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What does it take to be a strong leader in the imaging department?

by John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | April 23, 2021
From the April 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

HCB News: Conversely, how does poor leadership manifest itself in the imaging department?
KW: Imaging services all the other areas — ortho, cardiology, neurology, etc. — and if, for example, a CT scanner goes down, you're not just impacting imaging, you're affecting the whole hospital's operations. People who feel heard and informed will rise to the day-to-day challenges as a well-oiled machine. Poor leadership can affect the overall morale and manifest in high turnover. Employee empowerment is vital. I have more than 10 people directly reporting to me, and I have to respect their differences, as we have to create a culture where they can work together for a common goal. Transparency and being honest is an essential part of good leadership — and that starts with self-awareness.

HCB News: Tell me about the different managerial types and what self-management means?
KW: Self-management starts by establishing baseline metrics for each department. I'm not an overbearing or micromanaging leader, but I do ask my direct reports to own whatever they decide. I require all my new leaders to go through an onboarding series through the UAB leadership development team. I also created my own imaging training plan so every leader — no matter their leadership style — learns base-level expectations and standards. I have no desire to change any of my managers from their authentic self. My goal is to help them be effective and implement necessary change, while navigating fluid situations. This cannot be done without self-management.

HCB News: Are there certain hallmarks/metrics of a department with excellent leadership?
KW: I would say the most important metric is to actually have access to palpable metrics. For example, if someone asks what is your next available MRI appointment, can you tell them? Do you know the employee turnover percentage for every department? What are your trends or highest use? What are your areas of opportunity and how long has this been a trend? Often, people don't know their story, to adequately make a case based on the data. They go off emotions, and you can’t make cases to senior leadership or present emotions in a PowerPoint presentation.

HCB News: For leaders who recognize the need for change in their department, what first steps can they take to improve?
KW: It goes back to introspection with which most people are not comfortable. Leaders have to ask themselves what they are not doing well. I suggest anonymous 360 reviews. But you have to be able to receive it, and that can be uncomfortable. I personally do this often for myself as I like feedback on how my actions may be affecting others. However, when you do this, you’re stepping out there and allowing people to unload on you. And once received, pick a couple of things and be honest and transparent with yourself on the validity of their claims. Although you may not agree, can you see what their saying? This process can also apply to evaluating operations within a department, and is one of the reasons I rely on quarterly Stoplight Reports for all managers. I tell my managers to connect with the person in their department who is the most vocal and let them vent. Let them know you might not make every change they think is needed, but the act of just listening to them can and does go a long way.

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