When speaking of healthcare, most people have visions of caring doctors and nurses working tirelessly and selflessly to heal and comfort patients. We all know doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who fit that description. They play an important role in our lives to help us stay healthy and help us recover when we’re sick.
Healthcare professionals lead a double life. They form relationships with patients, a healthcare team of professionals at hospitals and clinics, and those they work with in their practice. They are also employees or business owners, with their own employees, co-workers. While they may have all the credentials and certifications necessary to perform their duties, they may not have the required “soft skills” necessary to be effective leaders.
An article by Brian Evje, Inc., in Business Insider, “Why Executives Are So Bad At The Behavioral Side of Management,” doesn’t single out the healthcare industry. But the insight and suggestions in the article are applicable. Healthcare is supposed to have a soft side when dealing with people in crisis or routine health situations. Technical skills are primary when treating patients or prescribing medications, but a friendly, empathetic “bedside manner” goes a long way to gaining a patient’s confidence. The ability to effectively communicate, lead and interact with colleagues, peers and team members demonstrates leadership behavior and helps move everyone forward.
In healthcare, emphasis is put on the “hard skills,” and rightly so. Before you put your life or health in someone’s hands, you need to have assurance they have the necessary training and track record. The so-called “soft skills” are seen as secondary. Patients wait well past their appointment times. Doctors and other professionals barely utter a comforting word and just get down to business. There is little time for small talk with a waiting room full of patients, phone calls, staff interruptions, computer systems that go up and down and the other everyday tasks of running a business. But are these really “soft skills?”
Leaders set the tone by their behavior. They are always leading because someone is always watching. Successful people aren’t successful on their own. Leaders inspire others to take on difficult tasks and work hard because they set clear expectations, encourage and appreciate others and model that behavior themselves. Without those “hard soft skills,” leaders can fall short. The art lies in blending the hard skills with the soft; the technical expertise with the behavioral.
The article suggests three ways to improve leadership:
- Admit soft skills are important. Becoming empathetic or taking time to build relationships isn’t a sign of weakness and won’t diminish authority. In a fast-paced environment, it’s easier to bark orders and give instruction. Leadership is about gaining trust and respect. People are more willing to give a little extra when they feel connected and valued.
- Rethink “hard and soft” skills. Do you focus on the technical or clinical side of the business and leave the “soft and fuzzy” to your office team or someone else? Hard skills get results. Under that definition, effective communication, coaching and giving feedback are hard skills that can make your team and practice more effective.
- If your team has been dropping subtle hints, or communication is lacking with your team, get some help from a communications coach or professional. Find a friend or colleague you trust and ask for some honest feedback.
Learning to balance hard and soft skills will make you a more effective leader and person. It can also enhance the effectiveness of your personal and professional life.
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