Leaders, let's not forget our most important 'skill'

In pursuit of my doctorate in business administration, I have spent a great deal of time reviewing research to more thoroughly understand how modifications in leadership styles and a greater focus on organizational culture can help drive quality and access to patient care while keeping costs in check.

The impact has the potential to be profound as a shift in organizational dynamics and culture can improve team performance, morale and overall organizational outcomes. I wake up each day, excited thinking about how I can continue to adjust and refine my work at TGH.

Building a thriving culture takes a great deal of dedication and motivation. But it isn't all about being the first and being the best. The deployment of soft skills — like building interpersonal relationships, mentoring, transparency and kindness — go a long way in fulfilling our mission and maintaining the bottom line.

Of these soft skills, one especially stands out: kindness.

It's easy to discount the importance of kindness in the workplace. In our culture, we often equate speed and accuracy with being tough and no-nonsense. Leaders assume that to gain respect and drive results they must rule with an iron fist. They are afraid for team members to view them as "soft" or a "pushover." They prioritize being right with doing the right thing.

But in my experience, acting tough does nothing but cause stress, high turnover and turmoil within teams. Who wants to work with someone who treats them this way? Loyalty and hard work aren't built on fear. They are earned through mutual respect, developing relationships and gaining trust — all of which are made possible through kindness.

Treating each other with kindness isn't hard, and it's the right thing to do. It's also good for business. Kindness improves performance, fosters trust both internally and externally, improves customer services, team productivity, customer loyalty and promotes brand loyalty. Demonstrating a culture of kindness also helps recruit talent — who doesn't want to work in an environment that demonstrates team member value? Finally, a culture of kindness helps promote a culture of innovation that inspires fellow team members, patients and customers to pass that kindness onto others.

So how can you model kindness at work?

Mentor. We all can use some guidance. Giving of yourself, your time and experience are the kindest and most meaningful things you can do.

Focus on them. Giving 100 percent of yourself when you're having a conversation allows you to not only gain insight and understanding but be a better leader.

Show your team you care about them as people. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, write them a personal note letting them know you recognize their gifts and contributions.

Tell them you mean it. A thank you for a well-done job means a great deal to most of us. Show team members that you recognize their accomplishments and that you want to share it with others. Send an "all team" email, letting everyone know of the excellent work produced.

Think and fix. When you hit a rough patch with a team member, don't let it fester. Think about what you could do to make things better and reach out.

I spoke recently about the need for self-care as well as caring for others in our business. Being kind to yourself is the ultimate form of self-care. Just as we can be tough on others, we are often even tougher on ourselves. This negative feed loop can be exhausting, depletes our performance, produces unneeded stress, and is only bad for our health as studies have linked stress to heart disease and higher blood pressure. We are all human. Being kind to yourself, forgiving yourself and moving forward from mistakes is critical. 

When all is said and done, our business success pales in comparison to the relationships we have built, the lives we have lived and touched, and those we have inspired. When you value kindness and demonstrate that value to others, you build loyalty and motivate others. You also make getting the job done more comfortable and much more enjoyable.


John Couris is the president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital.

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