Bending without Breaking: It’s always a choice
By Debra Wiggs, FACMPE, V2V Founder
In the first part of this series, Blessed are the Flexible, I addressed the truism in effective, resilient leadership. It is found through bending without breaking. Philosophically, there is an inherent value in being nimble and adaptive, and in part 1 of this two-part blog, we covered what it looks and feels like for leaders to bend but not break. The first necessary part of resilient leadership is to take action and for that action to be pro-active, not reactive.
I described the dire situation of a medical clinic I supported that was leaking both money and rainwater through roof, with an out-of-control budget, equipment leases on broken equipment, out-of-control locum tenens expenses, and an actual roof that was primarily tar paper and plywood.
So, what did we do? After pausing and taking stock of our situation, we were faced with a choice. The typical responses could have been to either increase fees or closed the doors. However, we chose to change our minds and do things differently.
The force of pressure transforms effective, resilient leaders, it does not break them: There are a lot of materials throughout nature that transform from heat and pressure and become something new. The best leaders adapt and evolve instead of breaking. In fact, they are spurred to betterment by heat or pressure. Payers and the public have changed their expectations surrounding patient engagement and outcomes.
As a leader, the willingness to consider how-to adapt your organization to meet these expectations will inevitably result in you becoming ADEPTSM at something new to support your health care business. Sometimes, it takes heat from the scrutiny of your governing bodies, or pressure from the public. And, just like fire removes the impurities from gold, the process of bending will help you hone your organizational purpose.
So, back at the medical clinic, to say we were under pressure was an understatement. With the rain coming down, the office equipment leaking our cash flow, and the locums floating out the door with what would have been our profit margin, this practice needed transformation, quick. We didn’t sugar coat the situation, just presented the facts. The team had been frozen, unable to think their way through the problem, until we laid out the very real threat to the organization’s very existence and suggested that they had the power to come up with the solution.
Effective, resilient leaders identify the need for change: Remember, the antecedent to resilience is resistance. If you chose to resist against change, or fight it, you will break and that hurts, ouch! This is where the very real difference between your transactional vs transformational leadership skills are highlighted.
For example, a transactional form of leadership finds you stacking your proverbial boxes, from soup to nuts, in a logical order. As a transformational leader, you recognize that you should abandon boxes, altogether. During your work, you identify the need for transformation, and help others understand why and how the box needs to evolve into a sphere.
As I mentioned, earlier, the biggest culprit to this medical clinic’s losses came from paying locums to serve on-call. However, first I invested time into building trust and rapport with the team by addressing their immediate pain points, including the leaky roof and the office equipment. As those issues and others throughout the practice were addressed, it was time to turn our attention to that huge propane tank near the fire, the money drain due to the locums on-call situation.
Discussing this issue became transformational to the organization. As we considered our options, one of the physicians simply asked, “Why don’t we rotate call, and accept a pay differential each time we take our turn?” The physicians earned a little more money and a lot more gratitude from the patients they served. Almost immediately, the huge annual loss evaporated. The organization began a cultural and financial turnaround. All because a leader thought beyond what had always been done and considered what could happen to transform the organization.
When you do that you will need to call upon all that you have gained in what we call your “street creds”—the trust among your colleagues—to use that voice. To be able to say “change from a box, to a squircle(a square circle),” also means you’ve spent time amid the boxes, you’ve spent time in that environment, so that people trust you and will believe you and take action when you identify the need for change within your organization.
Effective, resilient leaders look for a fresh perspective: As a transformational leader, you also have the insight to call another important, very personal question: Am I stuck in my transactional leadership skills when I need to be using my transformational leadership skills? (See my blog on Transformational vs Transactional Leadership.) How frequently do we, all, jump to a delusion-or-conclusion, instead of starting a conversation about a certain situation with someone? When you’re fighting something difficult, do you put on your blinders, rather than binoculars, to see a situation more closely? How often, when you reflect on a frustrating conversation, do you replay the conversation in your head? The next time you do so, listen for what the other might be hearing from you, rather than what you’re saying. That subtle shift demonstrates transformational leadership and abilities.
Effectiveness is about resilience and transformation. My colleagues at V2V often talk about the fact that health care is a very complex business, today. We must not make our complex world, complicated. As a transformational leader, call-the-question on statements like “we’ve always done it this way” for some process that’s serving as an anchor around the neck of your organization. Have the courage to ask “Why?” and follow up with “this is not okay,” or “this is not working for our organization and I’m going to change it.”
You can be malleable without melting. You can bend without breaking. In fact, I recommend it, highly. The benefits to you and your organization will be far worth the investment of time and energy. Are you ready? We can help inspire your people, bringing you a fresh perspective that transforms your organization.