Leading Through COVID-19: Managing Rapid Change

This is part five of our multi-part blog and video series, Leading Teams in Times of Crisis and Immense Change.

Change is a constant in the world of healthcare. Some leaders thrive on these changes and others resist. While we’re used to experiencing change in this industry, the COVID-19 crisis is driving change on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis—much more quickly than we’re used to.

Change can be difficult, as people like the security of the familiar (even when it’s not producing the best outcomes). As a result, they will resist change to maintain the status quo. This makes your role as a leader critical.

When trying to implement change and manage through a crisis, it’s up to you to get those you lead on board. The following three steps can help leaders successfully lead change during this crucial time: Look for new opportunities, acknowledge what we can control, and develop a guiding team.

Look for New Opportunities

Some leaders are just hoping to get back to “normal” and maintain the status quo. The problem with this approach is that the world of healthcare has forever fundamentally changed.

It’s important to remember that change can bring new opportunities for leaders. One example is the increase in the use of telehealth technologies during this pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has taken a promising, underutilized technology and brought it to the forefront of patient care. There is no going back. Innovations in patient care and updated regulations are here to stay.

Whether we accept this new reality and embrace change or become a victim is ultimately our choice. So remember: Stay positive and pursue opportunities to innovate as we impact patient care.

Acknowledge What We Can Control

Many times, we don’t control the change, but we do have the opportunity to influence its path. Now that telehealth is being widely implemented, where are other opportunities to achieve organizational goals through its use? Can providers improve outcomes, reduce costs, and produce happier customers in other areas?

Leaders should start by identifying new or emerging opportunities, make a list, and prioritize next steps. The ability to take control when possible and be flexible with what is thrust upon us will determine our outcomes as an organization and your success in leading change.

Develop a Guiding Team

Leaders cannot lead change alone. As new opportunities emerge, leaders need to engage their teams in the vision for the change. Planning is one key to successfully unlocking and initiating change within an organization.

For change to have a chance within an organization, your team will need to know where they are heading and how they are going to get there. Without a roadmap, it will be difficult, if not entirely impossible, for those engaged in the changes to understand the need for change and what the change will result in. And as a leader, it’s up to you to develop and share that roadmap.

Make time for planning with your team and communicating the vision. Start with the end in mind. Determine how you will measure success. Identify short term goals to get team members energized. Communicate clearly and often. Lastly, be prepared to be flexible during the process. Have plan A, B, C, and D!

Change is hard, and while there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are models for managing complex change that have proven successful.

One challenge is to separate the can’t from the won’t. Organizations do not get better by chance but through change. The keys are to look for new opportunities, acknowledge what we can and can’t control, and develop a guiding team.

By starting with these three steps, we can and will come out of this crisis stronger, more resilient, and better equipped to serve.