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Interpersonal efficiency: A method to increase our leadership effectiveness

Podcast - June 12, 2019

Professional Development

Performance Management

Leadership Development

Physician leaders are tasked with significant responsibilities to ensure their practice is poised to thrive and grow, which can sometimes lead to tension or being overwhelmed.

Carrie Koh, MSHA, MBA, chief executive officer and founder of Carrie Koh Consulting, spoke with MGMA senior editor Daniel Williams, MBA, MSEM, about leadership communication, interpersonal efficiency and what healthcare leaders can do to reach their potential.

Koh’s journey

Koh started her health career at Mayo Clinic as an administrative fellow, where she stayed for several years working on the operational side before moving on to the for-profit side of healthcare, where she worked her way up to the vice president of business development at a hospital.

Koh was then “forced to pivot in life” when her son was diagnosed with a rare muscle disease and passed away at seven and a half months. This tragic event was the catalyst to Koh launching her own business because she felt she “wouldn’t be the same administrator” and no longer had the tolerance for the work she did before. Koh decided she would create her own business and consulting with “interpersonal efficiency," leadership coaching, focused on physician leaders and physician groups.

As she has grown as an entrepreneur, Koh has learned how to balance her aspirations as a leader and how to be successful while avoiding burnout and focusing on what is most important in her personal life and career.

When talking about her own leadership style, Koh highlighted two words: "ownership and choice." Koh stated she had to take ownership of what she wanted and “make choices that were aligned with” those ideas. Additionally, she encouraged practice leaders to think about how they can take ownership of what they want: “How can I choose to take action that’s going to be aligned with what I want?”  

Leadership communication

For leaders to be successful, Koh suggests that they teach “people how to think about things in a new way, so that we can all come together using our strengths, and get more of what we want, get more outcomes that the patients need.” Additionally, Koh tries to look at “successful, high-performing leaders and ask the question, what do they do differently?”

One problem that can occur is when employees become disengaged. Koh said it'simportant to make sure employees aren’t just “coming to work, doing their job and leaving.” As a leader, it's important to focus on the “interaction between individuals” because “that’s the game changer.” There are ways that leaders can influence their teams and empower them to learn more about their strengths. If a leader knows everyone’s strengths they can mitigate problems, and even anticipate them before they happen. By eliminating these problems, it allows the leader and their team to hone their skills and help them reach their potential.

Koh also has worked on studying disconnects in communication, specifically in the healthcare world. She stated that “those of us in healthcare function, naturally, at a high level of stress” and when people are stressed they are not working at their highest level and there is “a lot of reactionary behavior in our communication.” Therefore, it is important that healthcare professionals are “listening to get our mind changed.” If someone is listening to get their mind changed then they don’t have time to think about a response, instead they will inquire about the idea, and the other person will feel understood. This will then create an environment for reciprocation and, in the end, the hope is everyone gets what they want.

Interpersonal efficiency

Koh has created a four-step process, called interpersonal efficiency, that she believes “is the foundational skill set and mindset for being an effective leader.” These four steps can help someone know learn what is most important in themself as a leader.

Koh said the four steps are:
  1. Creating clarity in yourself and your mission
  2. Actionable self-awareness
  3. Positive influence
  4. High-value action
So much of Koh's philosophy turns back to self-awareness and being able to ask yourself the questions, "What do I want? Why do I want it? What's holding me back from achieving those goals? And, how do I continue to influence myself so I can then influence others?"

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