Lessons in Leadership: 10 Tips for Leading Through Difficult Times

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By: Jerry L. Kelsheimer, President, MMG Healthcare Solutions

I recently glanced at my office whiteboard where I’d written a “note to self” back in early March.  This specific reminder listed ten leadership principals aimed at guiding efforts through the months to follow.  As I took a moment to reflect on personal experiences and learnings since the onset of the pandemic, it became apparent that these noted areas of focus can continue to be applied as we move toward recovery and into a more normalized state.

Whether leading a clinical practice, business enterprise, or both, conscious focus on the ten areas below will help you realize your vision for future success.

  1. Have a Plan

Good leaders clearly define what success looks like.  We want our organizations and institutions to travel to known destinations.  Even when the road ahead is unclear, directional objectives can and need to be established.  Take time to clearly paint a picture of the future and diligently map your path.

  1. Communicate

Our teams seek and deserve clarity in understanding both objectives and desired outcomes.  Think in the context of what, how, by when, and by whom.  Patients, clients, and customers require the same.  When information gaps exist, speculation will fill the void.  Eliminate that risk with frequent, high-quality interaction coming through varying mediums including video, voice, and writing.  Don’t forget the importance of a feedback loop in this area.  Ask your stakeholders questions and listen to ensure that what you are saying has been heard.

  1. Decision Smartly and Quickly

The most important role of an executive leader is to make good decisions. Establish a system to ensure prioritization, efficiency, and risk management in your decision-making process.  Delegate those choices you don’t need to make.  As you face inflection points during your journey, quickly assess for relative risk and implication.  “Move fast and move on” when it comes to those points where a misfire is likely to have limited downside implication.  That frees time for thought, research, and consultation on items that carry high stakes.  Accept that, often, we must work on incomplete information and non-fatal mistakes are great learning opportunities for you and your team.

  1. Act with Conviction

When decisions to act in accordance with vision are finalized, step up and make things happen.  The world is watching and action matters.  Your confidence, tone, urgency, and enthusiasm are important.  True influence is driven more by what team members see us do than what they hear us say or see us write.   A great decision is only that.  A decision acted upon becomes institutional traction.  The car won’t get us to the destination if it’s parked on the side of the road.

  1. Stay Informed

As you travel on your journey, don’t forget to watch the weather. It has never been more important to be well read.  Find objective sources of information on the things that affect your markets, patients, clients, and team members.  Surround yourself with people who have good judgement and can assist you in processing the information you accumulate.  Engage your team in the effort to continuously get smarter.

  1. Adapt and Evolve

As you educate, and then continuously re-educate, yourself on factors influencing markets and your team, stand ready to change.  Whether it’s about getting to the destination more quickly, avoiding risk, or simply making it a more pleasant trip, prepare to take necessary diversions.  We operate in a rapidly changing environment.  To maximize opportunity, we’ll need to adapt to influencing factors as they arise and evolve plans to optimize outcomes and minimize risks.

  1. Be Opportunistic

As you flex to meet change in your environment, keep looking up and over the horizon to ensure that you identify and take advantage of unanticipated opportunity.  This may come in the form of new markets, additional service offerings, unique collaborations, found efficiencies, and the list goes on.  Especially when things are hard, we may be drawn to focus on internal things.  Our futures, however, lie outside the walls, and we miss opportunity if we’re unwilling or unable to intentionally notice and act to realize it.

  1. Leverage Team Member Strengths

When it comes to moving initiatives quickly and efficiently, you have help.  Positive leverage comes from leveraging those around us.  Take a moment and identify the strengths of your key leaders in areas that are important to your plan.  Document a highest and best use of the time each one has to contribute to your enterprise-wide efforts.  As not everyone is equipped to do everything, focusing individual efforts on tactical activity that they are likely to be successful at will deliver greater traction.

  1. Stay Calm

Whether in times of crisis and chaos or in times of steady progress, great leaders stay steady.  Those who are calm and settled in uncertain times create clear advantage over leaders who panic, react, give into distractions, and allow emotion to drive behaviors.  Similarly, leaders who remain focused, humble, and steady when things are going right tend to have great advantage over those who let up, let down, get passive, and celebrate too early.  When facing challenge or success along the journey, be conscious of acting with intention and avoid letting emotion drive the bus.

  1. Celebrate Wins

Let’s always remember that it is positive energy that fuels the organization.  Keep the tank full by acknowledging and celebrating pre-set milestone accomplishments.  From simple words and messages of gratitude to events and visible awards, your proven awareness of effort leading to outcomes will bring more of the same.

Jerry L. Kelsheimer is President of Medic Management Group / MMG Healthcare Solutions.  His background includes extensive work in areas including leadership development, strategic planning, and process improvement.  MMG is a national provider of consulting services and back office administrative support to independent and system owned physician practice groups.

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