Catholic Health Initiatives Podcast

Partial Transcript:

HEADLINE: Keys to Successful Co-Leadership
Members in Action
Catholic Health Initiatives - Englewood, Colo.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Making a clinical dyad partnership work well requires a special kind of synergy between physician leaders and nursing leaders.

Last fall, key leaders from the American Hospital Association (AHA), American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), and the American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) were joined by hospital and system chief medical officers and chief nursing officers from around the country with effective co-leadership leadership models to understand what made their leadership stand out from the crowd.

Through a series of podcasts, AHA explored what it takes to develop an effective dyad partnership. Below are highlights from an interview with Kathleen (Kathy) Sanford, DBA, RN, senior vice president and chief nursing officer, and Robert (Bob) Weil, MD, chief medical officer at Catholic Health Initiatives.

Q: What questions should be asked if someone is interviewing to be part of a dyad model?

KATHY: Well, I think you start with the big picture first which is to make sure that you both have the same vision and mission for clinical enterprise. ... So finding out how your new partner feels about patient care? How your new partner feels about what we need to be doing as clinicians together? How risk-averse or risky your new partner is in trying new and different things and going into the future? What do you think it means to be a partner?

BOB: I think in looking for folks, you also want to find people who ask questions, don't just leap to answers, but ask questions and in asking questions - and Kathy raised this point as well - cast a broad net to find solutions. I think for me, another one is how comfortable are people in dealing with uncertainty and dealing with information asymmetry. It exists all around us, and some people are comfortable with that and other people are not comfortable with that.

KATHY: I've always thought about these kinds of relationships that they have, probably, three defining characteristics which is that you both are willing to look for and seek out the truth, that you're willing to deal-- in doing that you deal with people with respect, and that you communicate effectively what you learn and what you know.

Q: What's been the impact of this model on your organization? What's different from an outcomes perspective, or what do you see as different as a result of your partnering together?

KATHY: We've seen a decrease in silos across our system and the national level, and between the national level and the different groups, the different markets that work in our company. That's always an issue in a large company -- it's easy to get into silos...and I believe the dyad leadership model has been a big part of why that reduction has come about. ... I believe the dyad leadership model is part of why our patient care has increased year over year in our quality metrics. You can't say that any one thing you do causes that, but I believe it's a very important piece of why we're on this trajectory of improved quality.

...if you get a little more granular, ...some of the things that led to those results are when you have a relationship, when you're honest with each other, and you're working towards the same thing and you have had, sometimes, some very hard discussions about how we see the world or about what we think is the right thing to do or even things that might get in the way to our best communication such as the way different genders look at things, the way different professions look at things, etc., it's allowed me to be able to get feedback that helps me learn to do better with people who aren't the same as I am. ...I also know that, personally, my skills are better in many areas that I was not so good at because they're areas that my dyad partner is good at. And so the ability to learn from each other -- I've learnt a lot."

Q: What has helped you move through difficult parts? How have you strengthened that partnership in the face of those difficulties?

BOB: ...getting coaching, that almost never hurts. But coaching can be coaching one another. ...we do that, probably, more now in the sense of either preparing for a meeting or when a meeting or situation is over, going back over it with one another to think what did we learn from this? Did we get our message across and did we fully understand the message that others were trying to get across to us?" ...we spend a lot of time around intentionality of being seen as joint leaders. We sign critical memos together. We do joint meetings of even the people who theoretically report to Kathy or theoretically report to me on our organizational cart by saying we represent a collective clinical enterprise. ... . So for example, with our bi-weekly meetings, one week Kathy chairs it, one week, I chair it.