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Listen Well: Organizations do not Achieve Outcomes, Connected People do

By William J. Maples M.D. and Timothy A. Poulton, M.D.

If you have been in the workforce for a while, you have probably experienced a few types of leadership styles. If you supervise others, what style of leadership do you want to be known for? How do you inspire others? Do you listen and connect with people? The Institute for Healthcare Excellence (IHE) would like to get you thinking about human-centered leadership.

“Good leaders are efficient in getting the best out of their team,” says Tim Poulton, M.D., faculty member at IHE and a family physician at Mission Health in North Carolina. “They facilitate their team forming strong bonds amongst themselves, and strong connections with the people they serve.”

Leaders who avail themselves to human-centered leadership, lead by example and set the tone for how the team interacts, creating a culture where people want to work hard and want to be successful. “They convey a message of openness and they are receptive to input,” says Dr. Poulton.

Using human-centered leadership skills, healthcare teams can be more connected, more cohesive, enthusiastic and appreciative of the opportunity to work together. The result is a connected, motivated and energized team.

Human-centered leadership is a set of skills that can be taught and practiced. “When you get immersed in your work sometimes you don’t have the skills distilled and ready to use, and an opportunity might slip away,” observes Dr. Poulton. Good leaders are effective in recalling and using the skills and understand the importance of human-centered leadership.

William Maples, M.D., President and CEO of IHE takes us one step further: “The key to leadership is to understand to the best of your ability the strengths, gifts and talents of the team, and capitalize on those to move forward the vision and goals of the organization.”

Dr. Maples explains that it starts with you. The ability to understand the team begins with understanding your own strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Only then can you connect with other individuals to create trust.

“The ability to connect with an individual to create trust and safety within the work environment is very important; If we skip over this step it becomes hard to fully understand the strengths and gifts of the team,” says Dr. Maples.

Is it possible to lead without building relationships? “The answer is yes, but the effectiveness of your leadership will be severely compromised,” says Dr. Maples. A team’s ability to reach its maximum potential can be hindered following traditional leadership models.

Many leaders simply think it is more efficient to get “right to the heart of the matter” while bypassing the emotional connection.

“In healthcare, we want to be fixers: we want to swiftly diagnose and treat the problem,” says Dr. Maples. “Our default setting is “what’s wrong?” and we overlook what’s right, potentially missing the strengths and the opportunities, including opening up and allowing people to bring their gifts to the table.”

Nurturing human-centered leadership skills produce leaders who feel more connected to their workforce, teams that are more connected to their mission, and a deeper connection to purpose across the organization.

“We’ve seen empathy and compassion in the healthcare setting improve and burnout lessen,” concludes Dr. Maples. “We’ve also seen culture shifts where trust, respect and teamwork are embraced by all members of the team.”

Key Take-Aways

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