When team members are drained, how can you as a physician leader muster up the enthusiasm for them to keep going? The opening scene from The Gladiator comes to mind. Russel Crowe’s character charges on his horse up and down the line of Roman soldiers firing them up for the battle ahead. His energy, determination, and authentic leadership inspire the soldiers to sit taller, stand straighter and gird themselves for what’s ahead.

Through my years as a physician coach, I have found several methods that leaders can use to bring that energizing force to committees. The past two years have been a battleground for healthcare workers. How can you ask exhausted and overwhelmed committee members to launch a new initiative? They need a rallying cry to bring back the energy and passion to their jobs. Leaders can provide that inspiration by being authentic, empathic, and respectful.

Authentic leadership creates an empathic working environment

Many of us, especially women, have been taught that showing vulnerability is a weakness. That’s not actually true as demonstrated by one of my clients. Karen, a CMO in a rural health system, realized that showing authentic leadership and letting people know her fears, hopes, and genuine feelings was the first step to building the emotional connection that drives action. “When things are not going well, it’s vital to show that you are human.” she said.

Leaders can create an empathic working environment by sharing their frustrations and fears with their team. Validate their concerns; listen to their ideas and demonstrate that together you can solve problems with creativity and compassion.

Let members share their priorities

We start most committee meetings with an agenda, usually created by the leader, that guides the time together. While your priorities as leader need to be part of the discussion, give equal weight to the priorities of your committee members. When colleagues are acknowledged and their concerns validated, the relationship becomes dynamic and that is when change happens.

In every group there will be two or three people who are outspoken and ready to speak up about what’s on their mind. There is always someone who is shy. Moderate your meeting so that each person present gets an opportunity to contribute and feel valued for their input.

Take time to interact with the members outside your regular meetings by talking with them in person or by phone. Ask them about why they chose to serve on this committee and what they would like to see accomplished.

Listen with respect and curiosity

Giving committee members the opportunity to share requires leaders doing their part to listen with respect, especially to those whose opinions might be different from your own. Be curious. Ask how or why they arrived at their viewpoint.

Use the contributions from members to evaluate what is reasonable to accomplish collectively and look for alignment with what each individual has energy to accomplish. Building trust among the group involves creating a careful balance between pushing people into areas where they’re uncomfortable while also listening carefully to their concerns and feedback.

Celebrate successes

As you bring the meeting to a close, acknowledge the importance of each person’s contributions in achieving mutual goals. For example, Emily, the board president for a non-profit, told me her board members didn’t feel like they made an important contribution to the mission, because they didn’t serve patients directly. She pointed how their decisions gave staff the guidelines they needed to stay open and how that created an opportunity to serve patients that had no other access to care.

Ask your group members to share something positive from their work or lives and acknowledge that success.

In the first part of this series on raising energy, we explored how to manage your personal energy to be effective and get results. When you bring that energy to your committees, your boards, and your teams, it inspires. Individuals look for leaders who show authentic leadership and can appreciate their vulnerability, understand their fears, and support them through challenges and chaos.

To keep these tips in mind, download my Treasure Chest of Energizing Ideas. I created this checklist as a handy tool as you plan your day and prepare for your next committee meeting. Check out the strategies that seem compelling and try them out.

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