The toughest times bring out the best leaders, and there is little doubt that these are tough times for the healthcare industry. With lingering economic pressures, reform, and conversion to ICD-10 among the challenges, being good is not good enough for today’s financial leader. “You must be a great one,” says Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall. Collins was among the experts at this year’s ANI: The HFMA National Institute who shared strategies on how to be a standout leader. 


Build a winning team. People will always be your organization’s most important asset, former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs told the audience at ANI. Gibbs, a coach for 35 years, took the once-failing Redskins to four Super Bowls and three world championships by focusing on team building. “Ethics are really important to what we do,” Gibbs said. He advocates hiring team members who are aggressive, but smart and who understand the rules. “We have to teach people to sacrifice their own goals for the goals of the team—and that’s not always easy.” 

Set a tone. The strongest leaders focus on what their organizations are doing well and what drives revenues, Collins said. He noted that, although the best bring high energy, fanatic discipline, creativity, and productive paranoia to sniff out threats and changes to the industry landscape, they also work for the greater good. “The X factor of great leadership is not personality, but humility,” he said. “It’s humility combined with will.” Melissa Hancock, senior vice president and CFO of Bon Secours Virginia Health System, also emphasized this point, urging attendees to understand that a leader’s attitude and approach affects his or her team. 

Be a good teacher. “Everybody has to understand their assignment. Everybody has to understand how important they are,” Gibbs said. That message reflected a common theme: Be a mentor in the workplace and within HFMA and believe that it does make a difference. “I’ve always had strong female mentors and strong female leaders. I have to say that has been key to my success,” said Kari Cornicelli, vice president and CFO at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, Calif., during a panel discussion focused on female leaders.

Create a positive workplace. Speakers advised attendees to set defined goals with short timeframes and to measure performance over short time periods rather than simply once a year. For example, Gibbs offered MVPs for one game the opportunity to sit in a recliner during team meetings instead of the usual stiff foldable chairs. Reward team members for their performance in front of their peers, Gibbs suggested. Acknowledge the sacrifices team members make for the
organization but also help them balance work responsibilities and home life.

Press the “pause” button. Particularly important for introverted leaders, but good for all real leaders, is to find time each day to reflect, especially before making a big decision, said Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Giving yourself space to consider a decision before sharing it with the group is a sign of self-awareness and strength, Cain said.

Jeni Williams is managing editor, content development, in HFMA’s Westchester, Ill., office.

Publication Date: Thursday, August 01, 2013

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