Redesigning Clinical Workflows to Return Joy to Patient Care
People Centric Leadership
People Centric Leadership

How much do you know about People Centric Leadership? I’ve learned a lot about it in the three-plus years I’ve been a part of Simpler Consulting.

Three years ago, as a newbie to Simpler, I was sent to the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) annual meeting. Having led the first 5 years of Sutter Gould Medical Foundation’s Lean transformation as its CEO, and having attended many health care conferences on Lean, I had low expectations for what I could learn from the manufacturing crowd that made up the lion’s share of 1800 attendees at the AME conference. What I learned there left me humbled on my Lean journey, and embarrassed for the health care industry.

Bob ChapmanThe best presentation was a panel of six CEO thought leaders on People Centric Leadership. Led by Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry Wehmiller, a now $3 billion company with 12,000 “team members”, we learned of a new vision for AME to drive a renaissance in manufacturing. These enlightened CEOs are dedicated to ensuring that their employees achieve their full human potential while working in a culture of safety, creativity, and inspiration. The goal is not just extraordinary performance for their companies, but doing their part to address society’s problems, which are to a significant degree a result of people going home from their jobs each night unfulfilled, stressed out, and lacking the emotional and physical resilience to contribute positively to their families and communities. They all embraced Lean as the leadership approach that powered their work. You can learn more at Truly Human Leadership’s website and from Bob’s book, Everybody Matters.

Simon Sinek, author of “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t”, concluded the conference with a moving presentation in which he explained the deep roots of People Centric Leadership that are ingrained in our evolutionary makeup. The human species would not have survived for 40,000 years as hunter-gatherers if we were not hardwired by our neuro-hormonal systems to behave in ways that protected the tribe. The most important person in the tribe was the leader. A successful tribal leader was not only the strongest and/or smartest, but was required to live a life of self-sacrifice, caring for tribal members, confronting danger and assuming risk in order to protect the tribe. Today, we still recognize true leaders as those who will sacrifice their own interests to protect our well-being, and we reward them with our respect and admiration, even with our love.

Inverted org chartThat is what the People Centric Leadership movement is all about – supporting and developing leaders to have the courage to do the right thing even when it means great personal risk and self-sacrifice. This is true Lean leadership. Without such leadership our society suffers. We have seen plenty of self-centered leaders, in business and in politics, in recent years. They create the toxic workplaces that plague health care today.

That AME conference gave me renewed hope that a growing number of today’s business leaders have the courage to change our world for the better. Now, more than ever, we need healthcare leaders with the same commitment to People Centric Leadership as we see in manufacturing.  We need leaders who are willing to put the interests of their caregivers and patients ahead of their own.

AME and its commitment to People Centric Leadership can inspire those of us in healthcare to confront our own fears and to truly become the self-sacrificing leaders that are required if we are going to fix the dysfunctional health care “system” that we have created.

As a healthcare leader, what so you think?:

  • Do you understand the importance of People Centric Leadership?
  • Do you see its potential to both improve their operations and prevent physician burnout?
  • Do you have the courage to lead such change?

A commitment to Lean leadership based in the key principle of Respect for People is all that’s needed to get started.

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