'Getting down in the trenches' to successfully lead a team: 4 strategies for ASC executives

With nearly two decades of experience with the AAAHC, Kris Kilgore, RN, BSN, has accrued a wealth of knowledge about leadership in the ASC setting. Serving as a committee member for the AAAHC Institute for Quality Improvement and administrative director for Grand Rapids-based Surgical Care Center of Michigan, Ms. Kilgore dives into four leadership strategies that have proved successful when managing a team.  

1. Lead by example. Administrators can employ this strategy by 'getting down in the trenches' with their staff members and taking on whatever task is necessary to ensure a center is operating at its peak efficiency. A firm believer in not micromanaging her team, Ms. Kilgore says she can perform any task at the surgery center, which proves crucial when a staff member is out sick or unable to perform his or her responsibilities.

"I really try to be there for my team," she says. "They are all professionals and can function well. They may just need some gentle guidance at times."

All staff members at Surgical Care Center of Michigan are cross-trained to fill in when needed, so a registered nurse can work in any patient care area and cover for another team member who is suddenly unable to perform a task.

2. Find each team member's strengths. An ASC is full of many different personalities and every team member brings something new to the table. It is key for administrators to identify these strengths in their staff, which Ms. Kilgore does by simply having a conversation with each team member.

"Everyone is gifted in one way or another," she says. "You have to talk to them. When you start working closely with someone, you find out what their strengths are."

Ms. Kilgore notes ASCs that have difficulty operating at their optimal potential often have leaders who fail to engage with their staff members. If employees cannot relate to their leader, they will have difficulty confiding in them, meaning many employees' strengths will never come to light.

"As a surveyor for AAAHC, I've seen a lot of leadership styles. What the most successful leaders have in common is that they are engaged with their staff and care about them," Ms. Kilgore adds. "They are not sitting in their office. Hands-on administrators do a lot of different tasks to make the center run well and provide quality of care to their patients."

3. Recruit team members that fall in line with your ASC's mission. Finding an employee that meets a certain criteria regarding skill set and experience is vitally important as an unskilled professional can impede quality patient care. However, equally, if not more important, is the ability to find an individual with a personality that matches a surgery center's dynamic and overall mission of improving patient care.

"It is hard to change a personality," Ms. Kilgore says. "We can teach ophthalmology, but it goes deeper than that into what kind of person they are. [Hiring] is more about their attitude."

When looking to add to Surgical Care Center of Michigan's team, Ms. Kilgore seeks someone who is primarily interested in learning new things and working as part of a team.

"We have all different levels here and we are only as good as the people we work with," she says. "We all have the same value and each person does something different."

4. Have an eye toward the business side of healthcare. The healthcare environment is changing and organizations that fail to reduce costs and understand the financial aspects of care could face steep reimbursement cuts. This evolving landscape is increasingly requiring physicians, administrators and other executives to be well-versed in the business side of care and many are seeking various resources to expand their knowledge base. As a nurse, Ms. Kilgore says she knows the ins and outs of patient care and is striving to know more about her ASC's finances because healthcare organizations "have to run like a business."

"I've gained a greater awareness of how efficient, effective businesses run by being a surveyor. The goals of patient safety and high quality care are driven by AAAHC standards related to continuous improvement at the organizational level," she says. "More ASCs are joint venturing due to changing reimbursement. A good leader is someone that can do it all and is well-educated in patient care and the business end of running a center."

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