An organization that has a leader focused on striving for excellence is capable of obtaining any goal, said Paul Oâ€™Neill, former U.S. Secretary of Treasury and former CEO of ALCOA, to an audience Thursday at a Maine Health Management Coalition conference in Portland, Maine.
â€śIn an organization with a real leader everything is possible, and without real leadership, the status quo is probably inevitable,â€ť said Oâ€™Neill.
Oâ€™Neil laid out a three-part strategy for successful leadership:
- Articulate aspirational goals. According to Oâ€™Neill, it is incumbent upon an organizationâ€™s leader to set the bar high and inspire employees to strive to reach it. â€śIf the leader does not establish and articulate aggressive, unheard of aspirational goals for an institution, there is no one else do to it,â€ť he said.
- Take away all the reasons why â€śwe canâ€™t do it.â€ť A leader must eliminate the excuses an organizationâ€™s staff uses to prevent change and improvements. â€śIf a leader doesnâ€™t take them away, they will be there and the status quo will maintain itself,â€ť he said.
- Create a culture that provides the possibility of an organization to become habitually excellent. â€śThat means always, not occasionally, not in part of the institution, but an institutional characteristic of habitual excellence,â€ť said O'Neill.
In order for an organization to achieve excellence, Oâ€™Neill believes employees need to feel that they are treated with respect by everyone regardless of race, nationality, gender, title, pay grade or level of education.
â€śI have to tell you, there are not a lot of organizations where (this) is true,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s very unusual to find a healthcare institution where the people who clean the rooms are afforded the same dignity and respect as the surgeon.â€ť
Leaders should also focus less on the bottom line and more on organizational health, said Oâ€™Neill.
â€śI know about the financial imperative, but if you are really good at everything you do, finance will take care of itself,â€ť he said. â€śI believe finance should be a consequence, not an objective.â€ť
Better leadership in healthcare would result in improved population health and substantial cost savings, Oâ€™Neill noted, as he implored the audience to strive for excellence.
â€śI urge you to set your sights on perfect. To get your leaders to set inspirational and aspirational goals,â€ť he concluded. â€śWe could save $1 trillion a year and vastly improve outcomes if we did everything in a culture of habitual excellence.â€ť