What strong clinical, health IT crisis leadership looks like: Key thoughts from LaSalle Network CEO Tom Gimbel

Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network, outlines the major challenges and best opportunities for clinical and IT teams to thrive amid the pandemic.

Question: What are the biggest challenges facing IT and clinical leaders today?

Tom Gimbel: The biggest challenge is the different makeup of their teams. You have so many different types of people within the tech setting, as well as in the healthcare and clinical settings. You have processors and doers who may or may not have advanced degrees, as well as people who are experts in specific educational fields. How you combine these individuals with those who are producing the product and delivering care is important to consider in order to deliver quality care for the betterment of society.

Q: How are leaders building and shaping their teams amid the pandemic to thrive today and in the future?

TG: There are three types of leaders: those who rose to the occasion immediately — crisis leaders; those who didn't know what to do and didn't act; and those who wanted to be crisis leaders but didn't know what to say or do—they are in the process of evolving into crisis leaders. Crisis management leadership involves a high emotional EQ of knowing what your people need and what is best for the company during the crisis.

Leading the company during a crisis is different than leading during the regular bull market. The ability to communicate and understand the fragility that exists within your staff, knowing you have different emotional makeups for those in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, is important whether you're managing a small team of less than 50 people or one of tens of thousands of people.

It can sometimes turn into a game of telephone to make sure your intent is delivered down the line and people have the freedom to manage around their staff's emotions. You also want to make sure you're sending the right message about the mission and right vision. Too often leaders during crisis know what to do but not how to deliver that message. In times of economic and healthcare crisis, as well as social unrest, that skillset is extremely important.

Q: What advice do you have for leaders about communicating their mission and vision during a time of crisis?

TG: It really depends on what your goal is. Are you a culture-based leader or are you a results-based leader? Most people say both. But you have to think about whether you want to have turnover or whether you can experience a short-term fall in revenue to prevent turnover. I believe there is a sense of empathy your message needs to have. It should be that the current situation is not good; once you as a leader can say that to the team, it gives people the opportunity to acknowledge that and then come up with a plan and execute it based on being honest with each other. You want people that outwardly speak their minds but also follow directions. Disagreeing means giving the forum for people to speak honestly, but after that they must execute on directives. We aren't all agreeing on everything, but if you can say that out load and understand you are a part of the team, you can make a decision and your people will follow.

You run into problems when you give people a voice and they think you'll automatically do what they say.

Q: Where do you anticipate the big opportunities for IT and clinical leaders will be to make a difference in healthcare going forward?

TG: Because of COVID-19, there are some organizations that have furloughed people. Other companies are hiring now in areas they couldn't afford to before because those individuals are suddenly available. With business slower than usual in some aspects companies have been able to implement software upgrades and training they wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. Employees are now also more committed to companies than ever before. You have a dedicated base of employees to build around. COVID-19 and the economic crisis spawned upstart technologies, and leaders now have the ability to allocate time and staff to explore technologies as hospitals become more integrated and modernized.

Q: What advice do you have for emerging leaders, or those early in their careers as they try to gain experience during these uncertain times?

TG: No. 1 is really to make sure you don't pigeonhole yourself in one area. When you get into healthcare on the clinical or IT side, make sure you're learning about other areas within the healthcare arena. The more you understand conceptually the mission and vision of the organization, the more value you can add and expertise.

No. 2, there is a language void that exists in both healthcare and IT. Those who can understand both and break down the complex into a simple format that others can understand will be better equipped to advance their careers.

Lastly, keep up to date with technologies and don't take for granted that what is at your organization now will always be the best. Continue to speak with others and learn about new technologies that are available.


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