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    Effective decision-making, better strategic planning, better team cohesion and employee retention — the list of outcomes from investing in leadership development in medical group practices is long and varied, and just about everyone agrees that it’s necessary to succeed in a rapidly evolving industry such as healthcare. 

    But the questions of how much is invested and which specific mechanisms are needed to build a new generation of healthcare leaders have never produced one-size-fits-all answers, as discovered in a July 25, 2023, MGMA Stat poll. 

    Our most recent poll asked medical group practice leaders how they provide leadership development within their organizations: 

    • The majority (38%) said they use CEU allowances or tuition help
    • Another 32% said they use an in-house program dedicated to leadership. 
    • Another 9% said they use consulting services to help develop leaders in their organization. 
    • More than one in five (21%) responded “other,” of which most of the responses were “all of the above” or a combination of multiple answer options. 

    The poll had 337 applicable responses. These findings come after a May 30, 2023, MGMA Stat poll found that most medical group leaders (42%) point to leadership as the top area to focus on developing their managers in 2023, nearly outpacing the next two areas — operations (24%) and finance (20%) — combined. Leadership development also has been a strong focus on the physician side. As noted in an October 2022 MGMA Connection feature on physician leadership education:  

    Hospitals, medical schools, and physician practices, even within the same organization, commonly operate with three separate leadership structures, incentives and goals. This lack of integration results in a structural imbalance and fragmentation that holds back advancement in the healthcare system. Given these growing complexities, it is imperative that physicians have access to resources that will prepare them to successfully lead these systems. 

    What leadership development efforts look like today 

    CEU allowances and tuition aid/reimbursement for leadership development purposes stood out as the top answer and was also the most frequently cited component of a broader range of strategies from those who answered, “other.”  

    But when it comes to how medical practices are approaching this method of giving employees a path to professional development, the majority (71%) did not make changes to the amount of CEU allowances offered in the past year, nor did they expand the offerings to employees who might not have been previously eligible in the past. However, 23% of respondents did increase the organization’s investment toward CEU allowances in 2023 or expand who could take advantage of them. 

    Of particular concern in the CEU/tuition area for healthcare organization human resource leaders is making sure that those eligible are taking advantage of those benefits. Some practice leaders told MGMA that they saw a slight decrease in participation this past year, which could be due to managers, directors and others feeling the strain of staffing shortages and spending more time recruiting, interviewing candidates and taking on new duties to cover for positions left open due to turnover or attrition. One practice leader said in the past year it’s been important to specifically focus on existing managers to make time for leadership development, despite those challenges, to free up directors and other top leaders in the organization to focus more on high-level strategy and “work to their full scope.” 

    Another area of opportunity are the comments from many practice leaders who responded to the poll that they have an array of informal plans or programs to make learning opportunities available but not necessarily structured or aligned specifically with organizational mission or goals in mind. 

    Thinking forward on leadership education 

    • Registration is open for the 2023 Leaders Conference, Hosted by MGMA | Powered by You, Oct. 22-25 in Nashville.  

    Creating a leadership development institute 

    The July 2023 issue of MGMA Connection magazine recently detailed a presentation by leadership coach Susan Aloi, PhD, FACMPE, interim assistant program director and professor for the Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc) Population Health program at Thomas Jefferson University, and the state of leadership development within medical groups. 

    “In all of my research over the past 24 months,” Aloi noted, “I found that 80% of health systems believed … the investment in leadership development is a strategic imperative, [yet] only 20% of them actually invest in leadership development.” 

    Aloi pointed to five common barriers cited by healthcare organization leaders for not investing in leadership development:  

    1. The lack of financial and staff resources stands out as a primary deterrent, preventing many organizations from committing to leadership development. Concerns about expenses and resource limitations hinder the creation of the necessary infrastructure for these programs. 
    2. Short-term focus emerges as another roadblock, as organizations prioritize immediate results over long-term development. The pressure to meet financial targets often overshadows the importance of building a strong leadership team capable of navigating future challenges. This short-sighted approach may hamper growth and hinder organizations from achieving their full potential. 
    3. A lack of understanding also plagues some organizations, as they fail to grasp the critical nature of developing leaders. Perceiving it as an unnecessary expense rather than a vital investment, they overlook the long-term benefits such development programs offer. 
    4. Resistance to change further exacerbates the situation, with leaders hesitant to invest in developing new leaders who may challenge their authority and disrupt the status quo. 
    5. Lack of time to develop their leaders. Building effective leaders is a time-consuming process that demands careful attention and investment. However, the reluctance to commit these resources hampers the growth and potential of leaders and the organization. 

    MGMA members can read the full article to discover how Aloi worked with Munson Physician Network to identify 37 managers across seven departments and place them in a new leadership development institute, consisting of leader assessments, MGMA knowledge assessments, leadership development plans, group coaching, one-on-one leadership success coaching and more. 

    Each of the 37 practice managers in the Munson institute had individual development plans based on strengths they identified and development opportunities, with goals for each of those areas and specific action plans. “We made sure these action plans and focus areas aligned with strategic goals, so that we weren’t creating more work for the individuals in the organization,” Aloi said. 

    Most of the time, the competencies needed for development “align strongly with the values of the organization,” Aloi said, who recommended integrating MGMA knowledge assessments based on the six domains of the Body of Kowledge for Medical Practice Management to inform those competency models. 

    Learn more at the 2023 Leaders Conference 

    • Susan Aloi will join Kristin Baird, MHA, BSN, MHA, president/CEO of Baird Group, in co-presenting “Leadership Reimagined — Tomorrow’s Success Starts Today,” on Monday, Oct. 23, during the 2023 Leaders Conference in Nashville. Click here to see the conference’s full schedule, or click here to view registration options. 
    • Hear more from Kristin Baird during her recent MGMA podcast episode, “The Power of the First Phone Call.” 
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