Wisconsin rural hospital CEO and CFO rock stars inspired possibility thinking with a group of emerging leaders recently, demonstrating that striving for the C-suite might not be an unreachable-or undesirable-goal after all. We may sense “distance” between ourselves and those at higher levels of position or success, but we’re all just people under our name tags. These senior leaders shared their extraordinarily human leadership journeys and the habits that keep their head above turbulent waters, openly offering actionable advice to encourage new leaders to keep growing. Which one do you need to hear?
Trust what others see in you. If you believed the best that others believe about you, what might be possible for you? Take a moment and imagine yourself the way others see in you and notice how that feels.
Tell others, “I think you can.” This is paying it forward from the previous statement. As a leader, what opportunities do you now have to help others see the best in themselves?
Develop your mantra. “Assume Goodness. Choose Joy. Proceed with Grace,” belongs to CEO Alison Page (but I think she’s good with sharing it!) Create your own: what touchstone phrase brings you back to confidence, humility, feeling grounded?
Make a habit of gratitude discussions. Where are your regular opportunities to ask, “What are some wins? What has been going well? Who has someone you would like to thank?”
Culture comes first. And don’t stop focusing on culture if you have a great one. Maintaining is as much of an effort as establishing. Ask a colleague or customer, “What does it feel like to enter our department? What do you notice about the atmosphere?” Ask your team, “What is great here that we just take for granted?” Then focus on recognizing efforts to keep it great.
Have a method for ending things. Projects can have sloppy endings which morph into never-ending, exhausting and confusing work. Get better at planning for and establishing closure. What old projects need a clean-up? What new projects need to build in a plan for how to close?
Move from “evaluate-fix-move on” mentality to “collaborate” mentality. This is so important for you clinicians turned manager. Collaboration takes longer, requires a lot of listening-much less fixing. Your success will be measured on how you create a relationship environment where people fix their own problems and you keep out of it. Do you have tendencies to jump in and fix? Put in a “pause” button to fixing by using inquiry.
Be a calming presence. You may be churning inside, but it doesn’t do your team any good to see you unable to manage your emotions. This doesn’t mean you don’t have or show emotions, but do you recognize that your emotional response sets a tone and is contagious?
Build physical habits. Senior leaders have a lot on their plates. If they don’t have habits that allow them to expel some of the stress physically, it will manifest in negative ways. MOVE YOUR BODY. Find something that works for you – walking, running, yoga, swimming, whatever – but pick an activity and start doing it today. Where is your stress hormone stuck if you do not move it out physically?
Control is an illusion. Remember that your success is marked by your employees’ and peers’ success, which is about empowerment, not control. We can't disentangle our success from that of those around us, which takes control out of the equation.
Eliminate your perfectionism (another illusion). It will not serve you. Seriously, if you are a perfectionist, consider making 2021 your year to be done with it. Where do you have the ability to make someone’s job easier, to move blocks out of their way? That adds much more value than dwelling on the impossible.
Know your core values, and decisions will be much easier to make. What matters most to you? Does your daily life and actions reflect it?
Apologize quickly. You will be wrong sometimes. Learn to lose your defensiveness about it. Is there an apology you need to make today?
Respond to feedback by asking for more. If you develop the grace to do this early in your leadership career, it will make it easier as you grow for you to hear it and for others to share it with you, doing you a huge favor.
Sometimes you have to walk in employee’s shoes. Do you make time to go to the front line and experience the work there? The farther up the ladder you go, the easier it is to forget the day to day challenges your employees face. Keep it real in front of you?
Thank you to our wise and engaging panelists:
- Mary Beth White Jacobs, CEO Black River Memorial Hospital
- Alison Page, CEO Western Wisconsin Health
- Shawn Lerch, CEO Sauk Prairie Healthcare
- Brian Stephens, CEO Door County Medical Center
- Michelle Abey, CFO Stoughton Health
- Adam Gingery, CFO Western Wisconsin Health
- Joe Zeps, CFO Tomah Health
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
||In Jo Anne's current role as Organizational and Workforce Development Senior Manager at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC) her aim is to offer to leaders straightforward tools and inspire the courage to use them.
Lead the Way in Five Minutes A Day: Sparking High Performance in Yourself and Your Team, by Jo Anne Preston is currently available for purchase.