Healthcare leaders on communicating effectively with other C-suite executives

Communication among healthcare leaders is essential to hospital operations. To communicate effectively, there are certain practices leaders can put in place.

Becker's Hospital Review asked healthcare leaders to share their best tip for communicating effectively with other C-suite executives.

Dora Barilla, DrPH
Group Vice President of Community Health Investment at Providence St. Joseph Health (Renton, Wash.)

Effective communication with other executives is the key to achieving results. My goal is always to create a unified community of leaders who share the same vision yet feel safe to challenge perspectives. We don't require agreement at all times. I believe a diversity of thought challenges us to think differently and encourages a dynamic community of leaders. In fact, I make a point to ensure we have diversity in our conversations and take time to listen. Civil discourse is a refreshing practice and ensures we have discussed different viewpoints and have practiced inclusion in our process of coming together to advance our mission. By focusing on what unites us, we ensure we move ahead in a positive direction.

My conversations reinforce the responsibilities of leadership and encourage each of us to be bold and unflinching in calling people to a better and more just way in the world. With so much uncertainty and challenges for the health of our communities, it can be easy to make decisions based on fear and doubt. However, I believe that as leaders of an organization with an extraordinary culture and heritage, our executives are called to inspire hope, innovation, and the ability to bring out the best in one another. It's about inspiring them to do the excellent work that we are all called to do for others.

Keri Gardner, MD
CMO
Alaska Regional Hospital (Anchorage)

The unique feature of C-suite communications is its high visibility. The optics of both what is said and how it takes place sets the tone for the entire organization. Staff are sensitive to any underlying tension, so when executives appear at ease with one another their recommendations will be received as gospel. The suspicion of conflict or poor communication between C-suiters — whether it is real or not — can put the organizational goals at risk. To achieve best practice communications, formal meetings should be supplemented by casual conversations and then pushed out to staff with leadership dyad rounding. When staff see leaders rounding in a companionable spirit, there is a level of support and collaboration that is greater than could ever be achieved by leaders rounding separately.

Linda McClung
Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Christus Health (Irving, Texas)

It helps considerably that I know my colleagues well. Through the years, I think we have all come to better understand ourselves and each other and the best way to communicate with one another. I know their communication styles. There are some who appreciate it when I keep our communications short, simple, direct and to the point. There are others who are masters at the art of chit-chat and would prefer to have friendlier, casual and then deeper conversations. To effectively do my job and build and earn their trust, I work to meet their communication needs. It helps for me to know their communication styles because then I am more effective in sensing and understanding where they are coming from.

I recognize all of us can rely on email or text to effectively and quickly communicate. We have a trust that makes this possible. However, there's nothing more important, in my mind, than face-to-face interactions. Face-to face meetings often lead to other conversations or bigger topics that are useful for our work. Even quick huddles in a hallway or an impromptu sit-down in a conference room are valuable. These opportunities build upon the trust, openness and friendliness that we have been fortunate to enjoy with one another. It also doesn't hurt to truly understand someone's viewpoint and feelings by reading their non-verbal communications. A shrug, friendly smirk or sarcastic eye roll obviously is an important communication clue to pick up on and would be missed in a quick email.

Manny Rodriguez
Chief Marketing and Experience Officer at UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.)

First and foremost, be honest. Do not sugarcoat the truth. Trust and responsiveness are essential for communicating with other executives as well as with your own team. Developing trust and building rapport may take some time, but once in place, executives recognize you as a valued partner. It's crucial to never blindside someone and always vet ideas. Responsiveness takes hard work and dedication, but this too can improve your relationships with others and create strong partnerships based around collaboration.

Cathy Townsend RN, MSN-L
CNO of Banner – University Medical Center Tucson and South campuses (Tucson, Ariz.)

I believe that talking in person is the best way to communicate. This is not always possible and so the best practice that I have seen is to have a 10- to 15-minute morning C-suite team call/in-person connection two or three times per week. This update offers the chance for team members to share any urgent news or celebrate positive outcomes. As a result, the team interacts often, has the option of calling in or meeting in person and starts the day off informed.

 

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