All physicians are leaders at some level, and as such, all must continue to lead through and manage the transitions and transformations required to improve the complex healthcare industry. But this can come at a costly price unless they simultaneously embark on personal transitions and transformation as well.
“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining who or what we are.”
— Max De Pree
Our lives are a series of transitions, coupled with the occasional significant transformation. Successfully identified, embraced, and effectively managed, our lives may become rich and fulfilling. If not managed fruitfully, our lives may take a course toward frustration and disenchantment. Managing our expectations for success is pivotal in how we approach opportunities.
The healthcare industry is also a series of transitions coupled with occasional significant transformations. Each of us in healthcare has navigated a host of transitions in our attempts to keep pace with market forces; some of us have undergone significant personal and professional transformations in the process. To quote leadership guru Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.”
As physicians, we have been able to craft or navigate the necessary large-scale transformation in healthcare by using the platform of physician leadership. Physician leadership has been linked to more profitable, higher-quality healthcare delivery at the organizational level, as well as better patient outcomes, increased provider satisfaction, decreased physician burnout, and improved performance of basic clinical skills.
As the pandemic has unmasked numerous vulnerabilities in the industry, from my perspective, the pipeline for physician leadership has never been more important. Newer and younger generations’ approaches to physician leadership are sorely needed.
Total Experience Management
It takes time to create a significant transformation. Just before the pandemic’s onset, AAPL began to embrace a total experience management approach with its focus on the AAPL community of members and customers, while also diversifying the variety of the association’s programs, products, and services offered.
Total experience management is a relatively new business strategy that aims to create a better, holistic experience for everyone who engages with a brand program or business offering (customers, employees, users, partners, etc.), fusing the voice of customers and employees with the ability to deliver extraordinary customer, employee, product, and brand experiences. It does this by combining four key experience disciplines(1):
Customer experience (CX): How a customer interacts with and feels about a brand.
Employee experience (EX): How an employee interacts with and feels about their company.
User experience (UX): How a user interacts with and feels about a product or experience, especially in the digital realm as well as face-to-face interactions.
Multi-experience (MX): How an experience is enhanced and delivered simultaneously across multiple devices, modalities, and touchpoints.
As part of its transformation, AAPL has shifted to being a virtual organization and now recruits the highest caliber of staff from across the country while continuing to engage with healthcare leadership development initiatives nationally and internationally. AAPL also continues to refine its technical infrastructure and the AAPL Platform so that we can optimally deliver the full spectrum of AAPL programs, products, and services in an integrated fashion.
Our AAPL community of members and customers, along with our staff, are the highest priority as we facilitate large-scale change in healthcare. Our ongoing efforts with brand messaging, marketing, and thought leadership reflect this commitment as an organization to a total experience approach.
As we consider the potential of a total experience approach in healthcare, patient-centered/person-centered care, or PCC, is a priority as well. The challenge with PCC is that many systems and process changes are required across the clinical delivery systems and inside the various industry sectors before true PCC is possible. Transforming healthcare to PCC requires significant and sustained efforts over time. This is where the opportunity lies for physician leadership: leveraging the recognized platform of physician leadership to create the change needed.
Surprisingly, transformation requires only three things: recognizing what the current situation is, knowing what is needed or desired, and having the determination required to make the change. The challenge for healthcare is that we have only two of those three elements: we know who we are, and we seem to have the resolve required for real change.
What we don’t yet know, or have not adequately defined, is what healthcare should become during its next major transformation. We can, and must, do better on this latter point.
Transformational leadership is defined as a leadership approach that causes change in individuals and social systems. In its ideal form, it creates valuable and positive change in the followers with the end goal of developing followers into leaders.(2)
Physicians are naturals for developing transformational leadership approaches within a variety of healthcare systems and processes.
Yukl suggests several important aspects of successful transformational leadership(3):
Develop a challenging and attractive vision with employees.
Tie the vision to a strategy for its achievement.
Develop the vision, specify, and translate it to actions.
Express confidence, decisiveness, and optimism about the vision and its implementation.
Realize the vision through small, planned steps and small successes in the path toward its full implementation.
In their book Words Can Change Your Brain, Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University, and Mark Waldman, a communications expert, state, “A single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” Over time, given sustained positive thought, functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes our perception of ourselves and those around us.
Essentially, holding a positive view of ourselves helps train our brain to see the good in others. Thus, by exercising consistent, positive thoughts and speech, we change our self-perception and how we perceive the world around us. Ultimately, this grants us the ability the shape our reality and change the world for the better.
Aaron Barnes, CEO of BRM Institute, provides examples of this reshaping of reality by using different types of words (www.brm.institute ):
Capability instead of Process
Convergence instead of Alignment
Shared Ownership instead of Accountability
Demand Shaping instead of Demand Management
Business Capabilities instead of Services
Simply changing the words we use to express ideas creates a culture that doesn’t single out or place blame on anyone within an organization. Rather, it promotes transparency, elevates communications, and appreciates individual value. In the end, shared positive language promotes effective communication and collaboration, breeding innovation, success, and organizational value.
Embrace the Reality
The medical profession is viewed as a leadership profession not only by our industry, but also by general society. Consequently, the opportunity always is available to exhibit some version of transformational leadership in our practices, in our communities, in our organizations, in our volunteer activities…essentially in all aspects of our lives. We can, therefore, use this distinct privilege by speaking about healthcare in a positive way and by focusing on positive transformation rather than on negative market force transitions.
And so, as physician leaders, we must embrace the complexities of our industry. We must embrace the reality we chose when transitioning to this profession. And we can choose to embrace the opportunities in which our individual and collective energies create the transformation needed for our industry as we continue to emerge from the pandemic.
Remember, leading and helping create significant change is our overall intent as physicians. AAPL focuses on maximizing the potential of physician-led, interprofessional leadership to help create personal and organizational transformation that benefits patient outcomes, improves workforce wellness, and refines the delivery of healthcare internationally.
We must all continue to seek deeper levels of professional and personal development and to recognize ways we can each generate constructive influence for one another at all levels. As physician leaders, let us become more engaged, stay engaged, and help others to become engaged. Exploring and creating the opportunities for broader levels of positive transformation in healthcare is within our reach — individually and collectively.
Zande JV. What Is Customer Experience? CX Defined. The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience. www.the-future-of-commerce.com/2019/06/13/what-is-customer-experience .
Transformational Leadership. www.langston.edu/sites/default/files/basic-content-files/TransformationalLeadership.pdf .
Yukl G. An Evaluation of Conceptual Weaknesses in Transformational and Charismatic Leadership Theories. The Leadership Quarterly. 1999;10(2):285–305.
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