As you review your strengths as a leader in the healthcare arena, where does curiosity fall on your list? That’s right, curiosity. A recent Forbes article talks about how companies are actively seeking ways to recruit leaders who “explore new experiences and discover novel possibilities.”

The article also cites data from LinkedIn that shows posts mentioning curiosity are up 71% in 2021 vs. 2020. Engagement on those posts increased 158%, and job listings mentioning the word are up 90% from the previous year.

Finding Creative Solutions Is More Important Than Ever

With the pandemic changing many aspects of the healthcare system on a global level, finding physician leaders who can be creative in how they solve problems is crucial. Executive coaches like myself are adding this to the skills we want to emphasize for clients looking to take the next step forward in their careers.

Here’s an example of how one of my clients used curiosity to find answers—and solutions—outside the typical way things were done.

Caring for the Elderly Population

Her rural hospital needed to get a vaccine center set up quickly. They were working in collaboration with a local competitor to meet a community need with a vaccine supersite. However, my client could see the venture would not work for many members of their elderly patient population. In fact, the supersite would make the competitor look good and not meet her own patients’ needs. She was not happy.

To shift how the vaccines were distributed, and to ensure her patients were served appropriately, the woman asked some powerful questions about how this supersite would serve a mobility-challenged elderly population. The project’s leaders around her observed that less mobile patients would have difficulty managing the long walk from the parking center to the vaccine site. 

Her questions sparked a conversation that resulted in a better solution for all needing vaccines: Able-bodied first responders would get priority at the supersite, while smaller sites with easier access for elderly people would be reserved for their use.

How We Ask Questions Matters!

Using skillful questions to lead a conversation is a necessity to be a strong leader. Conversely, if my client had just pointed out that the supersite ultimately wouldn’t serve her organization, the collaboration would have been over before it started, and she would have looked uncooperative. That is not an image most leaders want to cultivate. She took the conversation in a more constructive track for her organization by asking some good questions and her reputation as a level-headed solution finder was reinforced.

Empower Your Team and Inspire Trust in Your Leadership

With new challenges facing healthcare organizations such as the ongoing pandemic, labor shortages, burnout, and a dearth of women in leadership roles, it’s imperative that leaders ask crucial questions that will open conversations that will bring creative solutions. A January article from the Harvard Business Review notes that good leaders ask good questions and acknowledge they don’t have all the answers. This opens the floor for team members to share their ideas. Showing that you don’t have all the answers as a leader actually inspires more trust in your leadership. The author, John Hagel III, cautions leaders needn’t ask questions that put others on the spot, but should generate open-ended queries that lead to healthy discussions. 

Examples we might see in a healthcare setting:

  • Where are vulnerabilities in our service areas? 
  • How can we make you feel more valued in your roles?
  • What can management provide to you that will make your jobs less stressful? 

Use Curiosity to Find Creative Solutions

All these empower members of your organization to share their solutions and establish you as the caring and thoughtful leader you strive to be. Be inquisitive, ask pertinent and open-ended questions, use your curiosity to seek new ways of solving the complex issues facing the healthcare industry.

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