Strengths Based Leadership in Healthcare

By Charitie K. Horsley

As healthcare heads into a very difficult year of change, practices are feeling more stress than ever to improve their bottom line. We are all asking ourselves, “What more we can do to improve the care delivery or fiscal health of our practice or office?”

In the book, “Now, Discover Your Strengths,” Dr. Donald O Clifton asks the question, “Which do you think would be most successful? Building on strengths or fixing weaknesses?” Most of us instinctively answer that we should fix our weaknesses; however, the real answer is building on strengths.

Dr. Clifton explains, “By improving a weakness, the best you can hope to achieve is an average level of performance. By enhancing strength, you have a chance to produce truly outstanding levels of performance.” In fact, he found in his research that by investing the same amount of money in eight low profit and eight high profit businesses, he increased the low profit businesses performance by 15 percent and the high profit businesses by 700 percent. This is an improved return on his investment of more than 466 percent. Investing in already existing strengths pays off whether the investment is in people, teams, business units, and whole organizations.

To capitalize on your office’s strengths study and analyze strength at multiple levels, including:

  1.  Organizational. Survey your customers, employees, owners, partners, and anyone that you do business with and ask them to help you identify the top three things you do well. Look hard for the qualities that set you apart from other practices.
  2.  Team. Is there a particular team that shines or outperforms others on a consistent basis? What is it that sets them apart?
  3.  Individual. Break this down to the individual staff member’s level. Interview each employee and ask what he or she enjoys doing the most in his or her job. Ask what he or she doesn’t enjoy doing, or the things that never seem to find a way off their “to do” list. This might help you to identify a weakness.
  4.  Task. Ensure that the most important tasks are performed by someone with the particular strength necessary to accomplish that task. For example, make sure that your highest-dollar accounts are worked by your best patient account representative. Ensure that your incoming calls are handled by someone with strengths in customer service, phone skills, and handling patient concerns. Review every individual task performed in your practice regularly, and ensure that someone with that particular strength performs them.

You will get a much larger return on your time and resource investment when you are focusing on those strengths you have identified, and manage around the remaining weaknesses. If you identify an area of weakness in your analysis, be sure to hire future staff members with strengths to fill the current gaps. There is a lot of information available on-line on Strengths Based Interviewing, which is a method used by many top performing companies.

Mastering strengths-based leadership will help you secure your practice’s bottom line. There are also gems of hidden benefits like improved employee morale and engagement. Other industries have used this type of management for many years. It’s certainly worth exploring to see if it can help take a few bumps out of the wild road ahead in healthcare.

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