Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape
By Debra Wiggs, FACMPE, V2V Founder
Whether you are a follower of author Robert Ludlum or you more identify with the verse from Acts 16:1-24, there is a truism in effective, resilient leadership. It is found through bending without breaking. Philosophically, there is an inherent value in being nimble and adaptive, but what does it look and feel like for leaders to bend but not break?
Effective, resilient leaders take action: Leaders cannot just sit, idly, by. If they bend, it represents movement, achievement, forward momentum, and progress. My colleague, Dan Diamond, MD, would advocate that resilience comes as a complement to the ability to take effective action. If something’s on fire, make sure you take in the whole scene, not just the flame in front of you. In his book, Beyond Resilience, Dr. Diamond explains that resilient leaders look beyond the obvious because the specific pain point your organization is experiencing may not be the source of the problem. The threat from fire may be secondary to the risk posed by a propane tank sitting dangerously close to the flame. The point is to discover, in a thoughtful, intentional manner, how to save yourself and others. This also rings true in today’s health care environment.
Whether your organization is suffering from specific pain points or simply struggling with the changes in our industry, it suggests a larger issue that needs to be addressed and solved. Everything is changing, from regulatory requirements to payer authorizations and billing. You and your team will make mistakes as part of a transformation process, think of it as failing forward, you are moving forward, nonetheless.
While some organizational leaders may not feel their organizational platform is on fire, they recognize that they are not moving forward, either. Just maintaining the status quo, with no change or adaptation, will prevent your organization from surviving and thriving at the new business of healthcare.
Effective, resilient leaders are responsive, not reactive. Understanding the power of being thoughtful allows you the ability to keep energy reserves. Holding that energy assures others that you, collectively, have the power to act. One of my favorite quotes on this truth is from Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
You can respond to the changes in our industry, not merely react after-the-fact. You can make a transformative, positive difference in the daily work of your organization. The way you bend without breaking is to have a willingness to be in that place of pausing, that allows you to reset to determine “How do I respond?” And, with a calmness that helps establish whether there is a reason to truly fear, or if this is False Evidence Appearing Real. How often do you take at face value someone’s observations and their response before considering your own first? A colleague just put this choice into action a few minutes ago. She wondered if she should be frustrated by a situation that she was encountering; I asked her what she was reacting to–the email dialogue or to the facts of the situation? I encouraged her to make a clarifying phone call before she decided how to feel about the situation. In that time, she walked away from the choice of frustration (growth) with a sense of direction (freedom).
Among my experiences included supporting a medical clinic located in a remote community, with an out-of-control budget, equipment leases on broken equipment (a fax machine that only sent one sheet of paper at a time without redialing), locum tenens expenses through the roof and an actual roof that was primarily tar paper and plywood. The clinic roof leaked so much that in the rainy climate of the Pacific Northwest, I wondered whether the whole thing would cave in during the next seven-day soaker.
We needed to take action. Immediately. So, what was the first thing I did?
Following the guidance of Viktor Frankl, I paused and took a deep breath.
So, did we make it through the winter without money running out or the roof caving in? Yes we did. We were flexible and chose to think differently. In the second part of this blog, I will address how to use your transformational leadership skills when faced with the challenges of making a choice.