The Exceptional Value of Visibility in the Next Phase of Business

“Give it a week and everything will change,” is a familiar phrase uttered by many over the past couple of months.

This pandemic has set us in the front seat of a rickety emotional roller coaster, jolting feelings of fear, uncertainty, volatility, loss, anger, frustration, sadness, exhilaration, gratefulness, hope and joy. The sentiments are countless. Leaders deep in the trenches are donning wrinkled company-issued scrubs and a day-old mask, stepping onto clinical units. And as they step in to walk along the front line, they are quickly realizing what their teams need and what they’re fully capable of.

There’s an intrinsic gift exchange that takes place when a leader is visible. Take two scenarios, both of which we’ve heard about in recent weeks:

First, the chief clinical officers who are, for understandable reasons, entirely operationally focused and worried about the numbers. They’re glued to incident command, with no time for rounding on units to connect with and support overworked and exhausted staff who are at their breaking point.

Then there are the leaders who, after safety huddle, change into hospital scrubs and spend the rest of their day at team meetings, in huddles and visible on every unit. They’re leaning in, listening, and asking fellow doctors, nurses, leaders, and everyone else what their needs are and who should be recognized as the day’s hero. Their assignments come through daily unit-by-unit interactions and then they shift focus to tending to the team’s basic individual needs. One leader is there, holding a water bottle for a nurse struggling to lift her face shield and lower her mask for a sip. Another sees a nurse break down in huddle during the chaplain’s group prayer. That leader arranges a break in the day for the nurse to leave the unit and go outside for fresh air and time with the chaplain.

Same levels of leadership and commitment; very different insights, interactions and, critically, perception on the part of the team being led.

While necessary, the exclusive focus on operations in the first example creates distance between leader and team and presents an energy that can be perceived as skin deep. But in the second example, a devotion to being visible in the moment brings a sense of hope, builds resilience and establishes trust. That is the leader the team knows they can count on.

This pays dividends.

As health systems and clinics across the country turn their attention toward re-opening their doors and reinstating services, visible leadership and side-by-side support is essential to build community and resilience, which will be critical in successful restarts and providing confident care to returning patients in the days and weeks to come.

Charmaine Weis