connected to patients across the continuum of care with Masimo’s automation solutions. Visit Masimo.com today to discover how hospital automation can help you deliver exceptional care.
MODERN HEALTHCARE: Now, let’s dive into our conversation with Darci Hall.
Darci Hall, how are you doing?
DARCI HALL: I’m good, how are you?
MODERN HEALTHCARE: I am good, thanks so much for making the time. Our discussion today is about healthcare leadership and whether or not people are ready for it. And I think this is a topic that you are well versed to talk about. I want to start with a more personal question with you. As a leader, was there anything that you had to do to be successful that completely surprised you as you sort of climbed the ranks in your career?
HALL: Yeah, when I think back on when I first became an entry supervisor leader and moved my way up amongst the ranks was this idea of, the leader had to know everything. Your team is counting on you to have all the answers to every problem and have a solution.
And early on, what I recognized was the leaders that were vulnerable and were able to express themselves in an open way and show that they might not have all the right answers — but what they do have is the ability to bring the right people together to get the problem solved. And I think that was the one thing I learned is that I didn’t have to put that pressure on myself to know everything and be everything to everyone. But that my role was to really foster that open dialogue, and to help people grow into their greatness in both their operational roles and their leadership roles.
MODERN HEALTHCARE: That definitely relieves pressure from a lot of people who feel like they’re in a position where they have to have the answer all the time. What would you say is a leadership skill that does not get enough attention, especially in the healthcare space?
HALL: We talk a lot about emotional intelligence, and I think sometimes it becomes a bit of a buzzword these days, but it really is true, especially in healthcare. I think in healthcare, we typically look at highly skilled, highly educated individuals as our leaders, and sometimes we forget to look at the softer side of the leader.
And those leaders that we have found — at least in our environment at Providence — have been those leaders that have emotional intelligence. They understand themselves, they understand how they show up. There’s a saying around that your form — what you show on the outside — should match or marry to your essence in what you show on the inside.
And a lot of times, we as technical experts — as physicians and as nurses and so on — we hang our hat on our technical expertise, and that’s what gets us the credit and kudos most of the time. But the underlying, underpinning success of a leader really does rally around, I believe, emotional intelligence.
MODERN HEALTHCARE: Especially in a climate like we’re going through right now. COVID-19, I think, has definitely challenged everyone to rethink what makes a leader, a good leader.
Let’s talk about those people who are not only, maybe they're not clinical, but they're not even in the healthcare space. They’re coming into the healthcare industry from a different vertical, and they’re being called to be a leader. What barriers might leaders like that face, and how can they overcome them if they have no background in healthcare or medicine?
DARCI HALL: Yeah, that's a great question. I was one of those leaders myself. I have not been in healthcare for very long, and I came from an outside industry. And my recommendation for those leaders that are coming into healthcare is, again, know that you don't know. You've got to be vulnerable. You need to come in and be open. Healthcare is so vastly different than any other industry that I have worked in before.
So, my recommendation to new leaders, to be successful, is to get into the trenches. Walk the floors, meet the workforce, understand what are the pressures, the concerns, the highs and lows of your clinical staff. Understand what the pressures and highs and lows of your non-patient-facing workforce is. And start to make some determinations on where you fit in, and where you’re going to be able to take the organization based upon that.
And I would say learn, educate yourself. There are so many resources out there that allow many of us who are non-clinical, the support that we need to get up to speed in a healthcare industry setting. So, boots on the ground — learn, learn, learn. And that would be my biggest recommendation for a new leader that doesn't have a healthcare background.
MODERN HEALTHCARE: You talked about the soft skills — one of them that’s come up is self-awareness. In a recent article in Harvard School of Public Health, some of the most effective leaders are the ones who are self-aware. So, can you share, how does that self-awareness turn someone into a leader, and what does that even mean to you when you hear it?
DARCI HALL: You know, self-awareness, I believe, turns somebody into a leader because what happens is the transition to people wanting to follow you. If we look at the word, leader — in its very rudimentary form — it is somebody that has followers. Somebody that has convinced, shown, what have you, that people want to follow them.
And so when I look at self-awareness — understanding who you are and being authentic — to me is one of the most endearing qualities that a leader can have, and is what typically, your workforce will get behind. They feel connected to you, and they feel connected, then, to the mission of the organization. And so having that self-awareness and knowing who you are can really help translate a leader to being the most effective that they can be.
