I don’t need to tell healthcare leaders that their jobs are difficult right now. From a people, process, financial, and technology perspective, things are changing and challenging. Healthcare clinics, hospitals, other care facilities – and their payer partners – require an amazing diversity of talent to carry out their quadruple aim! From specialists – highly skilled and experienced providers of all stripes and levels, to managers/administrators and leaders.
Leaders, however, do not always come from the same ranks as your best specialists or your best managers. In fact, they often don’t. Great executive level leaders may start their careers in those jobs and are good at them – but often not GREAT at them.
Why? Because leadership, particularly at a senior/executive level is an entirely different animal. It requires a more diverse skill set. It requires knowing how to get things done, but NOT doing it all yourself. It requires psychological health and nuanced self-awareness. It requires high-level critical reasoning abilities. And it requires ALL of these, used flexibly and according to what is needed, using good judgment as to when one takes priority over another.
So, how do you find this talent? One way is to observe the “cream” that rises to the top. This can work, but know that what got that person to that level of excellence isn’t going to take them to the next. And this is fraught with unconscious and conscious bias that has overlooked those who may not “look like” or “act like” the leaders of yesterday. And, since the leaders of yesterday haven’t always been that great anyway (research tells us that over 50% of leaders in their roles are INEFFECTIVE), why would you want that? Healthcare must look for and identify leadership talent in different ways if it is to thrive.
In any organization, identifying, nurturing, growing and providing opportunities for gaining new experiences is the holy grail of talent development. Everyone’s job matters in an organization, but the impact leaders have is simply exponentially greater because they touch/influence so many more individuals. Research and experience show that a great leader doesn’t make or break a team’s success all by him/herself, but an ineffective leader singlehandedly can ruin teams – all by him/herself.
Here are some tips to identify that talent
- Be sure you consult experts, inside and outside your organization, that have studied leadership enough to know what great leaders look like and need to be effective. It may or may not fit the image in your head or others’ heads. That “feeling” we have about someone’s potential is fraught with bias, whether you are aware of it or not. Pseudo-confidence fools us all the time, often leading us to “see leadership” that is ineffective, if not downright dangerous!
- The past – especially when it comes to emotional intelligence skills – is a good predictor of the future. That is, IF someone has trouble relating to a variety of individuals NOW, it will not get better with time. If someone is judgmental, impatient, arrogant, and does not listen now – that will not just get better when you put them in another role. Don’t fool yourself. Caught early, deficits in EQ can be smoothed out, people can learn more about themselves and others, and get better – often with coaching. But only if they want to!
- If you lead others, get to know your people…really get to know your people. Have conversations that help you understand their true motivations and aspirations. Ask questions that help you AND them understand their strengths. Become aware of and manage their flat sides. If you do not enjoy these conversations, perhaps you need to rethink your career choice as leader. If you want to engage but haven’t had the “modeling” of your leader to know how it is done, we – and others – can help can learn.
- Use scientific tools – like well-validated and reliable personality assessments – to help you and your people gain more nuance and depth of self-awareness. And make it safe to do so. It is not something done TO someone but WITH someone. Yes, assessments can “evaluate” the fit for leadership, but they are best used FIRST as a tool for understanding and growth that bring out the best in each person. Do it early, before you’ve promoted someone into a role that is not a good fit for them.
High potentials are the holy grail of future leaders – in and outside of healthcare. We all want them. We all think we know who they are, but after 30 years in this business, I can tell you one person’s definition is not the same as others. And, even if they agree at a high level, correctly identifying who really matches the criteria is even more of an issue. I would be glad to help you “up your game” in identifying and growing your high potential leaders. Just send me an email.