It is hard to believe, but 2021 has proven to be as difficult a year, if not more so, than 2020 for the healthcare industry. Not only did hospitals and health systems have to work through steep financial and operational recovery strategies to try and equalize the effects of the pandemic, but they had to address further staffing/resource shortages, the impacts of natural disasters, increased labor costs, and prioritize employee emotional well-being all while continuing to manage new COVID surges. That is enough to make any leader skeptical of what 2022 will bring.
However, as the saying goes “the best defense is a good offense.” Approaching 2022 with a positive and optimistic attitude will help to keep efforts focused, staff engaged, and morale high. This is oftentimes easier said than done, but true leadership begins when “the going gets tough.” Setting the example, motivating others to keep going, working hard, and showing commitment to the team and the organization are all attributes of a good leader.
Leading with optimism should occur at all levels, managers and executives alike, and be demonstrated by both words and behavior. Optimistic leaders focus on what is within their control and on taking decisive action to solve problems, not complaining, making excuses, or measuring the depths of a bad situation. Optimism should stem from confidence in the teams built to overcome any challenge. Adversity, regardless of the form, is only a test of the group itself and its ability to effectively communicate, work together, support one another, and do what is required. Leaders are the foundation, no matter the circumstance, and are charged with bringing out the best performance in everyone. This task is nearly impossible with a negative outlook.
When planning for 2022, here are some tips on how to be an optimistic leader:
- Focus on the facts: Determine the reality of the situation by evaluating what is true, what is feared, and what is likely to happen. Eliminate rumor, gossip and blame which can cloud perception. Identify and clearly communicate the problem. Transparency leads to accountability and faster resolution.
- Promote teamwork: Empower and engage your staff to turn any improvement decisions made into actionable plans, prioritizing steps that will have the greatest impact. Establish goals, timelines, and reports to monitor progress.
- Be visible: As a leader, it is as much your fight as your staff’s. Take ownership by jumping in and doing the actual work when required to show solidarity and support. Regularly round on employees to offer encouragement and celebrate the “wins.” It is critical to be the “face” of improvement decisions.
- “Just keep swimming:” Giving up is never an option. Approaching goals step-by-step and routinely making small changes that lead to sustained improvement is necessary for successful outcomes. Leaders must be flexible and update plans when required to maintain progress.
In these times, it is essential for leaders to serve as role models, exuding strength and hope when faced with the unknown. It is distressing and depressing for a leader to act helpless in challenging situations. Leaders should be the inspiration staff need to persevere. Leading with optimism is leading with honesty, not rose-colored glasses. It is the “glass half full” mentality that takes stock of the positives and the lens through which healthcare leaders should view 2022.
ALTIUS assists our client hospitals and health systems in their efforts to improve current operations through the use of productivity data and enhanced leadership education. We provide the support needed to enhance culture and effect positive change.