Are You Bringing “Leadership Energy” to Your Healthcare Team?

by Francine Gaillour, MD

in Aligning With Values & Purpose,Transformational Leadership

. . . . In the middle of planning a family event last summer, I realized that what my competent team needed most from me was NOT my abundant ideas and strategies, but rather my ability to keep the energy going. It occurred to me that most physician leaders worry too much about bringing ideas, and not enough about bringing energy.

What would you say is your #1 job as a physician leader? Smart ideas, “vision”, keeping others docs in line?

While your role description includes many items including managing your staff, improving clinical effectiveness, reducing errors and other key responsibilities, as the manager of teams who are comprised of humans, not machines, I suggest your team needs something from you above all:

Your biggest job is to bring energy to your team.

Before you roll your eyes because you have ton of stuff in your in box, and meetings back to back, and someone to fire, and another person to hire, take a step back and look at yourself in a new light.

If you have smart, competent team members—and I’ll bet you do if they are doctors and nurses—they don’t need much hands on project oversight.

However when they meet with resistance, when they lose faith in the mission or the merits of the vision, THAT’s when you need to step in and be the BIG energy that boosts people up. And those situations happen a lot more often than you think.

Three Kinds of Leadership Energy

Keep your radar up for those times—and they are frequent, probably daily or weekly—when your team will benefit from a specific “energy boost” that will keep their momentum and engagement intact. If you sense energies are “low” or “draining” or that their priorities or values are misplaced — don’t jump into an analytical mode. Dial up your own energy and see which of these three “energy boosts” your team would benefit from.

Energy Boost 1 ==>

I observed a leader once listening to his medical director complain that the team may not have the “bandwith” to complete a project. Rather than jump into the project timeline and details and status reports, this physician leader asked his medical director a question: What kind of support do you need to complete the project?

His colleague replied: “I actually feel pretty good about the project deadline, I’m not so sure people will accept our ideas.” His own reputation was on the line.

What he needed was the first kind of Leadership Energy from his supervisor: Encouragement and Appreciation. Basically a “you can do it, and we believe in your talent” kind of energy.

Energy Boost 2 ==>

Here is another situation one of my colleagues experienced as the leader of a product development group. A team member introduced a competitive analysis — a summary of what the competition is doing. After agitated and somewhat panicked discussion, the group started to veer into viscous talk about borrowing some ideas from the competition.

That’s when my colleague stepped in and brought a much needed boost of the second kind of energy: Reinforce Team and Company Values.

When there is negative tension among team members (i.e. energy is being drained, not created), it’s sign that values are in conflict.

If the your organization has established its values, or if the team has agreed how they will conduct themselves, it is your job as a leader to step in and reiterate what is important. More than brand identity, it’s alignment of CORE values.

Energy Boost 3 ==>

The third kind of energy is one many physician leaders will be familiar with. How many times have you launched a new initiative after having won the buy-in and the budget, kicked off the project with much fanfare….only to see your advocates lose enthusiasm after a short time.

This happened to a physician client of mine assigned to lead an EMR implementation. He had a talented technical team, and had trained his champions. But after 4 months, he was having a hard time getting everyone to the meetings that were scheduled and agreed on during the initiation phase.

He was about to resign his post, thinking he had failed, when he understood something important: Vision is like a child’s balloon, it only stays aloft and visible when it’s filled regularly with air.

What he stumbled on is the third kind of leadership energy: Keeping a Vision Aloft and Visible Requires Breathing Life Into It Regularly

It’s easy to feel discouraged when you perceive that your team’s energy has waned. Keep in mind that in the best case scenario, if you’ve chartered your team well, they will execute the project well.

Competency is not the issue, rather it’s distance away from the “Why are we doing this?” that causes the energy drain.

Once everyone gets knee deep into details, it’s your job to remind everyone regularly about the importance of the project to your customers, AND to inject some fun and levity into the effort.

That’s how you continually breath life into the vision and keep it aloft.

How Well Are Your Boosting The Energy of Your Team?

Let me know how good a job you’re doing bringing energy to your team. Are you favoring one “energy booster” over another?

Here is a challenge if you’re up for it: Take a whole day and focus only on being the “energy booster” in your department or clinic. Forget about the inbox, and the spreadsheets. While you attend meetings and walk around, offer one or more of the three energy boosts I recommended.

Share your thoughts on what you observe. Email me directly, or use the comments section here in the blog.

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