By Melanie Marshall
Lots of wise people have weighed in on what makes a great leader, but this quote from American clergyman John C. Maxwell sums it up pretty well: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Research indicates this walk-the-talk approach motivates and inspires employees to do their best, achieving optimal outcomes for clients, organizations, and the community. (Simons, 2015).
In the field of case management, leaders must “walk the talk” along a particularly challenging route: navigating care for complex patient populations impacted by social determinants of health, guiding staff through the continuing shift from fee-for-service toward value-based healthcare, and building a culture of self-care and resilience among front-line case managers – all while working to enhance care and control costs.
It’s a Herculean task, but the good news is that truly impressive leaders aren’t just born that way – they’re developed! Here are five qualities found in great case management leaders (and how you can instill them in your own organization):
No. 1 – Communication
Communication is consistently ranked among the most critical leadership skills that employees want in a work environment. Leaders who are great communicators are able to engage and inspire care management teams in ways that can boost performance, foster collaboration and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
Strategies for effective communication include encouraging open dialogue, building interactions that promote learning, and practicing active listening – techniques that are emphasized in Best Practices for Improved Outcomes, part of the educational Leadership series developed by Care Excellence.
“All of us in our professional careers get great satisfaction about sharing our expertise, which often translates into telling people what to do,” says Dr. Kelly Pfeifer, Director of High-Value Care for the California HealthCare Foundation. “What we’re finding is that the best care managers … are the ones who can listen… and shift from being the one who does something for someone, to being a coach.”
No. 2 – Transparency
Letting employees see the real you can strengthen your effectiveness as a mentor – one of the most effective strategies for fostering quality improvement and staff engagement. “Transparent leadership is the key to fostering a culture of trust” between leaders and their teams, ClearCompany CEO Andre Lovoie wrote in an April 2014 article for Entrepreneur magazine.
Mentorship for Case Managers – the second course in the Care Excellence Leadership series – details how a one-on-one relationship is a powerful conductor of knowledge, social capital, and psychosocial support among employees in a health plan. Multiple studies confirm that good mentoring results in better work habits and increased knowledge among newer team members, and leads to improved production, customer satisfaction, and quality.
No. 3 – Confidence
It’s been said that confidence is the cornerstone of great leadership. Having the self-confidence to make key decisions, confront new challenges, and persevere through failures, is critical to inspiring confidence and resiliency in employees who look to you for support and guidance.
Leadership for Case Managers underscores that theme by examining tenants of good leadership: influence, power and persuasion; identifying potential in prospective employees; building job satisfaction and reducing turnover; and supporting your team. Participants in this course learn how to create a workplace where feedback is constructive, staff feels empowered, and growth and learning are valued.
“I learned how to encourage my staff to think creatively,” said Leilani San Gabriel, RN, a case manager at Health Plan of San Mateo who has participated in that training. “What we’re getting from (this course) is certainly something we can use. I highly recommended it!”
No. 4 – Innovation
Innovation is essential for cultivating growth and overcoming obstacles in every major field, and nowhere is that more important than in the complex world of healthcare. In care management, leaders must create an environment where innovation is encouraged and fostered, and must recognize how powerfully collaboration is tied to innovation. (The connection between collaboration and innovation is documented in “Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation,” a book by Harvard Business School Professor Linda A. Hill and three co-authors.)
Innovation for Case Managers, the fourth course in the Care Excellence Leadership series, unlocks the pathway to innovation by focusing on collaboration, quality, education and resource advocacy. Participants learn strategies that support both formal and informal education as a key to deeper innovation and higher productivity.
No. 5 – Passion
Being passionate about your work is integral to good leadership. Soccer legend Pele said it this way: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” That kind of attitude is infectious.
Of course, a passion for helping others is what drives most care managers and case managers – and feeding that passion is a purposeful way that leaders influence and uplift an entire organization. One way to support that passion is by investing in workforce development, including training that supports effective leadership.
About the Care Excellence Leadership series
Care Excellence Leadership courses are one-day, in-person programs offered onsite at your location. The courses are led by experts in the field, and include interactive exercises, discussion and role-playing activities designed to reinforce important concepts. Organizations such as Inland Empire Health Plan, a nonprofit Medi-Cal and Medicare managed care plan with 1.2 million members in California’s Riverside and San Bernardino counties, have used Care Excellence for workforce development.
“We’re going to continue to invest in our team members and we’re going to continue to invest in Care Excellence, because they’re going to move along this journey with us,” said Jeanna Kendrick, Senior Director of Care Management at IEHP. “They’re a great partner.”
For more information on Care Excellence programs, call 760-750-7288.