C-Suite Conversations

What healthcare leaders need to know now

Bob Clarke, CEO - MPI Companies, and Joe Mazzenga, Managing Partner - NuBrick Partners, an MPI Company

Recent Posts

Managing Stress: Four Key Strategies for Leaders

By | July 7 th,  2021 | executive leadership, leadership traits | Add A Comment



Our lives are undoubtedly busier and more stressful, the result of tremendous uncertainty in our world today. Leaders generate a high degree of emotional and physical stress that leaves them exhausted. However, for leaders to be most effective, they must not only be able to recognize and manage their own stress but be compassionate to the stress of their team as well.

The importance of managing one’s own stress reactions is often overlooked in our fast-paced world, but it must be a priority if you want to excel as an effective leader. Here are five key strategies for leaders that can help manage this stress:


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Our article from
Wharton Healthcare Quarterly explores how empathy is perhaps the most powerful tool a leader has during these dynamic times. Download a copy here.


Identify Stressor Reactions


Stress is often triggered by emotional responses. The limbic brain, which interprets crisis from an angry insult, for example, responds similarly to how ancient people reacted to fear of being chased by a predator.


This response often reveals hidden personality traits that can negatively impact interpersonal communication. Identifying the source of stress and recognizing when these triggers are present is key to managing one's own response.


When faced with stress, the brain's most basic survival needs can get triggered. First we assess the threat and then, if necessary, react with appropriate physical response: Flight, Fight, or Freeze. While these reactions were necessary for survival in more primitive times, they are not conducive to creating a modern work environment that aims to promote teamwork and foster camaraderie.


Being adept at recognizing these reactions and how they present in our modern day-to-day interactions allows leaders to increase their emotional intelligence and effectiveness as a leader.

  • Flight response is characterized by the need to avoid confrontation and often leaves an individual feeling drained, depleted, disinterested in work or other activities. A person displaying this type of reaction will withdraw from their interactions with others as a means of self-protection. This withdrawal can lead to isolation which may be manifested through substance abuse, lack of energy for work tasks, or reduced productivity levels.

  • Fight response is demonstrated through aggression and anger that typically leads to aggressive communication styles such as sarcasm, passive aggressiveness or overt hostility directed at superiors or team members.

  • Freeze response is characterized by a lack of response to stimuli and may be seen in cases where an individual feels overwhelmed. The freeze response is often accompanied by feelings of fear or helplessness.

Left unchecked, the flight, fight, and freeze responses can have significant negative consequences on the individual’s wellbeing and have a negative impact on team culture. It is imperative for leaders to check in with team members to connect and communicate on a regular basis, but during challenging or chaotic times on a more frequent cadence.


Create time and space to recharge


During check-in meetings, leaders should start by acknowledging their own stress levels and then open the discussion to others. They should also provide opportunities for team members to interact with each other on non-work-related topics, which creates deeper interpersonal connections and lowers job anxiety. Additionally, leaders should encourage themselves and their teams to take the time and space to recharge and avoid fatigue.


Building community among team members will lead to resilience. When people are honest and transparent with one another, it creates a vulnerability which builds relationships that offer closeness throughout the recovery process.


Cultivate Psychological Safety


It is important that leaders create an environment that values candor, vulnerability and authenticity in relationships. As you meet with others or work with your team, approachability should be something to consider. It is equally important for leaders to evaluate their own behaviors and moods while inviting trusted advisors into the process as well.


Leaders must be willing to take on tough conversations with a level of empathy, recognizing that it is not easy for others. Creating an environment where people feel safe will help them remain engaged in conflict-promoting discussions that lead to more creative problem solving and accelerates team performance.


Leaders should also create time and space for themselves to recharge and find ways to deal with their own stress the best they can. Pursue active stress relieving activities such as exercise, yoga or meditation and create on-the-job strategies to decrease work pressures.


Demonstrate Empathy


A leader needs to have the courage to acknowledge emotions rather than avoid them. One of the most powerful tools a leader can deploy is to simply listen and validate the experiences of others. “Name it to tame it,” is a phrase coined by author and psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel that best describes why empathy is so impactful.


You can't manage your team unless you are managing yourself first. The key to success is understanding and recognizing the emotional toll that stress takes on us as well as being aware of our own physiological responses in stressful situations. Be attentive to the needs of your team by creating an environment that values candor where employees feel safe enough to share their thoughts openly without fear of repercussions or judgment. In a culture where people feel like they have voice and worth, it's easier for them to be resilient when faced with challenges because they know their opinions matter. Stress reactions will still happen but these steps can help minimize them so you can maintain composure while leading others through tough change.

Why You Need Physician Leaders on Your Executive Team

By | September 29 th,  2020 | Add A Comment

As the healthcare industry wrestles with rapid changes sparked by the COVID pandemic, organizations need to adapt quickly and reassess nearly every aspect of their operations. During 2020, executives in healthcare leadership have had to be nimble with their decisions that could determine the survival of their organization for both the near- and the long-term.


