“Innovation in Leadership: Learning from Our Mistakes”

“Innovation in Leadership: Learning from Our Mistakes”

I was honored to have been invited to serve as Moderator at the 12th Annual Lee White Innovation Institute hosted by Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, PA on February 5. The Institute is an annual event for the Healthcare Leadership Network of the Delaware Valley (HLNDV). HLNDV is the official ACHE chapter for the Delaware Valley and is one of the largest chapters of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) in the country.

This year’s subject was “Innovation in Leadership: Learning from Our Mistakes,” and the panelists were either former colleagues whom I have known or whom I have worked closely with during my tenure in Philadelphia. They were:

• Kevin Mahoney, CEO, University of Pennsylvania Health System,
• Meg McGoldrick, President, Abington Jefferson Health, and
• John Kepner, President, Fenway Management Advisors.

In preparing our remarks, we thought that a candid discussion of some of our mistakes and lessons learned as senior healthcare executives would be of help to the attendees. Frequently in the course of our careers, we are confronted with difficult dilemmas or circumstances which are often new and challenging, because we lack the experience or understanding to know what to do. By listening and learning from the mistakes that others have made, we can build both insight and confidence to properly address similar issues which might be encountered in the future.

It is my pleasure to share a few of the highlights and takeaways from that enjoyable evening.

I started off the meeting by sharing that in my career, I have been through many challenging situations including:

• Health system formations and system breakups,
• Medical staff uprisings over the reconfiguration of clinical services and medical staff hostility as a result of hospital mergers,
• Building of new hospitals and re-missioning of existing hospitals…while addressing both “community concerns and consternation”, and
• Confronting difficult conflicts of interest at the Board level and ethical, professional and personal integrity issues at the management level.

All of these situations provided an important opportunity for self-reflection and learning about myself, my leadership, and the changes I would make “the next time.” I shared that I have learned:

• The shortest distance between two points is almost never a straight line. Knowing what to do is often much easier than understanding the right path to get there.
• Leadership requires not only confidence to make hard decisions, but also the courage and conviction to move forward in the face of vocal opposition.
• Leaders need to be clear on the values to which they are committed and to NEVER betray those values. Once your values are compromised, your leadership and integrity will be undermined forever.
• We must always put the organization’s needs in front of our own. In the process, we must consider “Is the decision being made best for the organization and the community being served…or is it best for someone personally?”
• The politics of change management are often more important than the changes I was trying to accomplish.
• The difference between a good decision and a bad one is quite often simply a matter of timing. The right decision in one context often will not work in another.

In direct response to the topic of our panel presentation, I also offered that from my experiences, we fail for many reasons:

• Sometimes we just don’t listen enough.
• Sometimes we don’t gather all the facts we need.
• Sometimes we misread the politics.
• Sometimes our own decision-making process is flawed or incomplete.
• Sometimes we are blinded by our own egos.
• Sometimes we are not engaged enough.
• Sometimes we take too much risk and sometimes we don’t take enough risk.

Of course, this summary doesn’t represent all that my friends and former colleagues discussed, but I hope it gives you the flavor of our thinking.

I left the event feeling extraordinarily proud of my colleagues’ publicly sharing their own painful, yet powerful, lessons on leadership. I would be delighted to hear from any of The Synergy Organization’s nationwide cohort of friends and clients with any thoughts that this summary has produced.

Ken Hanover
Healthcare Solutions Group
The Synergy Organization
Direct 267-983-6500

www.SynergyOrg.com • 866-HIRE-123