Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What Makes an Outstanding Leadership Team?

Last week, CHRISTUS’ Senior Leadership Team was at the Top Leadership Teams in Healthcare conference in Chicago to accept their award as the 2007 Top Leadership Team in Healthcare for large hospitals and health systems from HealthLeaders Media.

The team was recognized for embarking on a steady path to excellence in leadership teamwork since it was created in 1999 and using a commitment to excellence in clinical quality, service quality, financial performance and value to the community as the pillars of an organizational turnaround.

You can read more about the award here.

In a prior post, we reviewed the competencies that health care leaders need to incorporate into their toolboxes in order to be successful during the present times and for at least the immediate future.

These competencies are all developed by fully integrating knowledge and experience, and are often enhanced and grown by having a coach or mentor who can teach--and more importantly--demonstrate them in their activities of daily leadership. However, it is clear that the presence of these competencies in individuals will not necessarily guarantee that the team with whom they work will also share them, and as a result, be efficient and effective.

However, it is my observation that while the competencies for strong leadership teams are identical to the necessary individual competencies, they in fact must be looked at in relationship to team interactions and team building.

This is best understood by looking at several examples. An extremely important competency is always the ability to listen to others and determine the meaning of what you’re hearing. For much of our day’s activities, this could refer to individual listening, but for team building, this means you must be listening to multiple voices simultaneously and analyze what the collective voices are saying. You also must develop the ability to be a good team player, to weigh the rationale behind each voice (particularly if the voices are in disagreement on an issue), and make a determination regarding which rationale is most accurate which will then lead you to support any or all of the part of the voice which it is driving.

So in summary, your listening skills for teaming must go to another level, one which is more complex and more demanding.

Expressing your views based on sound knowledge is also an important competency. For individual conversations, this is often driven by more limited knowledge and can be more quickly influenced by emotional interactions. In a group setting--where you have many more minds that likewise hold knowledge--it is much more necessary to clearly articulate what you know about a subject and to minimize the emotions in the presentations, since this will often cause polarity in a group, which is certainly more detrimental than if one person is dissatisfied with your position for a period of time.

Therefore, my hope is that you will revisit the core competencies that were presented in last week’s blog post and determine--like I did with listening and expressing your views based on knowledge--how the other core competencies may be interpreted and applied in the same way to a team setting.

In addition to these competencies, strong teams must believe that the value of the team interaction is more valuable and creates better decision-making than would occur if the members of the team made the decisions in isolation. Team interaction includes four steps:
1. being open to listening to the views of others
2. expressing your views in a way that creates credibility and clear understanding of what you believe are the facts and what should happen
3. being open to having your mind changed based on what you have heard from others
4. supporting the consensus of the group, not only at the conclusion of the meeting, but particularly when you are leaving the room.

These behaviors are the essence of a strong leadership team.
Strong leadership teams are built of people who exhibit all the core competencies and also have the ability to interact well with other members by adhering to the above four behaviors.

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