HealthSearch Partners Logo

Building A Fearless Leadership Team: A 5 Step Strategy for Embracing Change

By Neill Marshall, Board Chairman, HealthSearch Partners


Too often, healthcare leadership teams are resistant to change or accepting of it in words only. For a system to remain effective and continually improve the level of care it provides, it must embrace change — even seek it.

Establishing a leadership team that will embrace change is no easy task. Still, there are several ways leaders can build a culture that embraces the unfamiliar in the name of improved patient safety, care, and quality.

  1. Bring in leaders who communicate, collaborate and commit. Choosing the right people is one of the most important parts of establishing a team that seeks change. When it’s time to bring in a new leader, it’s crucial to determine whether he or she has the qualities necessary to push the organization forward. That person must be willing to communicate well not only the ‘what’ of the change but the ‘why’ behind it. A new leader must collaborate, encourage collaboration between others, and commit to following through on change, modeling adaptability and patience. Humility — listening to others and being aware there may be better solutions available — is also an essential quality for leadership, as is a willingness to take risks. Leaders should hold themselves as accountable as they hold others.
  2. Encourage — even reward — creativity. It’s tempting to get stuck in the mindset of your own field of study, but when we take a moment to step back and look at the big picture, we can discover new ways of doing things that make our organization even better. For example, Dr. David Feinberg considered the successes of other companies, like Ritz-Carlton’s hiring program or Starbucks’ customer service, when he was looking for ways to improve Geisinger Health, which led to a radical pilot program that gave patients partial refunds when they are unsatisfied with their service. Thinking creatively and being unafraid to step outside the norm can generate excitement, helping leaders see the value of change. Encouraging leaders to ask themselves, “Did we do anything creative today?” can be a great way to stimulate innovation and creative problem-solving.
  3. Establish new markers of success. Fully committing to a value-based model dedicated to patient quality means leadership teams may need to shift how they measure success. It can no longer be judged by the number of ER visits or surgeries — it may be the inverse of these things as we move from “sick care” to wellness and prevention. “To determine progress, consider the size of the population managed or even the percentage of unnecessary ER visits decreased — markers that indicate your system is increasing overall wellness in the community,” says Laura Conley, Senior Vice President and COO of HealthSearch Partners.
  4. Plan/Do/Study/Adjust.Consider adopting this model when it comes to implementing change. When this is the standard — as opposed to “Plan/Do,” or worse, just “Do” — leadership and staff understand that just because an attempt fails or is not as effective as planned doesn’t mean the change is off the table entirely. It simply means the outcomes must be studied, and the strategy must adjust. This also creates a culture of continual improvement, which takes some of the fear out of future changes.
  5. Keep the ultimate goals in mind. Be clear about the organization’s ultimate goals, mission, and values, and then keep those in mind when making decisions. For example, a merger or acquisition may seem like a good idea financially (and it may be) but be sure to consider whether or not it helps achieve ultimate goals like excellent patient care and affordability before moving forward. Inversely, a financially risky decision may not make sense in the short-term but may ultimately improve patient safety or care in the long run. “Making sure your leadership knows what the end goals and mission of your organization are and identifying leaders who are passionate about the same things will help them embrace change — even if it is uncomfortable or challenging at first,” adds Ivan Bartolome, Chief Executive Officer of HealthSearch Partners.

By following these five steps, you can cultivate a leadership team that accepts change and pursues it, committed to giving patients the best experience possible.

HealthSearch Partners engages with healthcare organizations to bring them fearless leaders who will be key members of the executive leadership team. To learn more, contact Neill Marshall, chairman,

Neill Marshall is an executive search veteran with more than 30 years of experience. He has been involved in more than 600 senior-level assignments. In 2017 Neill co-founded and currently serves as Board Chair of HealthSearch Partners (HSP). Prior to founding HSP he held leaderships roles with several major executive search firms including Witt/Kieffer in Dallas.