Few skill sets are better suited to leadership in times of crisis than that of physicians, who, fortunately, healthcare organizations have in abundant supply. Physicians possess qualities that are highly sought-after in candidates for leadership. They are intelligent, voracious, lifelong learners, a result of their heightened curiosity and scientific thinking.

| Unlock the Article: Harnessing the Hidden Strengths   of Physician Leaders to Thrive Post-PandemicThis aspect of their personality correlates with two other innate tendencies physician leaders often possess – ingenuity and innovation. Together, these qualities can greatly benefit an organization looking for new ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, and problem-solving skills. A physician leader’s inherent ability to pioneer solutions, balanced with their expertise and passion for delivering high quality, patient-centered care offers a distinct advantage for healthcare organizations.


The challenge many organizations face is finding constructive ways to recruit and cultivate this tremendous talent for executive leadership. Rather than simply pulling a doctor off the floor to sit at the boardroom table, organizations should invest in the process of searching for the right leader from a pool of both internal and external candidates. This can be accomplished by working with your talent acquisition team and bolstered by partnership with an executive recruiting and leadership assessment firm.


While physicians complete years of schooling, residency, and ongoing professional education, the leadership skills required for an executive role are typically not taught in medical school. As a result, when placed in an executive role, physicians are frequently left on their own to learn how to become effective leaders. Therefore, organizations must be able to recognize the potential for leadership while recruiting a physician leader, then provide the necessary nurturing and development opportunities during onboarding and beyond.


Organizations can help encourage the full potential of their physician leaders’ by prioritizing the sometimes hidden dimensions of their personalities, and simply resetting expectations both external to that leader and within. Those physicians will bring a tenacious commitment for issues such as patient satisfaction and delivery of care into more strategic discussions about how and where care will be delivered. As their non-physician peers on the executive team adjust their perception of physicians in leadership roles, the effects will be limitless.


For example, we can now see the very real possibility that the hospital bed of the future is in the patient’s living room, and the house call is via video chat. How will your organization keep up and make agile decisions in this fast-changing environment? Isn’t that a discussion best had with input from physicians in the room? The key is to avoid typecasting physician leaders by relying on them only for clinical or diagnostic input. They have much more to offer.


Healthcare organizations possess the tremendous advantage of a talent pipeline rich in physicians who can bring their valuable perspective to the executive leadership team. For its own survival, it is imperative for the leadership team to support the unique abilities of the physician leader to incubate and accelerate ideas to invent and deploy solutions that proactively thrust the organization into a future of its choosing.

| Unlock the Article: Harnessing the Hidden Strengths   of Physician Leaders to Thrive Post-Pandemic

Servant Leadership: Valuing Relationships over Process

By | May 21 st,  2020 | Leadership Development, executive leadership, authentic leadership, Servant Leadership, Healthcare Leaders | Add A Comment

As we find ourselves working and leading our teams through the COVID-19 crisis, a meaningful quote by leadership expert John Maxwell resonates with us:


“They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”


To us, this quote speaks about “servant leadership.” Servant leadership is the belief that the most effective leaders strive to serve others, including colleagues, direct reports, and employees, rather than accrue power, knowledge, money, or control. Servant leadership disregards title, authority, and hierarchy and, instead, embraces that which serves others so they may become their most effective, valued, and engaged.


The increased stress that everyone experiences in varying degrees stirs up natural and powerful self-protective instincts. In a way, the toilet paper panic buying frenzy of a few weeks ago is a remnant of that primal urge. It makes sense.


But while it is natural to be self-protective, it is just as evident that we are all sharing the experience of this global pandemic. Especially now, servant leaders must set aside their self-serving efforts and serve others.


Knowing the importance of servant leadership and adopting a leadership approach that seeks to help others over ourselves is vital for this time. Allow us to offer three ways that you can demonstrate this style of leadership to engage and serve others.

  • Awareness: Now is an opportune time to be aware of what others are experiencing both professionally and personally. Respect the situations, feelings, strengths, and challenges of those around you. At the same time you must also be aware of the same things about yourself in order to sustain and remain an effective leader.
  • Listening: We all are struggling and need to be heard and understood. Servant leaders listen to understand by allowing more space in the conversation for others, which turns into a wonderful gift. Not only must you hear what is being said, you must notice what’s not being said, including non-verbal cues that play a role in how someone’s message is being conveyed.
  • Empathy: It is important now more than ever to be patient and empathetic toward colleagues who may be experiencing their own considerable stress and fear in their own unique way. Empathy means making room for your colleagues to be themselves. Demonstrating a level of patience for stretched, distracted, and irritated colleagues is vital. Empathize more, judge less.

Take a look around and you’ll recognize how everyone, independent of status or title, is stepping in to serve others, humbly checking that they are all right emotionally and psychologically to engage in the work at hand. Knowing that we are all in this together, imagine what might happen in our personal and professional relationships if we paid less regard to status for a short time and become a servant leader.


We will defeat this virus together. Remember, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”


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