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Target-Based Leadership

Clint Maun, CSP

As a health-care manager, you are a member of one of the most resilient and at the same time challenging professions in the world! You're faced with a complexity of customers and a large number of human issues you must manage in a business that is extremely regulated.

CEO's, Administrators and Directors of Nursing who can coach their staff to become leaders within their organization, rather than just managers, are more likely to produce ongoing success. Organizations that encourage leadership are often seen as the health care providers of choice within their community.

Who or What is Leading the Organization?

Organizations may accomplish success on a short-term basis using strong micro-management techniques to assure business gets done appropriately. This "hands-on" management approach helps the organization through a difficult client issue, management/employee conflict, vendor crisis, short-term revenue problem, or an intensive, immediate, short-term crisis. However, this approach causes many organizations to constantly manage in a "crisis-to-crisis" mode.

Managers operating in this fashion allow the crisis situations to lead the organization. This time consuming, fire-fighting approach to management can rob top-level managers the time needed to direct the strategic targets and plans that lead to success. The road to success in the long term requires a more thoughtful, strategic approach that goes beyond tactical, micro-management.

Today's marketplace requires health care managers to transition themselves into positions of leadership. These leaders must understand where the organization is going and translate the organization's vision, mission and overarching strategic goals into the measurable work performance tasks their teams execute on a day-to-day basis.

Finding a Focus

When becoming a leader, it's important to have a clear understanding about your organization's commitment to its employees and how that commitment fits within the organization's larger vision and mission. As a leader you must continually communicate these strategic goals with your staff and reinforce the focus or commitment of your organization. This direction should be customized according to the culture within your particular establishment.

When health care managers assume a lead role in "kick starting" this commitment or focus, tremendous ongoing improvements are achieved. The staff can use their newfound clarity to align work efforts with the organization's goals and direction.

Additionally, people from other units and departments may get "onboard". They can then dedicate their efforts to, not only the daily accomplishment of their work, but also align their efforts to complete the necessary activities to help meet the entire organization's goals.

To be a leader in health care today, with a management title, you need to be a target-based leader. This requires a shift to understanding that organizational success comes before individual success. When there is no overall focus or commitment toward achieving the organization's key targets, there can be no dedicated efforts in the correct direction.

Much time and energy can be unnecessarily spent on individual issues and situations which ignores the organization's focus. When single "superstars" and individual performance programs receive a greater proportion of the attention, recognition for achieving the organization's superior focus and goals is virtually nonexistent. Target-based success then becomes impossible.

Taking a Strong Position

Take a strong position on your move toward recognition of team success first. Your organization's leaders will then base their daily communications, meetings, involvement activities, priority issues, and management around the accomplishments of your targets.

When there is a team atmosphere, everyone knows the critical targets, reasons for the journey and how to measure their success. The teams know your "Super Bowl" victory will be accomplished by reaching the targets. When you reinforce the message that the organization's goals must be achieved before individual goals are rewarded, everyone commits to playing team ball.

When people don't have to waste time every day trying to figure out what's important for the organization, you reduce rumors, grapevines, turf territory, other hassles, and negative attitudes. A clearly articulated leadership perspective that reinforces how to feel fulfilled as a member of the team will help everyone understand that success will be accomplished by hitting the organization's critical targets.

What Are The Targets

Your targets can include:
  • Improving customer satisfaction
  • Reducing staff turnover
  • Increasing census
  • Addressing infection control issues
  • Restraint reduction
  • Conflict resolution
  • Profitability
  • Reduction in lost work time
  • Improving labor-to-revenue ratios
  • Workers' compensation reduction
  • Specialized revenue increases.

Additionally, programs boosting community involvement in your organization, increasing the numbers and quality of volunteer staff, and improving your organization's image to the general public might be added to your list of long-term targets.

At a minimum, these targets need to be reviewed annually to meet your organization's ever-changing needs.

The great news is that efforts of this kind often have tremendous motivational and morale enhancement potential, particularly in health care organizations, with complex working environments.

What Target-Based Leadership Requires

Most importantly, target-based leadership skills include being honest, specific, and consistent in your communication with others, as well as your actions as a role model for those around you. You must require daily feedback on how things are going and what your teams are accomplishing as you provide daily feedback to your teams as well.

Let people know you are paying attention to their negative behaviors and that you are working to eliminate these behaviors from the organization. Conversely, when you give individuals or teams immediate feedback about their successful activities or efforts, reinforce positive behaviors and accomplishments. By focusing involvement activities and meetings around measurable improvements in the organization's goals and targets, everyone can see whether things are improving and have a clear picture about what areas need more work.

Once you have achieved a "Super Bowl" victory for your organization, it becomes important to now recognize individual accomplishments. This provides an opportunity to reinforce how individual actions contribute to achieving team goals and targets.

Staying On Target

It's not easy to stay focused. Pressure from patients/residents and their families, state survey teams, corporate demands or any number of other crisis situations can easily interrupt the improvement activities. Without the correct vision and leadership for employees, you'll be spending time putting out brush fires, handling emergencies and dealing with interruptions, thus becoming controlled by the day, rather than you being in control.

When top-level management loses control, the rest of the staff will not be actively involved in hitting the organization's targets or accomplishing their improvement activities. The resulting frustration directly affects the success of your organization. On the other hand, commitment from all the individuals in the organization is possible when you, the target-based leader, send the message, "We know where we're going, and with your help we can create the plans that will provide success and help us all achieve our goals".

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