Healthcare News & Insights

3 key behaviors of effective hospital executives

To be successful, hospitals need top-notch leaders. To be a good hospital executives, you have to care about the people around you. To be a great one, you must instill trust in the people you lead. But to be a great and effective hospital executive, you have to be able to inspire others to do what it takes to get the job done right.

Here are three behaviors that elevate good executives into effective leaders:

1. Tell the truth

Probably the most important behavior is learning to be truthful. When people think their hospital’s leaders aren’t being candid in a specific situation, they start to think: “Well if they lied about a little thing like that, what else have they told us that’s not true?” Employees will always tend to believe their leaders have hidden agendas if they aren’t honest.

But telling the truth all the time is difficult. The best way to get better at it is to do it day in and day out.

Of course there are times when hospital executives can’t reveal certain pieces of information, but even in these circumstances its OK to tell the truth, such as “I can’t share that information with you at this time. However, this is what I can tell you.”

When people are left to sit and chew on what little bits of information – or misinformation – they’ve uncovered through the grapevine, rumors will spread.

In most instances, that leads to employee distrust of the facility. And distrustful employees don’t make for a productive work environment. If leaders share the information they can in an open manner, they’ll find their employees will become more tolerant of not having all the facts.

Openness and consistency lets people know the rules are the same for everyone, and you aren’t making decisions based on favoritism or biases. When employees know you value them, they’re more likely to go the extra mile.

2. Keep promises

“I’ll call you by the end of day tomorrow?” “I’ll look into that for you.” “I’ll take care of that.” Have you ever said any of the above statements? If so, were you just making a statement or were you making a promise?

Even if you don’t say “I promise I’ll call you back,” it’s implied. And effective leaders are aware of and differentiate between statements that are merely intentions —  “I’ll try to do that” — and those that are commitments — “I’ll make sure to do that tomorrow.”

Ineffective leaders often accept a lower level of promise-keeping in themselves, because they think others will understand they’re busy and doing their best, but it doesn’t often happen that way.

The consequences of breaking promises – even little ones – is the loss of credibility on the promise-maker’s part.

So what’s the big deal if you break one little promise? How much could it possibly hurt your credibility as an executive?

It depends on the level of the promise, and how often you follow through. Executives who continually break commitments are sending negative messages: “You aren’t important to me” or “I’m more important than you are so I can do what I want.” Even if you don’t mean to send such a message, that’s what employees will likely hear. And when this is done over and over again, your credibility will suffer.

But the negative effects don’t end there. When morale suffers, so will productivity.

3. Own your mistakes

No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, including the best executives in the industry. The difference with top execs is they admit their mistakes willingly, so they can address and take care of the problems.

Some executives think admitting mistakes makes them look weak and threatens their power and authority. In reality, it does the exact opposite. When leaders take ownership of a mistake, employees see them as courageous (owning up to the mistake), accountable (taking responsibility for the mistake and fixing it) and real (they’re human and make mistakes just like everyone else).

These qualities earn executives trust and respect.

Plus, when leaders take ownership of their mistakes a remarkable thing happens: It causes their followers to do the same.


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