5 Ways for Young Healthcare Leaders to Achieve Their Most Important Goals

In a world with increasing incoming communications through email, LinkedIn, etc. — and 24/7 access through smartphones — it is difficult not to get overwhelmed. We are subject to a steady stream of information and requests, some of which require our immediate attention and some that just take up space. As a young manager or executive, it's important that you focus on fewer but more strategic goals. The following five steps will help you achieve those goals most important to you.

1. Determine your most significant goals.

"Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things."
— Peter Drucker, legendary management consultant

Who sets your goals? In the case of many managers or executives, it's your boss. Given that, it is wise to know their goals. Find out what those goals are by asking. Request a time to meet with him or her, specifically to discuss their top goals. Ask them to help you prioritize the goals on which you should focus, hopefully to no more than five strategic goals. Although commonplace, it's true: if everything is important, then nothing is important. Now that you've defined these top five goals, keep them visible as a constant reminder. Regular, periodic discussion and review with your boss will provide a forum for feedback.

2. List next actions toward each goal.

"What is the Next Action?"
— David Allen, productivity consultant and author of "Getting Things Done"

Break each goal into steps. Make these steps concrete and actionable. For example, "Change the car's oil" is a vague next action. "Call the service department to schedule an oil change" is a more actionable, single step. A strategic project will consist of multiple single steps. Create a list of these next actions and make it a priority to accomplish at least one step each day. Determine the next action before the day begins, on your drive to work or even the day before. Other issues will arise and compete for your attention, but remember, this is more significant than the daily clutter. It will be important to devote time and energy to these next actions, so delegate less strategic meetings or tasks to appropriate staff, defer low priority tasks and eliminate non-essential tasks.

3. Ask your staff for recommendations.

"Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions."
— Lee Iacocca, former CEO, Chrysler Corp.

High value, strategic projects most likely cannot be figured out in a bubble. Look for advice from your staff. Not only will this help you determine next steps for a goal that may seem insurmountable, but you will engage your own team in helping you to meet your goals. Ask the question, "How do you think we can accomplish this?" Gather feedback for your own direction or discuss and determine your staff's direction. In order to stay on schedule, agree on the goal and the due date.

4. Use your resources.

"Before any decision can be made, the decision maker must seek advice."
— Dennis Bakke, author of "Joy at Work"

Hospital administrators are fortunate that many of the resources they depend on are in-house. Unlike a small business owner, who may have to seek council from outside contractors, most hospitals contain the essential support departments. Determine who they are and make sure to meet with them. For example, if your goal is to improve employee engagement and commitment, work with your human resources department. On the other hand, if making a decision about whether or not to recruit a specialty physician, request assistance from the planning department so you can assess demand in the local market — for example, is there a shortage of orthopedic surgeons in your service area ZIP codes?

5. Know the appropriate channel of communication.

"The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said."
— Peter Drucker

Now that you know what your goal is, what the next actions are and which experts to rely on, you are ready to tackle the goal, right? Not quite. There's another important aspect of achieving goals that’s often overlooked: understanding the difference in communication channels — face-to-face, phone or email, and when it's appropriate to use each.

When meeting new, important contacts, such as the director of a resource department or a physician candidate, face-to-face will allow both parties to assess this new contact by verbal language as well as body language. After a connection is established, the phone can be invaluable for discussing complicated projects with an existing contact; if you think an email will only lead to more questions, use the phone. It allows back and forth dialogue, which is much more helpful in resolving issues.

Email is best used for brief updates or simple questions, but not when your message may create more questions or your tone may be misunderstood. It can also be used when you need proof of answer or an agreement. It is important not to let incoming email distract you from your goal, thus it may be helpful to set "no email hours" in order to focus attention on your most significant goals.

Meetings are another invaluable form of face-to-face communication when a group of people may have questions. Time in meetings may depend on your position in the organization. A CEO may spend a high percentage of time in meetings, especially as a means of reviewing progress. On the other hand, a manager may spend significantly more time thinking and planning, rather than reviewing in meetings. Make sure that meetings you attend are helpful in accomplishing your most significant goals. If you find yourself lacking time to accomplish those goals, consider which meetings are absolutely necessary.

Once you have determined the appropriate method of communication, do not forget to over-communicate. Use a weekly huddle or email to begin or end the week, as an effective way to bring staff together so that questions can be answered and discussions had. A weekly briefing or email can also be beneficial in providing updates to a group, such as details about an upcoming physician recruitment dinner or other event.

Following these five steps will ensure you achieve your most important goals. Your style will begin to take shape as you work through these steps. If adopted as habit and conducted regularly, these steps will refine that style, and you will become a more effective leader. Ultimately, your progress and success are going to be measured by your boss. So, focus on helping them achieve their goals — as those will be your most important.

J. Stephen Lindsey, FACHE, was CEO at HCA Henrico Doctors' Hospital for 16 years. He has served as an affiliate professor in the MHA program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Mr. Lindsey is a principal of Ivy Ventures, LLC, a consulting firm that helps hospitals grow outpatient service lines. He is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. He can be reached at slindsey@ivyventures.com.

F. Matthew Gitzinger is the director of support services and process improvement at Vidant Chowan Hospital and Vidant Bertie Hospital in Edenton, N.C. He has also served as the two hospitals' director of clinical and support services, and has additional experience in physician relations. He can be reached at matt.gitzinger@vidanthealth.com.

More Articles by J. Stephen Lindsey:

4 Keys to Effective Administrative Rounding
5 Ways to Grow Outpatient Volume

Getting Ahead by Not Falling Behind: How to Take Ownership of Your Healthcare Career Through Staying Current

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