Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tip 3: Reach for your whistle first... then your stethoscope.

The Coach Leader is a bi-monthly series of ready-to-use tips to assist you in developing a concrete leadership practice that has the most impact on improving patient care. Why become a Coach Leader?
  1. Patients expect us to work as teams.
  2. Patient centered teams need a coach.
  3. Every leader has a coaching role.
It’s a straightforward point of view that focuses on best utilizing your time as a leader by emphasizing your role as a coach. As a Coach Leader, you’ll gain the ability to mobilize your people into patient centered problem solving teams and have the most impact on improving care.

Reach for your whistle first... then your stethoscope.

In the last issue, I shared an everyday example of a physician helping colleagues defuse an argument that was impeding patient care. Some of you responded to the posting with surprise that a physician would readily approach the situation from a coaching perspective, with the goal of improving patient centered teamwork. It turns out, that most of the executives, nurses and docs I work with are natural coaches... when they learn to switch their primary focus from getting their individual jobs done, to fulfilling their organizational role as coaches.

Design your coaching role: One physician executive wrote to me, “I think my job would be much easier if all of my 160 physician’s acted like coaches of a team.” She wanted to know how an organization like hers could attract physicians with a coaching mindset. So I shared some of my last week's experience in Montana facilitating a quality collaborative. I had the opportunity to ask a series of questions to a number of physicians, nurses and executives, including, “Where would you be today without coaching?” The ensuing discussing led us back to the beginning... to medical school, nursing school or grad school, where we all realized that the most effective teachers/mentors, were the ones who delivered as coaches. The 100+ Montana leaders continued by validating the overt benefits of coaching - including improved metrics on physician staff relationships, reduced re-work, and a culture of teamwork emerged... which all translated to improved care... not to mention the savings of significant dollars that we lose every day from poor organizational performance. Unfortunately, most of the hospitals they all ended up in didn't emphasize coaching at all. Instead, everything revolved around their jobs. Now that they've become aware of the significant benefits of coaching, beginning with improving patient care, they're making role design (emphasizing their organizational role as coaches), their first priority. It helps that we all inherently know how to coach - we just have to decide to do it... again!

Getting serious about Role Design: Coaches know that building a highly functioning team is a deliberate process. We have systems in place for hiring and evaluations (job description), we have checklists for safety, and process improvement, but we don't have equivalent processes in place for what it takes to understand our roles as coaches... our "role description."

When our clients and audiences realize they can design organizational roles, everything changes. Leaders in Montana understood that they must make this happen throughout their organizations. They realized that designing and implementing a role description is the key to improving patient care.

Feel free to join me on Facebook to further this conversation - I'd be happy to visit with you about how you'd see your organization implement a role description.

Congratulations to the Montana Hospital Association staff for a successful Patient Driven Leadership Champions for Quality Conference. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with many physicians and clinical leaders that are working tirelessly to improve quality not only in their communities but throughout the state.

Billing's MT session video coming soon! For those of you who would like to learn more about our statewide Patient Driven Leadership program we will soon have the entire video uploaded to Thanks to The Billing's Clinic for making this video production possible.

 Visit the Patient Driven Leadership site.

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