Richard L. Clarke, DHA, FHFMA

Leaders define the reality of a situation in clear terms and then give hope, according to Tim Sanders, former chief solutions officer of Yahoo

Sanders' message, which was delivered in a speech at HFMA's chapter and regional leadership training conference in April, resonated with many of us because it provided a different way to frame an environment that often feels hopeless.

We need to change how we think about the current economic and financial market crises, Sanders told us. He advised moving away from scarcity thinking-the belief there is not enough to go around and that, as a result, we must settle for less. It is easy to fall into this way of thinking, especially with television, newspapers, and our 401(k) statements bombarding us with bad news.

Sanders urged replacing scarcity thinking with abundance thinking. Here, the belief is that the recession, the financial market turmoil, and, for healthcare organizations, even looming healthcare reform provide ample opportunities. Though counterintuitive, abundance thinking focuses on the organization's strengths and what can be. Most people respond positively at a gut level to this way of thinking.

As I speak to healthcare finance leaders from all parts of the country, I am pleased to find that many have adopted abundance thinking. They are using these challenges to focus attention on the survival of the organization-a burning platform, if you will-to change the status quo. They are working with their administrative and clinical colleagues not only to clarify the challenges facing their organization, but also to give hope that positive organizational responses are possible.

Those responses include using process improvement to seize opportunities for cost reductions and quality enhancement-in other words, driving value. Opportunities also exist to acquire or merge with another organization, or respond to the market in new ways that meet needs and drive revenue. There is a lot at stake, so the status quo isn't an option.

As responsible financial leaders, we must urge the proper alignment of resources used with resources available. That is the reality of the situation. However, we can also offer hope by advocating new ways of thinking about how services are delivered, by using these challenges to gain consensus for change, and by seeking opportunities that constantly emerge.

Abundance thinking is not dreaming of "never-never" land, but rather engaging in a form of leadership. Healthcare finance leaders are key to making this approach a reality.

Publication Date: Wednesday, July 01, 2009

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