Innovation – People

17

By Rodney D. Reider

You know, a true joy as a leader is when everything goes just right.  You receive feedback from the Board supporting your proposal.  A new cardiac surgeon signed the contract, the two-year long vacancy is over, the physician will start in September and the heart team is excited.  The Press Ganey scores just received show an incredibly positive trend worthy of festivity, and you celebrate, gladly, throughout the facility!  

Finally, what is truly gratifying is when an additional voice of the patient is received through a self-motivated public declaration. The former patient shares their immense satisfaction for all to see even without any prompting.  In fact, the patient served demonstrates and appreciates an understanding of what you strive for every day as a leader.  An atmosphere and culture of teamwork and coordination to serve the patient, and it did.  Your team did and does often, but a voluntary public recognition sure helps to reinforce what is right. Furthermore, this incredibly worthwhile communication must be shared with your friends, neighbors, Board Members, every huddle facility-wide and by email to all members of the organization, and any other person in the country of which we can possibly share.  

It is worth celebrating.  It is why we exist – to meet the needs of the patient and our community.  It is our Mission and Belief.  It does not happen by accident.  It is the team focused on the same goal: having the patient in the center of everything we do.  It is taking responsibility to make sure it all works through continual communication and innovative problem solving, together.   How can we make sure this happens each and every time with every patient and community member as they enter our facility?

As leaders, we know and believe this: Our greatest resource in healthcare is the knowledge, imagination, dedication and commitment of our colleagues and team members.  As we try to implement this philosophy within our organization and strive to make it permeate throughout our culture, obstacles remain. It still begins with us. 

Besides innovating with our support (“Seasons of Life”) of employees’ life transitional time periods, much remains to create a culture of innovation for everyone employed within.  It flows from “enthusiasm.” It is a case of us as leaders aiding and supporting our colleagues’ enthusiasm to care for others. 

Caring with Innovation.  The culture structured where the gift and skills of every individual is provided the opportunity in an environment to excel, innovate and experience a foundation of contentment and appreciation for the job well done.   How we can better harness our resources to take advantage of this incredible reservoir of human-driven innovation?

It is up to us to provide the appropriate framework.  Freedom within structure is the key.  It must become the culture where people discover their ability to excel. We as leaders should have each employee share, “you motivated us to be our best and hang strong during tough times.” Our culture must be one of creation and confidence.  

No one wakes up as a healthcare worker and determines to do less with reduced enthusiasm (or worse) each day; however, our rules and regulations and bureaucracy can, over time, discourage even the most determined among us. 

Why not start with talking to our employees? Wait, make that listening.  Let’s ask the questions and listen for the answers.  Truly listen.  

Allow the voice of your colleague to be heard.  Write it down. Find out from your team members what they see as essential, helpful and the unending waste of time.  What do they see as the obstacles and issues which arise to hinder their work/effort and desire to care for the patient, family, or each other?  What have we as part of the bureaucracy placed in the way, leading to the discouragement of those we claim we love to lead?

Next, take the action necessary to eliminate the roadblocks.  With the information they shared with us, work to reduce the demotivating clutter of their work-life.    Act on the voice of our colleagues, return with action to enhance their enthusiasm, and create the innovations necessary to increase the quality of care.  Our employees, unencumbered with our burdensome bureaucracy and meaningless meetings will thrive to create the culture of innovation. They are closest to the patient and doing the work to support the entire enterprise, let them loose to solve the problems of the deluding delirium of demotivation.  

Early in my career I worked for a system which had an employee team instituted only to compile, observe and eliminate those meetings seen as unnecessary and major time wasters.  They were some of the happiest and most joyful people I ever met in my career.  This feeling was contagious, making all of us more enthusiastic.    The energy and engagement in the organization was palpable.  We felt leadership understood and consistently took action to provide a better environment for us all.  A joyful job for sure. 

If we are acting after hearing the voice of our colleagues, we need to make sure we have the right leaders in place to support our team.  We must hire, mentor and train better leaders.  The supervisors, managers and directors we bring in must be the enthusiastic, action-oriented supporters and leaders who build on the self-perpetuating culture of innovation and enthusiasm. Make time for mentoring these leaders and keep accountability focused.

We spend such a large bulk of time at our place of employment.  We are in a serious industry of saving lives and providing hope and healing.  Our team members provide expertise, empathy and compassion.  Daily.  In reality, our teams need more.  

