March 24, 2020

COVID-19: Wisdom from the (Healthcare) Trenches

Clinician Leadership | Leadership Development | Team Development

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Over the past two weeks, I have had the honor and privilege of coaching some amazing healthcare leaders across the country. As conversations unfolded, I witnessed wisdom, trends and strategies emerging as these leaders talked about what they were doing to navigate the COVID-19 crisis in their systems, hospitals and communities. As I explored deeper, I noticed common principles at play that helped these leaders lead in a way that was having amazing results.

Below is a summary of these learnings and some key principles to remember as you lead your own teams during this time:

Set the tone: remember, this is new to everyone and no one has it figured out. We are all in it together.
  • Give each other grace as things change rapidly and yesterday’s decision is different than today’s decision.
  • Assume positive intent, and that everyone is doing their best.
  • Use this as an opportunity to unite your team. Look for opportunities to use conversations to bring people closer together.
  • Continue to act, evaluate, adjust and repeat. It’s time to practice agility and resilience.
Be intentional and calm; responding instead of reacting.
  • Practice emotional intelligence as things change moment by moment. Be aware of your moods, their effect on others, and work to widen the gap between your immediate reaction to a situation or decision and your response. Be as thoughtful as possible.
  • Connect communications to the why and be sure to carry a tone from the heart. Remember that your job as a leader is to paint the picture of meaning behind actions and minimize negative story-making that causes emotional exhaustion.
  • Consider that the latest research indicates people must hear a message nine times before they internalize it during a time of change; overcommunicate when you can.
Keep in mind that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Remember what the airlines say, “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.” Now is not the time for martyrdom; self-care is more important than ever. You cannot serve others without your own oxygen.
  • Have conversations with your team and ask, “What we are going to do differently to support each other?” Then make and keep commitments to support each other in those commitments.
  • Incorporate self-care into your work: take frequent breaks, reduce news intake, walk, meditate, practice mindful minutes, eat healthy, etc.
Manage your relationships along with the task at hand.
  • Pay attention to critical relationships and nurture them best you can.
  • Show appreciation to those around you as often as possible. Showing appreciation helps others and you decrease cortisol levels.
  • Don’t confuse connection with communication. Communication is information sharing, connection is from the heart. Make sure you are connecting as well as communicating.
Help people shift from fear to hope.
  • Help your team focus on what is right in front of them and manage what is in their immediate control. During times of uncertainty it is easy for people to jump ahead to fear and anxiety.
  • Be aware that many people are triggered by fear right now. As my colleague Eric Norwood says, be a dispenser of hope in the face of this fear. This hope must be genuine, so look for ways to help yourself shift first and then it will be easier to help others.

We are here with you and for you. Know that we are proud of the work you are doing for your teams and for our country. Let us know how we can support you during this time.

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About the author

Cheryl Foss, MSW

Cheryl Foss, MSW, a MEDI Executive Coach, has over 20 years of Leadership Development, Team Development, Strategy Development, Organization Design, and Change Management experience.

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