For most, if not all, of my career, leaders in healthcare have had a relentless focus on improving operations, processes, volumes, patient satisfaction, and outcomes. It comes as no surprise that these leaders are data-driven – this is what we were all taught to do in medical school, where scientific rigor, the latest in proven medical knowledge, and trends and data guided our learning. We were trained to fix things, and it’s what we do best.
This approach often overlooks the unique individuals that contribute to these goals, and now we’re seeing the results: higher burnout rates and more turnover than ever, and suicide rates among providers and nurses at more than double the national average.
It’s time we re-orient our thinking as physician and APP leaders to a caring and learning mindset – one that prioritizes the wellbeing of the people we lead above all else. If we focus on building that, we will enable our teams to thrive. Thriving providers are better at caring for patients, and if we provide better patient care, outcomes will improve. The goals and objectives that we as leaders are tasked to accomplish will follow.
Zach Mercurio, Ph.D, is an expert in purposeful leadership, and his work is focused on “enabling thriving.” I often refer to his model, which is centered on two key elements:
1) I matter – I’m valued. We all want to feel as if our leaders care about us as human beings. At the least they should know our names and ask about our lives. But a truly good leader also knows my struggles, remembers me, misses me, and checks in on me.
2) I have purpose – I add value. We want what we do to matter. Leaders can make each member of their team feel that they make a difference, affirm their unique gifts, ask for their opinions, give them responsibility, and show them that they rely on them.
“When people know they matter and experience purpose in a connected and fear-free environment, research finds they and their organizations thrive,” says Zach. “What’s powerful is that we can learn to lead with purpose and enable positive and purposeful cultures.”
For many physician and APP leaders, this leadership approach might feel uncomfortable or unnerving. Many ask me how to start, and the answer is always the same: before you can lead others in this way, you need to lead yourself.
In the caring and learning mindset, a leader must ask: How do I show up? Am I thriving? If not, how can I prioritize my own wellbeing so that I can show up for my team in a way that enables us all to thrive?
I shared some actionable steps you can take to help yourself thrive in December 2021. Self-care is hard for so many of us but is so necessary for building the foundation of a thriving team.
Teaming is a verb. By welcoming all voices, empowering conversations and compassionate connections happen – and that connection is at the center of all we do. I believe you cannot get to true, meaningful learning if you do not start with the caring. It is difficult, if not impossible, to learn if you are burned out, feel as if you do not matter, and do not feel valued by your team.
If you and your team are “connected” and, if you’ve created an environment where ideas are welcome, creativity flows and is celebrated, and there is genuine caring, then improvement will easily follow. As leaders, it is our most important job to foster this environment, to coach and develop others, to connect with others, and to build trust.
I would love to hear your stories of leaders who inspired you, or of work you’ve done as a leader to create this kind of thriving environment. Drop your comment below!