I believe we can be the “creative leaders” to enhance enthusiasm as well.  We have fellow human-beings showing up each day and being focused on saving and supporting lives.  We can make lives a little more enjoyable through safe fun.  The airline industry is a serious business and yet the early leader of Southwest Airlines (Herb Kelleher) knew how to create a culture where fun was supported and accepted in addition to the high focus on safety. Every other airline states (pre-COVID) the seatbelt and safety announcement.  Did you look around?  How many people were actually listening?

And yet, I have heard Southwest sing, recite poetically and intersperse humor within the safety message.  This approach always grabs people’s attention and allows for a shared laugh or smile among the entire cabin.  They hear the safety instructions regardless of how many times it has been shared in their presence before.  In fact, it sets an even better, healthier tone for the entire group of passengers and crew.  The Southwest cultural foundation established an atmosphere of joy where even today employees continue to spread the engagement no matter the job requirement or service received.   

Healthcare can continually create this atmosphere and culture too.  Make it a contagious engagement of positive joy.  The employees and patients will determine this is the place for them to make the innovative difference we want in creating the culture of confidence.  The culture of confidence to solve any problem for the benefit of all.  This will keep our team members excited for more and the reverberations we establish will be felt long after the leader leaves the organization.  This can be for good or bad.  

Once our COVID Free Freedom returns, it still makes sense to do off-site retreats.  Stepping away with no phones, no emails to be the leadership team, together.  Time to actually talk, listen, and even laugh together grows your perception of who you are and what can be accomplished, together, as we reprioritize and refocus on what is important to each other and within the organization overall.  Making it a regular positive engagement with each other as a priority, allows for innovation in solving problems, builds camaraderie, shared understanding and the true impact of their roles.  This monthly shared engagement with your leadership team is of great value.  It re-energizes and helps the enthusiasm become contagious for those who report to them and all those sharing the responsibility of care for the patient and each other.

Finally, do not be afraid to spend the money necessary to reward your teams.  Celebrate. Big!  We are experiencing financial pressure now as an industry.  In actuality, does it seem as if we are ever free of financial pressures?  No, but I have sat in listening sessions where colleagues share their wishes for the organization and their unit.  Figure out a way to grant those wishes.  As you know, many say publicly they remain because of their care for their unit team members.  They have together shared challenges in their roles, supported each other raising children and even cried together as loved ones passed.  Determine to reward your teams wishes for who they are, their closeness and all they accomplish together.

The COVID situation has made it difficult for us; however, it has accelerated many of the innovations we had only discussed or perhaps even mildly introduced on prior occasions. In fact, many innovations are now being willingly accepted (ie. Telehealth) by many of our elderly patients and others as they enjoy the benefits and convenience of another form of high-quality care.  It is also helpful the reimbursement is following.  This trend will continue.  We will meet many needs with innovative lower cost options (I will cover more in my next article) in the meantime if you want your team to be motivated and enthused to continue to problem solve and innovate, celebrate them well. 

If the support, the freedom within structure and the celebrations are valid and authentic, you will see this type of commentary begin to appear in your local newspaper (thanks to the team at one of the best hospitals I have ever worked!):

“On March 4, I had a health concern that could only be addressed at a hospital.  As a result of the current pandemic, going to the hospital was the last place I wanted to visit.  I must say that my experience was truly unbelievable.

As soon as I entered the York hospital property, it was clear that the administration, nurses, doctors and other health professionals were all extremely organized.  Tents were sent up outside the emergency room entrance to assess your needs.  Patients needing assistance with current virus were directed to the appropriate section of the hospital to have their individual needs addressed.

People, including myself, needing other assistance were directed to another section of the hospital.  These professionals were also very friendly, thorough and efficient.  My health needs were addressed in a timely fashion.  The increased hospital staffing, the pre-planning by hospital management, the excellent doctor and nurses, and all of the hospital support staff were working like a well-oiled machine…”

Commentary to strive for and worth celebrating.  Way to Go, York Hospital!

About Rodney D. Reider

For more than 25 years, Rodney has been involved in the healthcare industry and has positioned organizations to adapt to the continuously and rapidly changing healthcare environment. An International Scholar twice-over, he has a thirst for knowledge and a drive to explore, create and support innovative solutions within the healthcare space that make a lasting impact. He writes about healthcare innovation and leadership at rodneyreider.com.

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