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The higher you move up in an organization, the less control and absolute power you have, or so goes an old business adage. You are forced to depend on others to do the work, to make responsible decisions.  When it comes down to affecting relationships with employees, you cannot command loyalty and respect. Those are earned.

A health system CEO I know and respect once remarked that he never made patient room visits and certainly not employee rounds by himself because he was uncomfortable in that role. He preferred the familiar surrounds of the executive suite and the structure of department manager meetings and carefully organized town hall meetings. That surprised me given that he was seen as a very successful CEO, reducing costs, enhancing service, improving accountability and building the balance sheet. Yet, he was uncomfortable “mixing it up” — casual interactions — with the people who made his success possible.  Not enjoying making rounds and getting to know his workforce while reinforcing the organization’s values and strategic vision, felt incongruous to me.

Fast forward to today’s complex tough operational and hyper-competitive market.  It is more important than ever for CEOs to cultivate and store the vital “capital” of employee support, if not loyalty, and goodwill.  There will always be bad times ahead and CEOs will need to draw from this reservoir of support.

The complexity of change, and the pace at which it occurs, is accelerating thanks to technology, connectivity and high-speed customer and workforce expectations.  Together, they can create some formidable speed bumps, and CEOs will need all the available employee communication tools at their disposal to achieve success.

Gone are the days when so-called phantom hospital administrators could operate successfully from the confines of the executive office, making use of a private entrance that made their comings and goings almost invisible to employees and physicians and rarely seen walking the halls or taking lunch in the cafeteria. That leadership style began to disappear in the late 1970s.  By the late 1980s it had almost vanished even though today, there are still some executives who have not made the transition.

A personalized approach to employee communication, supported by state-of-the-art integrated web-based platforms that draw in employees, who increasingly include physicians, is an essential investment — and a critical tool — for hiring and retaining top talent.  As usual, other industries are way out in front of healthcare organizations in developing this medium.

This is one investment healthcare cannot afford to put off.

© John Gregory Self