This week I had an opportunity to hear Sally Dixon CEO of Memorial Hospital speak at a luncheon. Ms. Dixon has been at the Memorial Hospital for 32 years and at the leadership helm for 16 of those years. She is a remarkable woman to have achieved such success in healthcare and remain as approachable and modest as any woman I have met.
As I listened to her expound (reluctantly, I believe) on the reasons for her success, I was intrigued. She spoke of knowing yourself, hiring right, communicating, and serving rather than leading. Sound familiar? Yes. Almost 25 years ago, I asked the CEO of our local hospital (now a giant health system) to speak at our community luncheon on the topic of his success. He was a well-respected hospital administrator who had turned around a failing hospital within a few short years. He spoke of hiring the right people, giving them clear direction, then getting out of their way. He talked of his commitment to his employees, patients, and the community in which he served.
Since, I have heard this speech many times, I have wondered why so few rise to the top when the recipe seems relatively simple. Why, if we know the three or four skills it takes to succeed, are so many failing to reach their dreams?
I suggest that the reason may be a lack of focus and clarity. It is important to note that while the steps to becoming a successful leader are simple, they are by no means easy.
Let us look at just one of the success skills mentioned by both CEOs: hiring the right people. There are few successful people who do not recognize that their success is due, in part, to having the right people in the right positions. Even so, we continue to hire the wrong people. In healthcare, this fact is supported by the high turnover rate.
Focus is similar to a laser beam of light; it has the ability to cut a diamond or heal a disease. However, when unfocused, its power is diminished greatly. The ability to focus and put all else aside when hiring is critical. Taking the time for due diligence, in-depth interviewing and personal profiling is often viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity.
Clarity goes hand-in-hand with the ability to focus. If we look at hiring once again, before interviewing anyone, I would ask myself, “How much do I really understand about this position?” “How clear am I on the duties, the requirements and the rewards?” It is critical that during the hiring process, you understand what qualities the candidate must possess to feel rewarded and to be successful. Very often we simply think we know!
No doubt focus and clarity take time. They take away from the immediate short-term results. As Peter Senge stated in The Fifth Discipline, “It may take me a bit longer to get there, but when I get there I know what I’ve got is more sustainable.”