There’s no question that the best healthcare leaders are great communicators. By definition, they have mastered the important functions of management such as establishing a vision, goal setting, motivating, planning and organizing. These skills have one common denominator: effective communication.
Whether you’re in a rural hospital, clinic or critical access hospital, as a leader you must know how to communicate your values clearly and solidly. What you say reinforces the values, goals and mission of your hospital or system and helps you build teams that respect you and follow your example. For your healthcare organization to reach new, better levels of communication, you must learn the basics of effective communications and consistently model these in all situations and interactions.
As I’ve seen in working with rural hospitals throughout the Midwest, meetings are a prime example of where leaders often fall short as strong communicators. Too few leaders end meetings with the all-important “closer”--a shared agreement and understanding about what needs to be communicated out and how. To be effective, you should adjourn meetings by identifying the top three group takeaways, salient talking points, timing of communicating with other staff and the medium to be used for sharing.
Where do you begin?
First, acknowledge that communications are a two-way street. While you can articulate clearly, you have to make sure you’re being heard and understood. Here’s how to help facilitate two-way communications:
- Prepare what you want to say and how you’ll do it. Clarify the goal of the communication and plan before sending it or meeting in person. Anticipate recipients’ points of view and the impact the message will have.
- Relate what you’re saying to the organization’s overall goals and be specific about what actions need to be taken.
- Be open to and encourage feedback. By encouraging feedback, you invite further dialogue and create a climate of inclusiveness and trust.
- Continually evaluate the effectiveness of your organization’s communications. Conduct an audit of internal communications. This will help you identify the gaps and correct communication pitfalls.
Some of the most common obstacles to effective communications are caused by:
- Not clearly defining the objective of the communication
- Using the wrong medium
- Assuming the receiver understands the message
- Ignoring sensitivities
- Not meeting the listener’s level of understanding
Once you’ve mastered how to be an effective communicator, you will become more attuned to the words you use and conscious about your communications. Achieving highly effective communications is a key best practice that will favorably impact your hospital’s performance.
Michelle Rathman is president and CEO of Impact! Communications Inc., a healthcare strategy company specializing in rural healthcare organizational culture transformation, communications, leadership development and community engagement. She is also a frequent keynote speaker at national and regional healthcare forums.