High Stakes

The Problem With Power

Do you have a power problem?

No, I’m not talking about issues with electricity, I’m talking about how your community and employees perceive your organization.  These days, it’s not uncommon for growing, forward-looking organizations to inadvertently begin to look too powerful.

Don’t get me wrong, power can be a good thing.  Each and every day at Jarrard Inc., we advise our clients on how best to put their political power to use for their organization.  Knowing how and when to use the power you have is and always will be an essential component of success.

That being said, appearing too powerful (or too eager either to use or to gain more power) can foster resistance from important stakeholders and give patients, employees and the community the impression that your organization values power above people and/or that its leadership is arrogant or motivated by greed.

It’s easy to see how people can come away with the wrong impression.

Many of today’s health systems are growing in size – acquiring new hospitals and absorbing physician practices at a historic rate. In the industry, we know this type of integration and consolidation is pursued to improve quality and better position organizations for an uncertain future. But, if you haven’t engaged your stakeholders – your employees, physicians and the community at large – to get their feedback and explain the “why” behind the growth, your rapidly expanding system can begin to look a lot like Walmart or just another corporation trying to put the little guys out of business.

This perception, right or wrong, can have a very negative effect the next time you need support for a CON, when defending your tax exempt status, when you are looking to acquire another community hospital, the list goes on. We’ve seen it stop mergers, undermine labor negotiations and hold up building projects.

While the perception of “power” can create barriers, most people will agree, however, that they want their hospital or health system to be “strong”. Often, hospitals and health systems are the largest employers in a community or even the state. And those employees along with the community depend on the financial and operational strength of their hospital to be there when they need them.

So, what differentiates disquieting power and reassuring strength? Vulnerability.

Strong healthcare providers aren’t afraid to engage in dialogue with their employees and the community, they are seen as leaders—not pushers, and when they do lead, it is with passion, confidence and humility.

If you think you have a power problem, it may be time to go back to the basics of vulnerability —listening, face-to-face dialogue with your employees and community, and sharing “the why” behind your strategic moves.

While vulnerability isn’t always as easy or clean as we would like, it builds strength that will see your organization through those tough moments and will galvanize your stakeholders in support of your future success.


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