Healthcare executives today have a lot on their plates - from ensuring high-quality patient care to offering state-of-the-art facilities. Leadership during these difficult times involves more than transforming processes and telling your staff to be prepared for a new day. It includes adjusting your communication style to fit the situation and being self-aware enough to know that the words and actions that motivate you into action may not be the same for the people who work for you.
So when it comes to executive communication in a time of change, we need to throw out the Golden Rule - "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" - and replace it with a new way of thinking: "Communicate with people the way they like to be communicated with - not the way you like to be communicated with."
So for those who want to make it work, here are five easy strategies you most likely know but tend to forget when you become an executive, what I refer to as "The Forgotten Five©."
The Forgotten Five
1. Knowing Who's Who - You need to know yourself, first, own it, and then figure out others. What type of kid were you on the playground? The type of kid who:
- Made sure everyone got a turn at bat? (The Peacemaker)
- Had everyone line up and count off by twos? (The Organizer)
- Changed the rules in the middle of the game? (The Revolutionary)
- Wanted to play it your way? (The Steamroller)
How do you spot these Playground Personalities© in the people you lead at your hospital or provider facility? Here are some clues:
- Peacemakers appreciate communication and collaboration. They are loyal and don't necessarily like conflict. They need to make sure everyone is okay and people feel included. How do you spot a Peacemaker? In a meeting, if a staff member's eyes start to dart down in avoidance when two other staff members are having a disagreement, that's a clue.
- Organizers are highly structured and decisive. They manage by schedules, have a high sense of tradition and are extremely reliable and dependable. If a staff member comes to a meeting prepared with an agenda, timelines and lists, make no mistake, you are working with an Organizer.
- Revolutionaries hate routine and prefer to act now; they will ask for forgiveness later. They like lots of action; the thought of routine work kills their spirit. Revolutionaries are fun to be with and are easy to get along with. Their mantra is "Let's do it!"
- Steamrollers value education, competence and intellect. They are seen as the subject matter experts; they like to explore and they want to be known for their ideas. You know you are working with a Steamroller when he or she takes the opposing view point and keeps ideas floating at 30,000 feet instead of on the ground.
2. Complexity of Respect - We all want to be treated with respect. But respect means something different to each of the Playground Personalities, especially in the healthcare setting. The principles of respect never change, but the ways we express them do. Showing respect to Peacemakers means thanking them for their dedication and commitment. Show respect to a Steamroller by acknowledging their expertise and asking for his or her opinions.
3. Facing Facts - Daily interactions with physicians, insurance providers, board members and hospital staff are critical. Healthcare executives need to know that each Playground Personality collects facts differently. Organizers like to gather details and come up with straight answers. So, if there's a problem involving late payments from an insurance provider, send an Organizer to get it resolved. If there's something controversial brewing, send a rRevolutionary to investigate and uncover the issue, before it blows up.
4. Finding Humor - It's never personal. Don't make light of serious situations that affect people's lives, however find the absurdity in the situation and focus on it. The Playground Personality that does this flawlessly is the Revolutionary because they value stepping back and looking at the entire situation as well as the people in it; it keeps them grounded.
5. Using Tact - This can be a make-or-break leadership trait. Executives get paid for getting things done. In a healthcare facility, a Steamroller may have a vision for creating a new system for dispensing medications and just wants it installed. But it's more than that - it's getting the buy-in from people along the way and being patient so the system can be created, installed and implemented successfully.
There is no doubt that we are heading into a time of sweeping change in the healthcare industry. So the next time you send a corporate message make sure you tap into each Playground Personality. Here's an example of an effective corporate communication:
"In these times of change, I appreciate everyone's hard work and best effort. While we begin to review our internal processes, we will make an effort to keep existing procedures in place where they make sense and refresh the ones that need to be refreshed. We won't get stuck in the minutia, and we won't overthink things. We'll be asking for opinions and thoughts along the way."
It will make all the difference!
Katharine Giacalone, CPC, is a certified professional coach and President of KGWorks (www.kgworks.com), an organization development consulting firm based in the Washington, D.C. area. To learn more about the Playground Personalities© and The Forgotten Five©, read Giacalone's book "Oops! I'm The Manager! Getting Past "What Do I Do Now?!" in 5 Easy Steps."