Anyone who thinks being a good leader is easy has never been one. Successfully leading a department, facility, or organization not only takes time, it takes a lot of practice.
Physicians often find themselves in leadership roles, not as a result of their leadership experience but because of their impressive clinical results. Becoming a strong team leader takes a weighty mental shift, from focusing on your own success to the success of the team. It requires mastering dozens of intangible skills like empathy, patience, and strategy.
The list of important leadership skills goes on and on, but if I had to choose just one, I'd go with trust.
Wonderful things happen when trust exists in an organization. People are more engaged in their jobs, which means less turnover and higher patient satisfaction. Trust also makes people happier at work and more willing to cut each other slack when things don't go exactly as planned.
So how do you build trust at your practice? Here are a few things I've learned along the way.
1. Be human. It's tough to trust someone you don't know. If you want your employees to trust you as a leader, they need to get to know you as a person. It's okay to be personal sometimes — in fact, showing vulnerability is one of the most effective ways to establish trust. Remember, relationships are a two-way street, so make sure you set aside time to learn more about each member of your staff.
2. Grow the whole person. When you get to know people, you'll quickly find that work is not their whole life. It's your job to help people expand their skillset and grow their career. But the most engaged employees feel their leader cares about their whole life and wants them to succeed inside and outside of work. At CompHealth, we encourage each of our employees to set personal development goals that will help them in their careers, even if it's in a different position or for a different company.
3. Get out of the way. If no one likes to be micromanaged, why do leaders keep doing it? Because it's easier — at first. In the short run, it can be faster to just do it yourself. But if you don't teach people how to be successful in their positions, you'll never get out of the weeds. More importantly, you'll restrict the improvement and innovation that comes when you allow people to bring their own ideas and use their own strengths.
4. Overshare. Everyone likes to be kept in the loop, so great leaders tend to err on the side of over-communicating. They find ways to communicate with their staff every day, even if it's just for a few minutes. They update the team about the practice's goals, strategies, and tactics. They share physician ratings and satisfaction scores. If stress comes from uncertainty, relief comes from transparency.
5. Celebrate. As trust increases, so will performance. Make sure to acknowledge it. Though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to recognizing individual accomplishments, positive feedback should be clear, immediate, and sincere. Not only does praise make the recipient feel more valued, it inspires others to work harder.
I've faced plenty of challenges in my career, but I'll never forget how hard it was to transition from an employee to a leader. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing pretty well at it; other times, not so much. But through all of the ups and downs, I've learned there's nothing more important than trust. So be careful. It takes ages to build and moments to lose.