Over the course of the last year, the Executive Staff of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) has engaged in a Leadership Development Program, which has been a critical part of our effort to transform how we function and operate here at the College. This training program was developed in concert with our consultants from GE Healthcare to meet the following objectives:
- Provide Executive Staff with a platform to become champions of the ACS organizational values and serve as role models for the type of behaviors we should come to expect from one another
- Allow Executive Staff to achieve a deeper understanding of how to serve as leaders at the ACS, while remaining both team- and values-focused
- Offer the leaders of the College the tools they need to exceed rising expectations of individual, team, and organizational performance
This Leadership Development Program was an intense learning experience and required a significant time commitment on the part of each executive team member, but I believe that what we have taken away from this experience individually and collectively was well worth the effort.
Six components of the program
The six key pieces of the Leadership Development Program were as follows: leadership personality assessment, emotional intelligence (EI), coaching, conflict resolution, innovation, and continued engagement.
We began the training by looking inward to learn about our individual leadership styles and those of our colleagues and to see whether our behaviors are consistent with the values that we have developed for the organization: Professionalism, Excellence, Innovation, Introspection, and Inclusion. We assessed our work styles and personalities using a DiSC assessment tool, which measures an individual’s tendency toward:
- Dominance: Dominant types take charge of situations, are decisive, and move forward quickly
- Influence: People high on the Influence scale are persuasive and extroverted
- Steadiness: Steady relators seek consensus before acting, are loyal, and value collaboration
- Compliance/conscientiousness: People who fall into this category are cautious and detail-minded
This session provided us with insights into our personality type and interaction style to help us understand how we communicate with others, how we process information and our emotions, and the kind of activities we prefer and how we best complete them.
We then turned our focus to EI, which comprises five components:
- Self-perception, including self-regard, self-actualization, and self-awareness
- Self-expression, including emotional expression, assertiveness, and independence
- Interpersonal skills, such as the ability to form relationships, to feel empathy, and to demonstrate social responsibility
- Decision making, such as problem solving, reality testing, and impulse control
- Stress management, including flexibility, stress tolerance, and optimism
Emphasis was placed on determining where our strengths and weaknesses lie and on implementing an individual development plan (IDP) to improve our awareness of how we can better inspire our teams to deliver their best work every day.
Next, we learned about applying a coaching model to leading teams. Coaching is a style of leadership that focuses on team member development. Under this model, the coach builds a partnership with team members to enhance their effectiveness so that they feel more aligned, resourceful, and optimistic. Effective coaches are good listeners. They are self-aware and able to manage their impulses. They are curious and actively foster their employees’ professional growth.
We then analyzed how we handle and resolve conflict. We used the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI) to explore the range of styles used in managing conflict based on our natural preferences and the demands of the situation. The TKI identifies five modes of dealing with conflict:
We learned to take constructive steps toward resolving conflict, including establishing a suitable time and place to discuss the issue, actively listening to the other party’s perspective, reaching agreement on the root cause of the problem, looking for common ground, brainstorming for alternatives, and committing to action.
Our next session focused on fostering innovation. We learned that four fundamental forces work in different ways to produce innovative solutions:
- Collaboration, which uses human relations to make innovation happen
- Competition, which focuses on the rational pursuit of success, often at the expense of weaker competitors
- Creation, which uses open systems and experimentation to produce new knowledge about products and services
- Control, which uses careful planning, systems, and processes to generate incremental changes
Successful leaders effectively integrate these four approaches to grow the organization in the face of complex demands, aspirations, and practices.
Finally, we tied what we learned at each of these training sessions together. Each participant created a Reflection and Action Poster to promote informal, one-on-one conversations and small-group interactions. After the poster presentations, participants were recognized with a glass plaque for their year-long commitment to the program (see photo), reported on one or two actions they will take to continue on our leadership development journey, and explained what they intend to do to improve as ACS leaders and why.
Expansion to other staff and ACS leaders
All of the Executive Staff believe that this training program has made them better leaders of their teams and have committed to applying their newly acquired skills and knowledge to keep the College moving forward in a positive direction. For this training to truly have a lasting impact, we realize that all staff and ACS volunteers must be inculcated in these techniques. That way, we can harness our collective intelligence, skills, talents, and capabilities to make the College an even more effective organization than it is. Consequently, all staff are now participating in the DiSC and EI training programs, and ACS Regents and Officers participated in a half-day session centered on key aspects of this training in July. I would encourage all of you to learn more about these leadership techniques as well to help grow your institutions and improve patient care.