Strategies for Effective Leadership in Health Improvement Efforts
Quality improvement efforts bring together a host of passionate and talented stakeholders, all seeking sustainable solutions for complex multi-layered problems. Because of their complexity, these initiatives require a leader who can seamlessly manage and motivate their team's efforts—someone who can inspire others and envision the future while not forgetting about the tasks that need to get done along the way.
Simply put, effective leadership can make or break a quality improvement effort. And that’s a lot of pressure for any one individual. To help, we’re sharing three key strategies on effective leadership from Gwen Webber-McLeod, president and CEO of Gwen Inc. and expert in leadership development. These strategies were originally introduced to support collaboration and communication in state teams on the NICHQ-led Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network to Reduce Infant Mortality (Infant Mortality CoIIN). Keep reading to find out how to leverage those same tactics to drive change in your own improvement work.
Busy schedules and personal anxiety can get in the way of open communication, a prerequisite for productive collaboration. Webber-McLeod recommends purposefully designing every team meeting to encourage debate, which gives team members a designated time and place to share ideas and feedback. Use process questions to prompt thoughtful answers from your team instead of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses.
For example, consider asking:
- What are we not acknowledging about the strategy we’ve developed?
- What might be challenging that we aren’t thinking of?
- What opportunities or impacts may we have that we have not already identified?
Similarly, ask for feedback about the structure of the meeting itself, not just the meeting’s content. Have teams share what makes meetings successful and what makes them less effective. By discussing issues openly and working to resolve them, you’ll show your team that you care about their input and inspire them to keep the lines of communication open.
Strategy Two: Manage Team Dysfunction
Anyone in the improvement business knows that complex discussions and challenges can lead to group anxiety. And, according to Webber-McLeod, this is all too common in health improvement initiatives: “We’re all so committed to doing the good work that we don’t leave room to make a mistake.”
When group stress takes over, effective leadership can mitigate momentary tension before it turns into destabilizing conflict. First, encourage your team to acknowledge what they’re feeling and share their anxieties. Then, come together as a group to discuss strategies for moving forward and reenergizing your work. Have the courage to hit the reset button, if that is what it takes. Sometimes starting over is the first step to finding the best solution for your initiative.
And remember, says Webber-McLeod, the answers are almost always in the room. “If you, as the team lead, create multiple opportunities for the team to communicate with you—their questions, their concerns, their successes—your team will always find the answers.”
Strategy Three: Practice Self Care and Sustainability
Remember, leaders can’t do their best work if they’re too tired or stressed to think straight. The same goes for team members. Prioritizing self-care not only keeps you at the top of your game, it also sets an example for your team to emulate; if they see you practicing healthy habits, they’ll be more likely to do the same, which translates to a more sustainable work environment.
Gain perspective by moving your thinking beyond your team and your project. Pay attention to rising talent—those who will be the next generation of health improvement leaders—and make a conscious effort to mentor them.
“The more we can grow and develop new generations of healthcare leaders,” says McLeod, “[those] who understand the impacts of
the improvement that you’re making, [and] have the philosophies, skills and behaviors to sustain it moving forward, the better for you…and the better for the children you will serve.”
Interested in hearing more from Webber-McLeod? View her second video series, 5 Strategies for Engaging Extended Partners, and gain the skills you need to build an all-star improvement team.
Click here to download Webber-McLeod's full bio.
NICHQ Employee Spotlight: Chiagbanwe Enwere, NICHQ Project Analyst
As a member of NICHQ's Data Applied Research and Evaluation (DARE) team, NICHQ Project Analyst Chiagbanwe Enwere brings a unique data and equity perspective to the New York State Maternal and Child Health Collaboratives project
MCH Lead Poisoning Toolkit: Lessons on Using Data for Improvement
The Maternal and Child Environmental Health Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (MCEH CoIIN), a national initiative led by the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs developed the MCH Lead Poisoning Toolkit to share innovative practices and methods that nine different state teams tested out to improve access to systems and services that address the needs for pregnant women, infants, children, and families that are exposed to lead. NICHQ provided quality improvement expertise and technical assistance for the MCEH CoIIN—offering state teams guidance on using data and measurement to determine where improvements have been made and areas that still require change. Read tips and take-aways from the three-year CoIIN for data collection and using data for Improvement.
Navigating Well-Child Visits and Vaccinations during COVID-19
Well-child visits and recommended vaccinations are essential, ensuring children stay healthy and are protected from preventable diseases and illnesses such as measles, whooping cough, and seasonal flu. But, as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, data shows that fewer childhood vaccinations have been given and many children have fallen behind on their scheduled appointments. Healthcare professionals should utilize the following strategies to work with parents and caregivers to get their children caught up on missed appointments and recommended vaccinations.
Exploring a Nonbinary Approach to Health
NICHQ is not abandoning the traditional use of the terms “mother” and “maternal.” We are embracing the inclusive language of “birthing person/people” across our work. A move toward inclusive language does not force us to stop using language that so many people identify with; at its core, inclusion is about creating more space for one another. We are taking care to expand the use of these terms in our communications, on our website, in our resources, and eventually, in all our projects.
NICHQ Employee Spotlight: Stacey C. Penny
With NICHQ's Rare As One Network Workstream Facilitation Initiative at a halfway point, Senior Project Director Stacey C. Penny, MSW, MPH shares an inside look at one of NICHQ's most collaborative projects.
Are Screens Making our Children’s Eyes Worse?
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, children of all ages were spending more screen time than ever before on cellphones, tablets, and laptops. Prolonged periods of time staring at a screen that may be too big, too bright, or too close to our eyes can cause eye fatigue or even lead to dry eye, a chronic eye condition common in older adults. With eye conditions becoming more prominent in children, it's important for health professionals to encourage healthy screen viewing habits and support children’s eye health in the digital age.