AAAHC Immediate Past Board of Directors' Chairman: Employing a consensus-building leadership approach

Being a successful leader encompasses many elements, and a core attribute of any leader is the ability to relate to your peers. Frank Chapman, immediate past chairman of the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care's board of directors and COO of Ohio Gastroenterology Group, has years of leadership experience, starting his career managing Teamsters on a loading dock.

"When going through strikes, one thing I found was even at times when labor and management may be opposed to each other, having the respect of your workers and realizing the need for common ground are the most important things you can do," Mr. Chapman says.

These lessons have stayed with Mr. Chapman throughout his career including when he led a cardiology group, served as a hospital's CFO and joined the AAAHC board of directors. Before taking on the board chairman position, he was the chair of the Standards and Survey Procedure Committee for six years. The SSPC's primary objective is to develop and implement standards that promote patient safety and improve the quality of care while also ensuring providers can effectively manage these standards in their daily practices.

"Getting everybody on the same page is always a challenge," Mr. Chapman says. "It is important to realize that a leader's voice is not always going to be the loudest voice in the room. My style of leadership has been to focus on consensus building."

People want to know their voices are heard and a leader should facilitate a fruitful conversation in which different parties can share their viewpoints without getting away from the conversation's main goal. Mr. Chapman notes to build a consensus, a leader lets those with the loud voices talk and then brings everybody full circle so they can decide on the best strategy to propel an organization forward.

"Any time a discussion is protracted, it can get off course and it is important as a leader to bring the group back to the question that they are discussing at the time until a consensus is reached," Mr. Chapman says.

While leaders can work to reach a mutual decision, there may be outliers who oppose that direction. These people may have valid points, and leaders should respect their opinion even if it deviates from their own.

"When you are on a board, you are there because you have a valid point of view," Mr. Chapman says. "There is cognitive dissonance when you respect someone but don't like what they are saying. What you want to do is listen to exactly what they have to say because when you listen to someone who disagrees with you, you can often find common ground."

Surgery centers may employ a leadership approach where they elevate their managers away from the flow of work, but this could lead to team members no longer relating to the work at hand or the staff who perform those duties.

"A main challenge in managing an ASC is how dynamic the center is," Mr. Chapman says. "In multispecialty ASCs, you are always bringing in new things and new people. Even in a single-specialty surgery center, there is a huge amount of change. If you quarantine your leaders, they quickly get out of touch with the staff. No one wants to be led by someone who doesn't understand what they do."

Because leadership is tied to relating to one's peers, Mr. Chapman has concerns over the direction healthcare is heading. The industry is demanding a wealth of data from providers, often not directly associated with the care of the patient, Mr. Chapman says. This focus on meeting certain metrics and submitting sufficient data may detract from strengthening the provider-patient relationship and listening to the patient's needs.

"The nature of healthcare has become so technical that the quality of care is being replaced by reports and statistics. Patient care is not about how many boxes you check," Mr. Chapman says. "If a leader isn't interested in the quality of care that is being provided and in patient safety, they are not a leader. They are an 'accountant.' Today we find far too many 'accountants' in healthcare and not enough leaders."

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