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Today I received a thank you card via PLAXO, one of a number of social networking sites, thanking me for being thoughtful.  It was from the CEO of a health system in the Mountain West who appreciated the fact that I remembered her birthday. “Thank you for your thoughtfulness.”

Tough and challenging times lie ahead for healthcare leaders.  We will see unprecedented reductions in Medicare and Medicaid funding, the promises of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act notwithstanding.  These reductions will force providers to embark on structural reforms that most never imagined in their lifetime.  

There will be pain caused by our instincts to resist complicated reforms that upset our values. These changes will be especially hard on many of our key stakeholders such as our physicians and our employees.

Senior leaders who focus solely on strategy, the daily, weekly, and monthly metrics, and the month-end results, will not be as successful as those CEOs and their teams who keep their employees and customers front and center.  When the crunch hits, we must all resist the temptation to view maintaining these important relationships as an expense, a secondary priority, or something that can be all together forgotten in the name of “making the hard financial choices.”

In the end, those healthcare organizations that thrive in an era of radical and painful change will be those who have employees who have been engaged and empowered to make their organization the best.  

To be a successful healthcare organization over the next 10 years means investing today in people and relationships. At the core of this effort must be developing a reservoir of goodwill with those stakeholders.

CEOs who understand that they must focus on their role as a strategist, resource coordinator, and chief relationship/communications officer will thrive, provided they delegate daily operations to a competent management team.

Leaders who focus on the big issues but remember the small things — sending an employee a birthday card, a congratulatory note for going the extra mile, or making an unannounced visit to a department to recognize someone for a job well done is such a minor event in an otherwise busy day, but pays huge benefits. 

Effective, successful executives and thoughtful leaders are one in the same. Over the next 10 years, this leadership truth will become very apparent.


1.  Do you regularly make rounds on all shifts?  Do you require your executives and managers to visit employees and physicians on a regular basis on all shifts?

2. Do you take the time to listen to what employees and physicians are telling you?  Do you follow up in a timely manner?

3. Are you promoting bottom-up innovation?  Top-down organizations will struggle to keep pace with sweeping changes over the next 10 years. You cannot turn this essential cultural orientation off and on like a light.

4. Are your employee-stakeholder communications leading edge and effective? Is there substance that engages employees, physicians and community stakeholders on important issues?  Do your distribution platforms connect with the age cohorts of your audience?  

5.  Do you have a weekly communications plan that always emphasizes the organization’s core values, the more immediate key issues and performance targets, or do you work off the cuff?   Are you promoting real transparency or are you playing the transparency game?

© 2011 John Gregory Self