How to be an effective leader

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I spent 8 hours today in a management training that focused on "What is takes to be an effective leader in our organization." One of the things that I value about working here is that there are opportunities for growth in different areas based on your track record and your willingness to learn and not based solely on your education level. Just before lunch, there was a moderated panel discussion with 4 leaders from different departments in the hospital.

- Panelist A studied in the Phillippines and is the manager of the Histocompatibility & Immunogenics Laboratory and the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory. Yeah, I have no idea what that is, either.

- Panelist B studied in India and is the VP of Radiology Services.

- Panelist C has worked in healthcare and is the manager of Accounts Receivables and handles billing for 300 physicians.

- Panelist D has worked for the institution for 33 years and currently manages the Supply Chain Services department.

Each panelist was presented with questions that focused on their role as a leader and their role in employee development. Some answered with very succinct responses, some were a little more philosophical and one made no sense at all. It was obvious that he has advanced through the system based on his longevity and ability to adapt to the changing environment and not because of his education.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not an education snob. C'mon, I don't even understand what Panelist A does. Personally, I don't hold any advanced degrees (which I'm reminded of by one doctor who is an education snob-"I have my MBA. Do YOU have an MBA??) and I don't pretend to be something I'm not. I take pride in my communication skills and my ability to interact effectively with all different kinds of individuals but I don't thumb through my word-a-day calendar to enhance my vocabulary before meetings and I don't try to use convoluted analogies to make a point.

Let me give you an example:

Question 1: What do you see is your role as a leader in the organization?

Here was his response: "It's like when you plant a tree or flowers and those flowers or trees, too, are out in the sun. Some trees will only grow in certain climates but others will grow in any climate. And flowers, too. You need to provide that climate so they'll grow. I also use the motivitators that the system has in place." (No, not a typo. He said motivitators.)

Uh huh, uh huh, I see...

Question 2: What systems are in place to help you be an effective leader?

"I can't just do it all myself. Take my shirt for example. It doesn't just wear itself. It's made up of a series of seams and stitching that make it stay on my body. Do you see what I'm saying?"

Uh huh, uh huh, I do....

Moderator: "Okay, thank you all for your responses. Do we have any questions from the audience?"

Yes. What the F#$! is that guy talking about?

Our meeting was held in Shaker Heights, which if this sounds familiar to you, is the name of the city that President Obama held his town hall meeting in today after he visited the Cleveland Clinic. Yesterday, you may have caught a reporter asking the President why he chose to visit the Cleveland Clinic. He floundered for a moment before he said that the reason he chose the Clinic was for its "doctors unique focus on patient care and affordable services over profit."

Let me clarify this for you. It's bull. I work for the OTHER large healthcare institution in Cleveland that shall remain unnamed. The Clinic does not have more affordable services. In fact, dollar for dollar, a great majority of their services are higher priced than ours. What attracted Obama was the model that the Clinic employs regarding physician salaries.

A number of healthcare institutions work on an incentivized model of compensation for their physicians. What this means is that a physician will be paid X number of dollars as a base salary and has the opportunity to earn additional money based on surgeries, higher numbers of patient visits, etc. The perception is that this type of model encourages unnecessary tests and procedures soley for the benefit of the physician's bottom line.

The Clinic has all of their physicians on a flat salary but don't think for a second that administration doesn't know dollar for dollar where those doctors stand at any given minute of the day. Meet your productivity or lose your job. Which is better? I really don't know. And I could give you a long dissertation on the state of healthcare but I'll save you from that.

Instead I'm going to prepare for my staff meeting tomorrow by deciding what kind of flower I am and making sure that I wear a blouse with seams. I want to be sure that I motivitate everyone because I know that some of them are unedumacated.


  1. Great blog! I'm one of those un-papered people. I graduated high-school started college and then life got in the way. I started at the bottom of the food chain, but I stayed with the same company (the government) for 20 years and have made my way to a somewhat of a comfortable living.

    Don't get me wrong, I totally appreciate (and am somewhat jealous) of the pedigreed and papered people (Chris is one of them), but the minute you throw your degree in my face or make me feel I'm not as worthy as you, you're going to get an ear full.

    I'm not going to get into the health care thing, because I don't want to take up all your comment space, but you bring up excellent points. Have fun in staff. I'm a rebel today, I'm going to go to work naked (pretty seamless) and I've decided to be a cactus.

  2. and I are so much a like it isn't funny.

    Me too. It's more of my commication skills and that I can interact effectively with other people that me educated. Holy cow...I never even went to college.

    I call my education...street smart.

    Your last line in the post CRACKED ME UP!!

    Hope you had a GREAT staff meeting!

  3. I hate people like Panelist A! What is your leadershhip role: "I think very highly of myself. i am profound and everyone should hang on my every metaphorical word." What a tool.

  4. Buffoons. The minute someone starts preaching, I tune out. Seriously though, Chrissy, if you want to read a few great books on leadership (I'm a fan of that genre), I'd suggest one called "NUTS" by Freiberg and Freiberg that details Herb Kelleher's approach as CEO of Southwest Airlines. Another good one is "The Starbucks Way". Both outstanding reads, and full of ideas that will work for any organization.

  5. Theresa,

    You naked cactus, you! That's very cool that you've been with the same place for 20 years. You never hear about that happening anymore.

  6. Ron,

    See? We both attended the School of Hard Knocks.

  7. Vanessa,
    Me, too. I respect education but I don't want it thrown in my face.

  8. Hi Chris,

    Thanks! I'll have to check those out. Then maybe I'll be on the next panel.

  9. Hello! Fellow blogger here. Not sure how I found you but glad I did. This post reminded me of an interview I just did on surviving a heart attack(I'm a freelance journalist). Interviewed two survivors...understood every word they said. Got to the cardiologist (God, I hope you're not a cardiologist, if so, oops.)and couldn't read my own freakin' notes. Something about mardio-oartial-infaction? Turned out to be "cardio partial infaction" aka: heart attack. Hello? I needed a Medical Terms for Dummies book to desipher it. Why couldn't he just say so??
    Enjoying your blog-

  10. Kathryn,

    I sure hope I'm not a cardiologist, too, since I have no advanced degrees. :-)

    Docs would rather let you make the mistake so they can chastise you for it.

    Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again!


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