Employing emotional intelligence to maximize your healthcare leadership potential

Insight Article - June 25, 2020

Professional Development

Performance Management

Leadership Development

Andy Stonehouse MA
At its simplest level, emotional intelligence is about learning to be open to criticism, to make balanced decisions and to enlist the help of others in reaching your potential – no matter how high you might be on the corporate healthcare ladder.  

Laurie Baedke, MHA, FACHE, FACMPE, Director of Healthcare Leadership Programs at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, spoke with MGMA Sr. Editor Daniel Williams on the MGMA Insights podcast about the importance of emotional intelligence as a career-building tool, as well as its value in becoming a better workplace leader. 

Baedke currently oversees the Executive Healthcare MBA program at Creighton and said the many lessons she’s gleaned about self-awareness over the course of her career have made her an advocate for a life-long approach to learning.  

“I’ve always been a student of human behavior, and that’s something that has really fueled where I’ve landed in my career,” she said. “We have such a spectrum of individuals – physicians, receptionists, clinical staff, interdisciplinary teams – that are involved in managing the clinical side, the back-of-house side …but my mind was always drawn to what were the differentiators in a performance perspective. What helped certain individuals to perform at a higher level? What led certain teams, certain organizations to thrive and be high performing versus those that are dysfunctional or toxic?”

The leader within

Baedke said the desire for self-improvement can be a challenge, especially for those who may not feel an immediate connection to their peers. 

“There are so many opportunities to serve and lead,” she said. “(If) you’re feeling called out to lead but you don’t know because you don’t feel like you look like anyone else that you see leading, my call to action to you is to really look internally first and assess what drives you, what motivates you, what work do you feel most called toward.” The next step, Baedke said, is “to really actively network yourself so you can be a student of human behavior and find people who do what you do.”

Recognizing that change is fluid and doesn’t necessarily happen overnight is also a key to growth, she explained.

“I am constantly, over every year and decade of my career, going to need to continue to learn and grow and adapt,” she said. “But the good news is that it is a journey, and I can be better tomorrow and next year and 10 years from now than I was yesterday and a year ago and 10 years ago.”

The self-improvement process

That said, Baedke indicated the path to self-improvement is essentially a three-step process, involving a considerable amount of self-reflection. 

“The first (tip) is to consistently and intentionally nurture growth in the domains of emotional intelligence: Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management,” she said. “Self-awareness is pretty easy. That’s the one that’s very, very commonly seen in our workplaces. But then self-management means I noticed (that self-awareness) and now I’m putting it into motion.

“Number two is to learn to be mindful of your emotions and your emotional reactions to people or situations. We know that our frontal cortex is our CEO of our brain, but we experience life through our limbic system, the base of our brain stem. As much as we would love to make decisions from our frontal lobe and our CEO of our brain, many times we are running on lack of sleep or we are short-staffed this week so we’re in a sprint to the finish line in our strategic planning. If I’m operating from a circumstance of stress or hurriedness or anything else, I can be reacting emotionally or irrationally, when I really need to bring my best self forward.”

Finally, Baedke said, it’s critical for individuals to be open to external feedback – good or bad – as those insights can also steer professionals toward a path of improved emotional intelligence. Even more, she suggested seeking counsel from mentors, trusted colleagues, peers or even an executive coach – “someone who can be that objective, third party who can really help you to unlock and unstick yourself from things that tend to keep you stuck.”

 “I think that’s a very hard and intimidating thing for a lot of us to do,” Baedke continued. “Once we’ve risen to any level of high performance … it’s very hard to acknowledge that we still might have need or room to grow. But the higher we rise, the more visibility others have to the 360-degree view of our personality, of our strengths, of our weaknesses, of our leadership style.” 

It’s literally the thought that counts

And while “mindfulness” has become the pop-psychology term of our times, Baedke said the notion isn’t quite as intangible as it might seem when it comes to practicing consciously thoughtful behavior.

“It is as simple as being very intentional and getting good clarity on what you want and need,” she said. “For some people, it is a matter of just taking a moment or two to close your eyes and take a series of five to 10 deep breaths to just kind of calm the noise in our brain, to focus on that next conversation or phone call that we need to make or that email we need to draft. There will never be an end of the demands for our attention, but if we don’t find ways to intentionally, mindfully focus ourselves and draw boundaries and set priorities, it’s hard to do.”

Learn more about the impact of emotional intelligence in healthcare leadership from Laurie Baedke in this episode of the MGMA Insights podcast


About the Author

Andy Stonehouse MA
Freelance Writer and Educator Colorado

Andy Stonehouse, MA, is a Colorado-based freelance writer and educator. His professional credits include serving as editor of Employee Benefit News and a variety of financial and insurance publications, in addition to work in the recreation and transportation fields.


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