Do physicians in your organization walk into a meeting blaming everyone else about an issue? Or do they come in and say, “Let’s identify the solution together?”
The former blame game is a symptom of the lack of collaboration and alignment between the physician and the organization. In addition, such communication that includes blaming and “venting” actually increases, rather than decreases, the risks of stress leading to burnout.
In many conflict style assessments, physicians tend to fall into one of two: they either completely avoid conflict, or confront it like a bull in a china closet. Physicians, in their medical training and credentialing, are often given no exposure to productive and healthy conflict resolution. This results in either avoidance behavior (where nothing productive happens) or a confrontational style (where things may get done but everybody’s angry). Both communication styles block team building and organizational alignment.
So what can be done?
You can reduce burnout and increase collaboration across your organization by teaching COMMUNICATION.
To help guide physicians on their journey to leadership, the American Hospitals Association published a comprehensive guide called Physician Competency Development (PDF).
This AHA competency set is a valuable tool providing a framework for assessing and supporting physician leaders in their communication skills development. Their analysis shows common gaps in critical areas of communication for physician leaders:
Note that the most frequent gaps for physicians appear twice under “interpersonal and communication” skills!
So, if “knowing” this need for interpersonal communication skills in healthcare is half the battle, what’s the other half?
The AHA cites evidence that “members reported success with using 360-degree feedback” to work through these gaps. 360 assessment provide a mirror into which physicians can see how they perceive themselves versus how they are perceived by others. This self-awareness is the first step toward the development of the skills required for the next generation of care delivery.
At PLI, we use evidence-based tools like the 360 to assist physicians in getting started, but we take it much further! We go beyond awareness so they can create a personal communication strategy, take action, and get results.
During this deeply reflective work, we assess and coach physicians to know:
- strengths and weaknesses
- work style
- how well they work with others
- what their personal values are
- and in what areas they can contribute the most
The feedback we receive from participants in this process, and the outcomes we have seen from their investment of time and energy, continue to impress and drive us forward to serve more physicians in this way!
Now, we’ve covered physicians. But what about the communication required on an organizational level to decrease burnout and increase collaboration?
While this is a topic for another post, we at The Physician Leadership Institute encourage organizations to start now by 3 crucial questions:
- How are you getting your physicians aligned with the mission, vision, and values of your organization?
- How are you a showing commitment to getting physicians engaged and feeling ownership each day for bringing that mission to life, within themselves and their teams?
- What is your deliberate strategy to channel this alignment and engagement into transformational opportunities for physician leadership?
In our work at PLI, we find the organizations that succeed are those who foster strong relationships between physicians and other staff members, starting at the top. They use these 3 questions establish a shared purpose with common goals like improved patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes.
Most importantly, they increase physician engagement and decrease the risks of burnout through open communication and trust between physicians, administrators, and staff at every level.