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National Health Center Week — The Secrets to CHC Leadership in Today’s Climate

National Health Center Week — The Secrets to CHC Leadership in Today’s Climate

By: Scott Owens, SPHR, SHRM-CP
Chief Workforce  Officer & Executive Director
Health Solutions LLC

How we lead within Community Health in the face of the current climate is at the center of discussion throughout many CHC networks.  What should leaders do to adapt to the changes that directly affect how we drive our mission?  We are being challenged everyday with mask wearing, remote work, home school, lack of daycare, fear of attracting COVID, fear of a loved one attracting COVID, on and on.  The sea of stress and anxiety as a result seems to have no floor.   How do we show strong leadership in the face of so much chaos?  How do we avoid team burnout?  How do we not burnout ourselves?  These concerns and fears are valid and without reproach.  There is no cure, but there are secrets to help drastically impact the effects of these burdens more positively.   The secrets are THERE ARE NO SECRETS.  The core elements that make a strong leader still hold true today.  The only difference is they need your focus more than ever.  The following fundamentals must be a focus to help ensure your team finds the light at the end of the tunnel and beyond.

Be vulnerable.  You are human too.  Your team should be reminded of this now and then.  Every day we are challenged to personify “leadership qualities” never to lose our cool or display in any way the day may be getting the better of us.  Though it’s true you don’t want to be unprofessional, acknowledging the struggle of life is part of being human and allows your team to see you as more than just an “authority.” Showing vulnerability also invites your team to share their struggles and reminds them we are all in this together.

Communicate openly, honestly and often. Access to information and sharing information should be constant.  Things seem to be changing and updating every day.  Huddle with your team daily (or as regularly as possible) and hold space for feedback, strategies and ideas.  When the doors of communication shut or perceived to be shut, teams immediately begin to breakdown.  Don’t let poor or infrequent communication get the better of you.  Keep your team informed and always give them honest messages. Remember, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” is an honest answer and shows authenticity which builds trust.  You don’t have to have all the answers, you just need to know where to find them. Again, you are human.

Acknowledge success and recognize great behaviors. Recognition is key to any high functioning team.  To the team member, it shows you are paying attention and you care.  To the leader, it’s an opportunity to promote the good behaviors and habits you want to see regularly.  Recognition does not have to be grandiose.  Simple methods such as hand-written “thank you” notes go a long way.  Recognize your team members immediately when possible.  Recognitions should be specific and timely, never vague and late.  Saying “thank you, Lisa for helping Carl room that patient while we were slammed this afternoon,” Means a lot more than “Good job this week, Lisa.”   It’s also good practice for the team to take time at the end of meetings to share gratitude for each other.   This allows your team to recognize each other and reflect on the good things happening regularly.

Ask for feedback.  Your team will never tire of you asking for feedback on how things could be better.  Feedback is just that, feedback.  You can take it or leave it, but always be open to advice.  I enjoy asking my team “How am I doing for you as a leader and what can I do to help make your job easier?”  This gives your team ownership.  They feel part of the solution and not just a cog in a clock.  You may not receive many answers at first, but soon you will get some great feedback that makes your team stronger and your leadership better.

Focus on your team’s health…and yours.  The pandemic reminds us of how important it is to practice healthy lifestyles. Require your team to take their breaks.  If possible, allow them to take even more breaks to take their mask off and breathe fresh air.  Encourage staff to go outside during breaks.  Talk to your Human Resources Department on creative ways to get your team involved in your CHC Wellness Program or create engaging health challenges yourself.   Set the culture of team wellness by being the example.  Your health is incredibly important to the success of the team.  Take your day off, unplug and enjoy time just “being” for a while.  Being healthy allows you to be a highly engaged leader which promotes a highly engaged team that delivers quality patient care and together you will find that elusive light at the end of the tunnel.