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What does psychology have to do with Obamacare and healthcare reform?  A lot, actually.

Leaders who do not appreciate the ins and outs of the psychology of change will find themselves in deep holes of conflict and deteriorating performance of their organizations.

Change is hard, even for the best of employees, which is why you cannot afford to keep the “just OK” or marginal performers around, regardless of their popularity or who they may know in political places. 

iStock_000026082434SmallTo navigate these challenging times, CEOs will need every tool in their leadership toolbox, and probably some new ones as well.  This is where the discipline of psychology and leadership take center stage.

First a little context.  Traditional psychology is a 100-year-old empirical science of discerning what is wrong with people and determining how to fix them — the process of moving them on a deficit scale from minus 10 to 0.  Then there is an applied positive psychology, the study of decerning what is right with people — that which makes them happy — and amplifying those things to improve their life and their performance at work, so says Stella Grizont, founder and CEO of WOOPAAH, a company that creates immersive play experiences for people at work to feel happier, more creative, and productive.  Lest you think that this is just a goofy management concept made from whole cloth, Ms. Grizont holds a Master’s in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. 

The CEO/symphony conductor model has been around for a while but this leadership model probably makes more sense in an era where change will be supplanted by wholesale, robust transformation of the business model for the healthcare services segment.  In earlier days of the healthcare industry, there was more command-and-control leadership.  Today, that will not work based on the personalities of a younger workforce and the difficult reimbursement landscape.  The CEO must achieve as close to 100 percent value from each employee as humanly possible.  Paying for 100 percent and getting 50 to 60 percent return in value just doesn’t add up.  Or, as they say in certain parts of Texas, that dog wont hunt. 

To achieve that acceptable return in productive value from their human capital, CEOs must understand the behavior and values of their leadership staff — their personalities, their intrinsic interactive response points for communication, for enthusiasm and performance for their direct reports, and in turn, senior leaders must know the profiles and positive performance buttons of their Vice Presidents and Directors.  In other words, it is a form of applied positive psychology.  If organizations do not get this type of behavior and values information from candidates before they are hired, they are playing with fire.  It is as if the CEO conductor is trying to get the orchestra to play together while relying on a blank musical score.

We use the DiSC© Assessment in our candidate screening.  We require that our clients complete the profile as well as our candidates to be sure we are not recommending oil and water as a match behind which we will place a three-year guarantee. 

Within 45-to 60 days of the date of employment, we provide clients with a half-day team building exercise where our behavior and values consultant, Nancy Swain, leads the new employee and his or her direct reports in a team building session which can dramatically reduce the chances of the new relationship getting off track. 

Given the national statistics on the high rate of turnover in the first 24 months, why would you want to take a gamble?  Ms. Grizont’s concept may be more mainstream than traditionalist management gurus are willing to give credit. 

Healthcare leaders should take note.