Leadership & Professional Development

Self-Awareness and Self-Care are Critical to Women Leaders’ Success

June 21, 2017 4:59 pm

As you know, health care is a fast-paced and ever-changing industry, and healthcare leaders must be prepared to consistently pursue the best version of themselves to remain innovative, relevant, and competitive.

For female leaders, having this flexibility and self-awareness is critical for success, maybe more so than for their male counterparts. There has been progress with parity in pay and career advancement opportunities, but there is still bias (conscious and/or unconscious) as it relates to women in leadership positions in healthcare IT/analytics. Per an Advisory Board study published in 2014, women represent 80 percent of the healthcare workforce, but only 40 percent of the executive leadership. The data suggest that these numbers are improving, but there are still challenges. As such, women should take all proactive measures to meet contemporary market challenges.

Two major shifts that women leaders should prepare themselves for―if they haven’t already―are the consumerization of health care and the on-demand economy. In reaction to these trends, healthcare IT and analytics buyers have become more sophisticated and have higher expectations for quicker turnarounds and 24/7 availability. This has forced rapid innovation, and there is a lot of pressure for leaders to be instantly available. Compounded with the constant access that mobile technologies afford, the boundaries between work and family time are almost non-existent. This means women must establish clear expectations with themselves, their families, and internal and external customers to ensure success and achieve balance in their lives. Expectation management is one of the most critical skills leaders need to have, regardless of the industry they’re in.

There are several best practices that I have found to be extremely helpful in my personal and professional pursuit of “better” and more balance. These habits have given me the mental space and self-awareness to evolve as needed to find the “better” version of me that meets the needs of the market at any moment in time.

1. Plan and refine: Decide in advance what you can/can’t or will/won’t do. Establish a work schedule that includes travel and non-travel days. Define the division of household work and parenting responsibilities. Develop a schedule for home and work. Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more. Planning, boundary-setting and open communication with spouses, children, coworkers, etc., allows you to manage work and home life in a much more effective manner and reduces stress associated with urgent or unexpected issues because they occur less frequently. 

2. Reset and re-engage: Schedule 30 minutes each day to “reset.” Get out of the office, go for a walk, meditate, breathe, read, etc. Anything that allows an opportunity for your brain to relax and reset will help you feel more balanced and less stressed. It also helps you to be more productive and focused when you return to your work.

3. Get quiet and take care: Find “me time” to care for yourself, by yourself. This includes eating right, exercising, and pampering yourself. Otherwise, you will fail to be present and ultimately be ineffective at work and at home. Spending time alone allows for reflection, reprioritization, and recovery, which sparks creativity and innovation.

4. Be courageous: Do not be afraid to take calculated risks when there are improvements to be made. If you fail, assess the failure, learn, recover quickly, and plan for success the next time around. The type of education we get from failure is priceless; it keeps us humble and allows us to relate to others.

5. Know your limits, and ask for help: At work, leverage your team. This gives them an opportunity to grow, and provides you with an opportunity to take on more. Set the strategy, provide guidance, and let them execute. At home, outsource things that you do not need to do yourself. If you cannot outsource it, you must let some things go to spend time with family and friends. For example, I like to keep an organized home and do lots of projects, but spending time with family and friends is more important and more rewarding. So, I have learned to hire help or let go of things that don’t need to be prioritized over time with family and friends.

Establishing these habits will support a better outlook, foster courageous actions, and generate fresh ideas. This will ultimately lead to greater personal and professional success on the individual level, which, we would hope, will steadily increase the number of female leaders in healthcare. As caregivers, family healthcare decision-makers, and consumers of health care, women have a unique perspective about opportunities to improve the healthcare industry, whether it’s creating more flexible care delivery or service enhancements that meet consumers where they are. Women need to harness and openly share our knowledge and experiences with our peers so we can continue to learn from each other. But the industry simultaneously has a responsibility to create an environment that supports and fosters this information-sharing and continued development of diverse skill sets, regardless of gender. 

April Gill is vice president of analytics solutions at Welltok. She is based in Boston.  


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