And oftentimes, we’ve found with working with a lot of our leaders, is that they have some blind spots. Either they don’t want to see it because they’ve been programmed that a leader needs to be this way or that way. And instead, what we want to foster is the idea that each leader is unique but has some of the same similar competencies.
So, I might excel in one area of self-awareness or innovation or strategic thinking, where another leader might excel in something else, like compassion or integrity, or what have you. And that's okay, all of those skills are equally important. But at the end of the day, the goal of the leader is to lead. And I think that’s really what we want to talk about when we talk about self-awareness — is understanding who you are, who your authentic person is, and then allowing that workforce to get behind that real person to take the organization to the next level.
MID-INTERVIEW SPONSOR MESSAGE: Before we continue with Darci Hall, let’s take another moment to thank our sponsor, Masimo. At Masimo, they are revolutionizing the care experience in the hospital and beyond. Hospital automation powered by Masimo encompasses vendor-agnostic device connectivity, patient surveillance, alarm management, and EMR integration to help streamline workflows and prioritize your patients’ safety every step of the way. Visit Masimo.com to learn more.
MODERN HEALTHCARE: And now, here are more thoughts from our guest, Darci Hall, Chief Learning Officer at Providence St. Joseph Health.
You mentioned blind spots, and a topic on this podcast has been diversity in healthcare leadership — diversity in ethnicity, diversity in age, diversity in gender.
And according to a May 2019 article from Modern Healthcare, only 19% of hospitals and 4% of healthcare companies in general are led by a woman, even though women make up 80% of the healthcare workforce. There are similar disparities among minority groups. About 37% of the US population is an ethnic minority, but only 14% of hospital board members and 11% of executive leadership positions are occupied by somebody who is not white.
If you're a leader who is white, or you’re male, or you happen to be in one of those sort of majority positions, how do you see that blind spot? How do you take a look at some of the blind spots that can lead to the lack of diversity in healthcare leadership?
DARCI HALL: Yeah, it’s interesting because we look at diversity training and unconscious bias, and all of these different things to help our leaders get to a place where they don’t have as many blind spots. We get very comfortable with tradition, and it’s an interesting time right now during the pandemic as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, and how organizations are challenged to think about this.
And what I would say as a leader, Providence as a whole, I think, has done a significant job of starting to build our pipeline and looking at diverse groups to promote into executive level positions, so we can cross-pollinate. But that's simply not enough, and we recognize that in our organization.
So, one of the things that I recommend is that, one, we should always be looking at a diverse pipeline. We need to get out of our comfort zone and stop making excuses for our demographic, and really start to look at the quality and character of our caregivers, our workforce, and who we need to bring into the organization.
And lastly, we need to do a better job of connecting with our communities, our non-profits, our community organizations that have diverse opinions. That maybe have opinions that are not the same, that we share within the organization. But having the dialogue will increase, I believe, our quality of patient care, and understanding our patient populations and our struggles.
It's real easy to sit in an office building and make decisions on patient care. It’s another thing to actually sit down with your community leaders and understand, truly, the pain points of that population, and how can we best be in service of them? And I think that's something that we need to get out and do. And it feels uncomfortable … it’s a lot easier to stay in your chair, in the confines of your office. But we need to start having those conversations — the timing is right to do that.
MODERN HEALTHCARE: And you mentioned empathy. That just goes with empathy, wanting to understand the pain points and address them in a way that makes sense for that population. That is empathy.
Let’s talk a little bit about what you mentioned about the pandemic, sort of challenging a new crop of leaders, and challenging leaders to cultivate new characteristics. What would you say have emerged as some of the traits that have been most helpful during the pandemic?
DARCI HALL: I think one of the traits that has been not only the most helpful, but I think has been, has shown up as now getting the recognition of … wow, these are the types of leaders that we need to have and we need to have more of them. And those are leaders who are adaptive, that are willing to jump into the unknown, recognize it’s going to get messy.
We don’t know the answers. At this point, day-to-day, we’re learning new information about this virus, how to treat it, all of these things. And we have all these new unique processes. We’ve moved to virtual and telehealth, and there’s all of these changes that are going on with our workforce.
