The challenges faced by healthcare executives today are complex and multifaceted; from a shrinking candidate pool to the complications of managing multiple generates in the workforce, the industry has a critical need for the right kind of leadership. In order to build an organization with sustainable operations, a forward-thinking strategic plan and a supportive culture, it is vital to have healthcare executives who possess the ability to lead, inspire and drive change.
For leaders across multiple industries, the skills needed to progress within an organization are changing. For decades, executives have learned – through both education and practical execution – that their focus should be on the hard skills needed to achieve measurable success. Hard skills are teachable, quantifiable and can be improved with practice. While this is the most common approach to project management, it leaves out the human element of leadership.
As today’s healthcare climate shifts from volume to value, and faces increasing turnover rates among younger generations of leaders, forward-thinking executives are recognizing the strategic benefits of advancing leaders who possess the necessary soft skills. These traits are a combination of people skills, social and communication skills, attitudes and social and emotional intelligence. Soft skills enable leaders to earn trust, solve problems, maintain relationships and hardwire true cultural change.
For healthcare leaders, the ability to lead people versus only managing operations is a new distinction. We see the human element in the business side of healthcare growing in prominence, from the growing focus on patient experience to the new technologies to simplify patient billing. But, to successfully create a positive experience for patients, healthcare executives must first create a supportive environment for employees.
In light of these cultural changes, here are the top five soft skills critical to long-term leadership success:
Teamwork. In many cases, the largest obstacle within a healthcare organization is the culture. A lack of standardization and the existence of silos create barriers to the team’s productivity and, ultimately, negatively impact outcomes. An executive with the right touch can reduce friction between team members, address under-utilization, gain buy-in for strategic changes, encourage managers to delegate and improve communication challenges all by building a culture of teamwork.
Communication. For a healthcare organization to succeed, there must be open lines of communication. If the executive leaders do not facilitate honest feedback and reporting from the front-line staff, daily challenges will not be recognized or solved. Utilizing soft skills to demonstrate the need to improve communication and transparency throughout the organization can shed light on existing problems and help identify future challenges.
Empathy. A friendly and caring environment resonates with both healthcare employees and patients. A supportive culture translates into a productive one, where team members recognize the concerns of other employees and empathize with them. The soft skill of demonstrating and encouraging empathy can boost employee satisfaction and reduce turnover within your healthcare organization.
Empowerment. When a healthcare organization can respond quickly to change, it allows for enhanced future growth and improvement. Using soft skills to empower employees to ask questions, to solve problems and to advance their careers will allow your organization to reach targets more rapidly. This will also create a greater pool of team members who are skilled in problem-solving and committed to achieving the organization’s long-term goals.
Listening. Employee engagement surveys have identified good listening skills as one of the top traits of successful executives. Leaders who focus on the project at hand, but do not hear the voices around them, are often accused of tunnel vision and can leave employees feeling unappreciated. A good listener is able to provide the speaker undivided attention, offer support rather than just solutions and ask questions to make sure both parties are on the same page. Truly listening to team members and peers creates a culture where concerns are addressed, new ideas are encouraged and questions are welcomed.
In order to build your bench strength and retain leaders with these necessary soft skills, you must make a cultural commitment to support leadership development. While some leaders possess these soft skills naturally, others need education to understand the importance of soft skills and how to utilize them. Implementing a structured leadership development program that teaches the values of your organization, establishing a defined succession plan to grow the leaders you educate, and creating a recruitment process that focuses on the leadership skills you need are key aspects of creating a stable culture for the future.
To learn more about best practices in leadership development, leadership recruitment and succession planning, connect with one of Cejka Search’s executive search team here.