4 Key Skills OR Leaders Need to Drive Success

The cost and revenue associated with operating rooms, as well as its central role in attracting physicians, makes leadership of this department critical for the overall performance of a hospital. An OR leader requires a broad set of skills, ranging from communication with a variety of stakeholders to business acumen. Ron Wince, CEO of management consulting firm Guidon Performance Solutions, describes four key skills that OR leaders need to drive the department and organization's success.

1. Emotional intelligence. "One of the big roles is the ability to influence people who don't work for you," Mr. Wince says. The OR depends on many departments, including the lab, radiology, and registration, to keep a case on schedule and have accurate information about a patient. Being able to communicate effectively and work collaboratively with these departments requires emotional intelligence, which consists of self-awareness, empathy and relationship management, among other attributes. While these skills cannot necessarily be learned in a classroom, they can be developed over time in practical application, according to Mr. Wince. He says leaders can learn emotional intelligence from mentors and coaches who provide feedback on behavior and skills.

2. Time management. Mr. Wince says the biggest challenge in an OR is "managing the orchestration of the start and stop times of a procedure. It is the most painful and most difficult [task.]" Time management is essential for an OR leader because ensuring cases start and end on time can influence patient and physician satisfaction and OR utilization, which then affects costs and revenue. Managing one's own time as a leader and helping others manage their time can help prevent delays and costly backups. Mr. Wince suggests using lean manufacturing tools to identify areas of waste and streamline workflows. For instance, he said one hospital reduced delays by creating a new process for prepping the OR that eliminated the need for a technician to spend time searching for equipment.  

3. Business acumen.
"You have to have some business skills around what the cost drivers for an OR are. [Knowing] supply chain issues, the opportunity cost of an OR going underutilized, what drives the income for the hospital is critical," Mr. Wince says. OR leaders need to optimize revenue vs. costs to solidify their position in their organization. "If you demonstrate the ability to run an efficient operation you build credibility with executives in the organization and with peers and others you work around," Mr. Wince says. "Even though you might have great time management skills, if you're not able to get the OR to a point where it's generating cash flow and positive income, you won't be in that position for long."

4. Mentoring. Successful OR leaders also need to mentor and coach others to help them become strong members of the team and leaders of their own. "Some of the things you want to be able to do as a mentor is help people take an outside-in look at their own strengths and weaknesses and identify what strengths they should leverage to be successful and one or two [points] they should work on," Mr. Wince says. He says one common mistake is to focus too much on what people do wrong. Providing a balance of praise and constructive criticism is necessary to motivate others to continue working and improving. In addition, while it is important for OR leaders to mentor members of the OR team, they can also mentor people outside the department, such as someone from radiology. "They're building a relationship but [also] capabilities with people they have to partner with to maximize the utilization and outcomes of the OR suite," Mr. Wince says.

Learn more about Guidon Performance Solutions.

Related Articles on OR Leadership:

3 Operating Room Concerns to Focus on in the New Year
Structuring OR Management for Success: Q&A With Long Beach Medical Center Perioperative Services VP Dana Crompton

5 Top Challenges in the Hospital OR — And How to Overcome Them

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