Learning Leadership at Cleveland Clinic

A servant leader mindset

By Gina Cronin, FACHE, and Chris Nagel

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As a physician-led group practice, Cleveland Clinic physicians are fully aligned with enterprise goals and collaborate across disciplines to provide high-quality and cost-effective care. Physicians are incentivized not by the number of tests and procedures performed but by the best treatment path for the patient.

In 2007, Cleveland Clinic reorganized into clinical institutes, enabling medical and surgical providers to be more collaborative and function as teams rather than in traditional silos. This new approach improves patients’ access to multiple disciplines and helps promote world-class, patient-centered care. At Cleveland Clinic, every one of our 53,000 employees is called a “caregiver” because each is integral to promoting a safe and compassionate care environment whether they’re a research coordinator, shuttle bus driver, nurse or neurosurgeon.

Cleveland Clinic’s leadership behaviors

In 2016, Cleveland Clinic introduced four expected behaviors for leaders that have become their North Star. Each day, leaders are expected to serve their teams and demonstrate the behaviors illustrated here:

  • I foster teamwork and believe in the power of every one of us, united.
  • I develop myself and others, as I know the strength of the individual is the strength of the group.
  • I demonstrate character and integrity, as I believe in authentic leadership.
  • I lead through change, as I am a brave agent of continually improving healthcare.

These leadership behaviors have helped establish a common framework of expectations and have become guideposts for our leaders as they navigate healthcare’s changing environment.

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Leading in a changing landscape

Healthcare leaders are facing enormous amounts of change — both everyday and transformational change — where all must be balanced. Thus, it has become increasingly important to purposefully develop leaders who are capable of not only serving their teams and managing their own resiliency and agility but also capable of leading us into the future.

The new leadership mindset

The role of the healthcare leader must change with the industry’s evolving landscape. Thus, we developed the Cleveland Clinic Leadership Experience (CCLE), which is a path designed to enhance an individual’s overall capacity to lead. Where traditional training programs focus on horizontal development, such as improving communication skills and other competencies, our program focuses on vertical development domains, which broaden an individual’s views of leadership and develops their abilities to think and act within a complex organization.

Leadership behaviors in action

Based on principles of serving leadership, the CCLE’s format and structure are as important to the experience as the content itself. In eight full-day sessions, leaders address real issues challenging their teams and have opportunities to apply new tools and methodologies to their work environment. Key components of the experience include:

  • Intact work teams: Working with existing leadership and project teams generates accountability and promotes team growth.
  • Session structure: The cohort is a true learning lab, including reading, practice, application, reflection and coaching as part of the process. Participants are expected to actively apply what they learn between sessions and return each month to share their experiences.
  • Coaching: Participants are supported with five developmental coaching sessions to reinforce the experience. Each coaching session is placed midway between classes and focuses on application of the concepts. Many participants have said the experience serves as a “how-to manual” for being a Cleveland Clinic leader.

Physicians and other healthcare leaders from all over the world are craving the kind of industry-specific knowledge that will enable them to lead the future of healthcare and meet the challenges of a tumultuous environment. We offer several external programs for clinicians and non-clinicians alike based on the success of our internal programs and led by Cleveland Clinic  leaders that help bridge the gap between clinical expertise and business leadership.

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Results vs. relationships

The CCLE has shown our teams that fostering relationships and achieving desired results are both valuable outcomes. Brian Harte, MD, President of Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Center, has participated and sponsored CCLE cohorts and feels that the “CCLE cohort was instrumental in providing a framework and specific tools to engage my leadership team. One of the results is that team discussions are exactly that — team discussions — as opposed to conversations being dominated by the loudest and most opinionated or me.” As a result, Dr. Harte’s team now engages with each other differently and makes decisions collaboratively for the hospital and its patients. The CCLE has brought the realities of leading into the classroom and will help inspire a new way of leading into the future of healthcare.

Gina Cronin, FACHE, is Executive Director, Global Leadership and Learning Institute, Cleveland Clinic, and Chris Nagel, is Director, Leadership & Team Development, Cleveland Clinic.

Republished from CEO News with permission of the American College of Healthcare Executives.