With all the pressures on a CEO, it is tempting to think that a consulting package can solve problems that essentially begin and end with people. Employees and physicians look to the boss.  If he or she is not walking the talk, it hits the informal employee news wire, spreads through the organization — that the latest service initiative is nothing more than the latest customer initiative — and the program fails.  The best approach I have seen is what I call the Gospel of Service and Excellence.  

Every day, the CEO talks about it and lives it. 

That is why verbal communications skills and leadership presence are shooting to the top of our chart of CEO critical competencies.  If you cannot personally communicate the value and importance of change, you cannot lead change.

On Sunday I am speaking to the national meeting of radiology/imaging professionals at the massive Gaylord convention center near DFW International Airport.  My focus will be on Employee Empowerment: A Strategic Imperative. I have spent a lot of time talking to hospital CEOs and other leaders who are on the cutting edge — not necessarily in the spotlight — for improving quality care and and building an environment of safety for the patients.  

Here is what I have learned:

1. Excellence in service and top patient satisfaction scores must go hand in hand but currently that is not necessarily the case even with some of the perennial industry leaders.

2. Landing on the Top 100 or the Top 50 lists is great PR but how are your HCAHPS scores? It is important to focus on processes and techniques in improving patient care and safety, but in your zeal to improve, do not forget the patient and their family.   

3. The unsung heroes, those CEOs who understand that improving quality and safety is much more important than securing a top ranking by some national magazine or consulting service, are more often than not those who use the Gospel of Service and Excellence technique.  Not a day goes by that they are not walking the halls, visiting with employees, physicians and patients, preaching the importance of adhering to best practices.  Yes, they invest in technology to measure and track performance.  Yes, they draw on outside expertise from time to time to get a fresh set of eyes for performance improvement opportunities.  But the CEO does the heavy lifting of driving the change, not a coach or team of consultants. He is walking the talk and asking for input at all levels.

© 2011 John Gregory Self


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