Q&A: Identifying Physician Leaders
Why is leadership training necessary for physicians?
Many people believe that physicians are natural leaders. It’s true that physicians demonstrate leadership skills when working with a team of professionals—nurses, technicians, other physicians. In fact, demonstrated clinical expertise and temperament are the two factors that often lead to a leadership appointment. However, while being a good clinician and a good person is important for credibility and influence, there are many areas of leadership where clinicians are untrained.
What skills do your clinicians need to learn?
Providing critical feedback is both an essential and challenging leadership skill. Very few people have learned how to give productive feedback and at times shy away from it until it is too late.
At TeamHealth, we teach new clinician leaders to give feedback through practice and role playing exercises. Clinicians want their leaders to give them feedback that is provided privately, constructively, quickly and objectively.
In this era of outcomes, how do you know if your efforts are successful?
It is not enough to simply train people. To be effective and achieve success, we must hardwire the process and ensure accountability with metric-driven goals and consistent follow-up. As clinicians, we are trained to analyze and assess data to make evidencebased decisions, so this aspect of leadership comes naturally to many clinical leaders. TeamHealth has a sophisticated system that ensures accountability.
What is especially important to your client hospitals and their CEOs?
Before we provide services at any facility, our team of leaders and managers meet with their team of leaders and managers. We conduct an extensive exploration of their goals and analyze the barriers to achieving those goals. After, we set time-specific and measurable goals.
I have noticed common goals among providers: cost and quality outcomes and excellent customer service, which directly relate to pressures from value-based care. I have also seen differing goals across organizations, from improving doctor-nurse relationships to raising patient satisfaction. This is where pain points specific to the organization can be addressed through training.
How do you identify physician leaders?
• They show a desire to participate and lead by taking on responsibilities within their group.
• They demonstrate skills beyond clinical excellence. While providing excellent care is necessary, it is not the only indicator of a future leader.
• They are able to create, share and collaborate on a vision. They are also able to motivate.
• They actively seek out problems, complaints and inefficiencies to enact improvement.
• When natural identification fails, you can use a test. For example, we utilize an objective psychological and management test that evaluates a potential leader’s strengths and weaknesses.
Dr. Robert Strauss is TeamHealth’s Vice President of Program Development. He has substantial responsibility for orienting and training the clinician leaders within TeamHealth.