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Lessons from the IHI National Forum: Simple Principles for Effective Leadership

In December, I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the 30th annual Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) National Forum in Orlando, Florida. This four-day conference brings together over 5,000 health care learners and leaders from around the world to share innovations and best practices for transforming systems to achieve Triple Aim goals of better care, lower costs and healthier populations.

HealthInsight was invited to facilitate a pre-conference Learning Lab to share key lessons from our Total Cost of Care (TCOC) work, a multi-year and multi-stakeholder initiative striving to increase transparency of health care costs in Oregon. Together with our Board Chair, Pam Mariea-Nason, and Vice-Chair, Katie Dobler, we presented “Regional Strategies to Collaboratively Measure Affordability,” and helped participants develop their own road maps for building meaningful cross-sector partnerships and leveraging existing resources to address affordability in their communities.

It was exciting to bring Oregon’s TCOC work to a larger audience and engage in thought-provoking discussions about the role of relationships and collaboration in system transformation. Throughout the forum, from the poignant keynote addresses to the engaging workshops, I noticed a common theme on the power of our “humanness” – how tapping into our humanity and employing relational strategies to connect with others is essential for building trust, enabling action and motivating real change.

While there’s no way I could fit all of my learnings from the forum into this blog post, I’d like to share a summary of the themes I heard over and over again from presenters. Below are 10 principles and behaviors that anyone can apply on their journey to becoming better leaders.

Key Indicators of Effective Leaders

  1. Show Curiosity by asking questions and seeking new sources of knowledge.
  2. Maintain an “All Teach, All Learn” mentality by recognizing that everyone, at every level, has knowledge to share. Learning is a two-way street.
  3. Elicit Feedback for Continuous Learning – don’t just wait for feedback to come to you. Instead, recruit a feedback buddy who will be open and honest when you’re out of line. Have regular check-ins with this person and use their insights to improve your behavior.
  4. Encourage Storytelling – tell your story and ask others to share theirs. This is key to understanding how the people around you experience the world.
  5. Show Compassion and develop Kinship with the people around you. We are all human and we have all made mistakes, but each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done. We must acknowledge and accept our flaws, as we cannot help heal the wounded if we don’t first welcome our own wounds.
  6. Engage in Active Listening. Keynote speaker Rev. Gregory J. Boyle of Homeboy Industries reminded us that “listening is not waiting to talk.”
  7. Practice Humility rather than heroism. Recognizing that none of us have all the answers, leaders must share power in order to meaningfully engage in quality improvement work. At Qualis|HealthInsight, we are lucky to have a CEO that lives and breathes this philosophy.
  8. Promote Joy in Work by addressing the “pebbles in your shoe”be mindful of the small, annoying things that distract you from the bigger picture. How can you resolve these unpleasant pebbles and bring yourself back to what really matters?
  9. Be Persistent. Your ideas may be ahead of your time; keep pushing for what is right and recognize when “no” is not an appropriate answer—it might become a “yes” down the road.
  10. Have Courage. Get comfortable with uncertainty and never forget that "healthcare improvement happens outside of our comfort zones” (Maureen Bisognano, former President and CEO of IHI).

Please let me know if you are interested in learning more—there are fantastic materials that I am happy to share.

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