ACHE: For Leaders Who Care…..But Do They?|
Jody R. Rogers, PhD, FACHE
The tag line of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) is For Leaders Who Care.
This tag line is a clarion call for healthcare leaders to demonstrate they care. Yet questions remain about what the tag line truly means and how leaders can be seen as truly caring. What should leaders care about? What can leaders do to demonstrate they care?
No one should doubt that For Leaders Who Care is all about caring for the organization, the people within that organization, and the patients for which they provide care.
Yet, while caring is simple to understand, it appears demonstrating a caring attitude is a difficult task for many. Do our leaders truly care about their organizations and the people they lead at least to the level required?
Experience tells me that, as a profession, we have a ways to go to clearly and consistently demonstrate we are Leaders Who Care.
Demonstrating a caring attitude is more critical today than ever before. A quick study of the major tenets of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) clearly demonstrates an increasing need for healthcare professionals to work in teams to closely coordinate the care provided to patients.
Providing highly coordinated teamwork throughout the continuum of care is a critical component of the PPACA. Teams require leadership to be effective.
The members of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) are well positioned to provide leadership so essential to Reforms success; but only if the members live up to the tag line of the ACHE.
A common complaint in healthcare today is that many employees think no one cares for them as valued employees. You can see it in the unrest, low morale, and lack of trust in many organizations.
Everyone is busy performing important work, but too often employees don't see the connection of their work to the overall mission of the healthcare organization. They come to work, perform exceptionally well, and go home.
It seems they have lost their high purpose in the care they provide. Since they rarely receive feedback on their work, they begin to feel like an assumption. They begin to think no one cares about them. If you doubt me, go ask your employees if they think anyone in the organization cares for them as people. Most will tell you they donâ€™t feel cared for at least to the level they desire. Why is this?
If you were to ask administration whether they care for the employees, most will definitely say they do. I believe administration does care; they just don't know or have forgotten how to demonstrate they care.
Most people choose a career in healthcare because they have an innate desire to help patients, to care for their needs, and to return them to some sense of normalcy as soon as possible. This innate desire to care applies to administrators as well as clinicians.
If this is true, then healthcare personnel should have a naturally occurring caring spirit not just with their patients but with all to whom they come in contact. Unfortunately, as Dr. Berwick frequently says, we tend to build systems that drive that caring attitude out of people (Berwick, Escape Fire, 2004).
Always short of time and expertise, facing increased competition, decreasing resources, and an all too great a focus on the bottom line simply does not give many people an opportunity to demonstrate how much they care, at least to the level desired by employees.
It appears some healthcare professionals barely take the time to greet people warmly anymore and if they do, they take little to no time to build on their relationship with that person. This attitude simply won't work under PPACA.
Although some undoubtedly will think demonstrating a caring attitude is not something real healthcare professionals do (it is seen as one of those soft leadership skills that makes so many people squirm when they study leadership), developing a caring attitude is essential to long term success for healthcare teams.
We want to work with people who care for us, who look out for our best interests, and who take a genuine interest in who we are and what our goals are.
People who feel no one cares begin to feel like an assumption and there is little good that comes from feeling like an assumption within an organization.
My years of experience in various leadership positions have clearly shown me that everyone wants to feel like someone cares about them as a person and as a professional. Even the most competent healthcare professionals want to know someone cares for them personally and professionally.
Bill Catlette and Richard Harden from their Contented Cow Blog recently provided five ways a leader can demonstrate a caring attitude. Entitled Mad Cows in the Workplace, the article suggests leaders should do the following to treat their people right, i.e., to show their employees they care (Catlette and Hadden, Blog, May 2009).
1.Give people real work, meaningful work to do, along with the freedom to pursue it. People want to be in the game, not on the bench.
2.Maintain high standards. Deep down, we all realize that high standards are a necessary precursor to winning, and nobody wants to spend the majority of their day losing, or hanging out with losers.
3.Make sure people see a crystal clear connection between their work and real, paying customers(patients); and that they fully understand where the organization is going and why.
4. Have leaders who are skillful, authentic, and especially important these days, optimistic.
5.Show genuine appreciation for a job well done.
Other things leaders can do to be seen as a more caring is to become a better listener, work to strengthen relationships, visit the workplace and show an interest in what employees are doing, ask meaningful questions, show genuine respect, and provide honest feedback.
The key to being a caring leader is to be sincere in actions and to demonstrate a level of courage that enables the leader to show appreciation even at the risk of being perceived as soft.
Leaders must genuinely care for their employees for teams to be effective. As such, leaders must always remember that their employees want to know they are valued, respected, and appreciated.
For an organization whose tag line is â€œFor Leaders Who Care, leaders within the ACHE must, as a profession, ensure those who work for them know they are respected, appreciated, valued, i.e., cared for.
Berwick, Don. Escape Fire. John Wiley & Sons, 2004. Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden. Milk from Contented Cows Website, http://contentedcows.com, May 2009.
Special thanks to Kelsey Schwarz and Rebecca Ivatury, Trinity students, for their assistance with this article.
Dr Rogers is Visiting Professor, Trinity University and Faculty Army-Baylor Program.
October 28, 2011
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