And the leaders that are showing up who are adaptive, flexible, willing to jump in and just get the work done right now, are the leaders that are getting the most recognition from the entire organization to go, “Wow, this is the type of leader that we need, this is the profile.” Because this will not be the first nor last crisis we will have, and leaders that are willing to just get in and get dirty are really a value right now.
MODERN HEALTHCARE: We talk about mentorship a lot on this podcast — mentorship and sponsorship, and just having a sage person that can sort of give you that been there, done that advice.
Mentorship can play a significant role in both becoming a leader in healthcare and staying successful once you’re in a leadership position. So, what should aspiring leaders be looking for in a mentor?
DARCI HALL: What I believe as a leader, when you look for a mentor, is somebody who is committed to helping you, that has your best interests at heart, that you can build trust with. Oftentimes, where we see failure points in mentorship is either the mentor is not committed to the mentoring, or the mentee and the mentor don't have a connection.
And that's what I would recommend, is that when you're looking at a mentor, it needs to be somebody that — I like to say for lack of a better term — is, “Wow, I'd really like to be like them when I grow up.” And they have the qualities that you respect, and that you want to strive for and grow, and that’s what you want to emulate.
And it also needs to be a mentor — especially if you're looking at moving up in the organization — that’s well thought of in the organization. Picking a mentor is also a reflection of your brand. And I believe that when you pick the right one, your mentor can take you places and provide you opportunities that you probably would not have had visibility to without them.
MODERN HEALTHCARE: Agreed, and you would think that would be sort of intuitive to align yourself with someone who already has a strong reputation, but I think it definitely bears underlining, for sure.
Once you get to that spot, get to that position you want to be in, do you advise continuing to seek mentorship? Or do you then switch to becoming a mentor? Or maybe both?
DARCI HALL: I think it's both. So, one of the things that we carry at Providence — when we look at the development of our workforce — is we have a methodology around … we say, we join these groups, we learn, we grow together, and then we renew. And that renewal is that idea of mentoring or giving back, whether you are educating a group, or mentoring a group or an individual. But we believe that there is in service of, as leaders, we have not only the responsibility, but the opportunity to help sculpt our future leaders as we start to hand the baton over to them, and make a graceful exit one day into either another position or into retirement.
So, I believe that it’s two-fold. I think that if you’re a senior leader, you should be mentoring because you’re helping sculpt the organization’s future and future leaders. And two, I think if you’re at a level in the organization — even at a senior executive level — mentors are wonderful to have because they’re trusted advisors. They should be somebody that you can bounce ideas off of, have hard conversations with.
And I think that’s the part that sometimes we forget about — that even our senior-most leaders, they need people up there advising. We’re human beings, we don’t all have the right answers ... I wish we did. And having somebody that you can trust has your back and you can bounce ideas off of, I believe, is crucial to your success as an executive.
MODERN HEALTHCARE: Absolutely, and it is lonely at the top. Last thoughts, then … we’re talking to people who are looking to rise to the C-suite positions in these leadership positions. Any last thoughts or bits of advice that we haven't covered?
DARCI HALL: Yeah, my advice is be open, be humble. Look for opportunities that you see that you have passion around, or that you believe that you can add value. And persevere, don’t give up. Show up, be available, be adaptive. Be all those things that we look for in an organization or that you would look for in a leader, yourself.
And keep working on it every day. Just because you’ve hit the chief executive role at a large health system doesn’t mean you’re done growing. My recommendation for those that are aspiring: Work, work, work ... connect, persevere. And those already at the top: Keep working, and help those below you get where they want to be, and where you are today.
MODERN HEALTHCARE: Excellent. Thank you so much, Darci. This was very good advice.
DARCI HALL: Well, thank you. This was a great conversation, and thanks for inviting me to sit down with you today.
OUTRO COMMENTS: Thank you so much, Darci Hall, for giving that list of key ingredients for successful healthcare leaders, especially with so many challenges in our country and in our health systems.
Again, I’m your host, Kadesha Smith, CEO of CareContent. Our agency helps health systems reach their growth goals through digital strategy and content.
We’d also like to again thank Masimo, the sponsor of this episode.
I invite you to go to modernhealthcare.com to read more on what it takes to be a successful healthcare leader.
And look for more episodes of Next Up at modernhealthcare.com/podcasts, or subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or your preferred podcatcher. Thank you so much for listening.