CVForward  >  Walking the C-suite Tightrope



Mark Baker

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Being a cardiovascular service line (CVSL) leader often demands a delicate balancing act. On one side you have your staff, on the other your administration. Both sides are essential to running a successful CVSL—and both sides are putting tremendous pressure on you.

Here are some proven strategies to help you maintain balance as you walk that tightrope.

“You’re the arbitrator between administration and the employees in your department. You are the essential link in the chain.”

Communicate your rationale

As a CVSL leader, you would never tell your team to follow your direction “because I said so.” According to Mark Baker, “That doesn’t work with children and it certainly isn’t appropriate with adults on your staff.”

When you make a decision or roll out a new policy, you want to make sure you explain the rationale behind your actions. Even if your staff or administration doesn’t agree with you, they still appreciate hearing the reasons behind your decisions.

“People can handle change much better, as long as they understand why.”
When people understand the “why,” it allows them to apply their own critical thinking skills to the situation. It also allows the opportunity to gain buy-in and alignment. You’ll be amazed at the unique ideas and solutions you hear from people when you take the time to explain your reasoning to them.

Challenge your staff to be problem solvers

Your staff is coming to you with concerns about their rotations, salary, workflow, personnel, and more. So who can you turn to for solutions to these problems? Turns out the best problems solvers are often right there in front of you. Challenge them to come up with some proposed solutions. You will empower them, and you will find they bring ideas that you would never have developed on your own.

The last thing you want to create is a “culture of complaining.” Make it clear that if a staff member comes to you with a problem, they should also have a few ideas of how to fix that problem. That’s the way you want your team thinking and that’s the kind of solution-oriented culture you want to create.

Bring your staff to the administration meeting
A powerful strategy for combating an “us vs them” mentality is to bring a member of your team with you to your next administration meeting. Bring a future leader. Bring your chronic complainer. More times than not, they will come out of that meeting with a new respect for your job and for the administration.
“Meeting is an evil word at our facility. In a meeting means not doing anything productive.”

They will see first-hand the demands and pressures that are put on you. They will see how you advocate for your staff and their needs. They will see how much consideration and thought goes into decisions that affect your department.

Additionally, they will often begin to see the administration differently. They become more human and more approachable. They see how much administrators really do care about the staff and the patients you serve.

It opens eyes and can lead to a new level of empathy and respect. Not to mention, that staff member will quickly share their experience with the rest of your staff.

Make sure you have a mentor guiding you
"If you don't have one-get one."

This is a must. Find someone with a positive attitude and who is continually educating themselves. Find someone you think is a superstar. Then follow them as they do their job. Ask questions, run ideas by them, get feedback.

A mentor can be that much-needed force of stability as you make your way along the leadership tightrope.

Embrace your emotions

The transition “from scrubs to suits” can be highly emotional. Respect the emotions that come with your role. Embrace this as a necessary part of your career growth.

If you are starting a new and different role, acknowledge it. Accept that it often means leaving your old role behind. If your role is not new to you, you still have to respect the emotions that come from being on that tightrope between staff and administration. It can be intense—and embracing that intensity it a strategy for success.

“It’s still you, but it’s not you anymore. It’s such a large part of who you are and you’ve worked so hard to get there. When you start to transition, there’s almost a grieving process that takes place.”

Make no mistake, it is stressful to be on that tightrope between staff and administration. Tremendous pressure is coming at you from both sides. But never forget that you are a key link in a chain that delivers life-saving care to hundreds, even thousands, of people every year.

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