St. Luke Hospitals orchestrate success Featured

7:00pm EDT February 24, 2008

As a leader, you have to

maintain a delicate balance when it comes to communication, says Nancy Kremer.

While you want everyone in

your company on the same

page, working toward the same

goals and embracing the same

core values, you also want each

of them to think freely, challenge assumptions and bring

new ideas to the table.

According to Kremer — head of St. Luke Hospitals, a member

of The Health Alliance, a health

care system with an estimated

$71.2 million in annual revenue,

according to —

managing a business is lot like

conducting an orchestra. Even if

you have the most talented

musicians, if they don’t know

how to play their parts, the

music won’t sound right. As

with a conductor standing

before his ensemble, a good

business leader must always

show the way to harmony.

Smart Business spoke with

Kremer about why communication from the top is so important.

Seek different perspectives. While

you want everyone focused in

the same direction, you also

want enough differences so

that you’re never at fault for

things like groupthink.

You want to have differences

of opinion, challenging directions so that you are really

ensuring that your goals are the

appropriate goals. A mentor of

mine in the past said, ‘Health

care is much like an orchestra;

regardless of the section of

instrument that you play, everyone needs to be playing the

instruments correctly for the

symphony to sound correct.’

The same is true here — where

everyone needs to be contributing from a quality point of view.

Another part when you’re talking about issues of goals and

objectives is also to recognize

that goals and objectives are

best identified and observed

when they are shared.

Communicate through different

avenues. You have to commit to

a very thorough communication structure and make sure

everyone in the organization,

regardless of what they contribute to that communication

process, has access to that

information. It’s committing to

an effective process.

People need a variety of venues to obtain information. Some

people interpret better from

written communication, others

from face-to-face, and it requires

really sending our information

in a variety of different ways.

We’ll try to offer it in multiple

different forums, be it in groups

as well as written. We also try to

consider timing as well as different written formats.

When you are dealing with a

change in strategy, with significant change in the organization,

it requires face-to-face, along with many other platforms of

communication. It depends on

the type of information and the

relevance to the reader. Some

information is very targeted and

some is very broad. It depends

on the audience.

We like to do face-to-face

when we’re talking about new

service development, when

we’re talking about any HR

issues that might affect individuals directly. We also like to do

face-to-face just for an interactive opportunity to ask questions and give progress reports.

You don’t always have the

opportunity to stick to the

schedule you started in the

morning, and you have to make

a decision to alter the events of the day. That is true with communication — where you need

to make decisions to contact

someone, meet with someone or

with a group if there are issues

or concerns that are raised.

It’s really that communication

is the most important process

that occurs in an organization,

and you have to make time to

do it correctly. Communication

is always something you can

improve upon. You’re never

getting it just right.

Seek feedback on your communication. If you’re not reaching

people, you’re wasting your

time. If you’re not reaching

people, they don’t have the

information to perform correctly or interpret correctly.

Information is two ways, so

the information from the associates to the administrative staff is very key to make sure

our function is suited to what it

needs to be. I look at our position as that we’re here to support the real work that is done

out there. If we are not connecting with communication,

we are likely not performing

the way we need to.

We seek feedback through a

variety of things. One, by just

asking associates, asking the

patients, asking physicians,

either through formal surveys,

one-on-one or in meetings, talking about what is working and

not working. We have done surveys that are very specific as to

whether someone likes this type

of communication better than

that type. People are always willing to share that with you.

Then it’s important that the

organization responds to that.

Know how others see you. If

you’re a leader with passion, I

think it shows. And it’s a very

basic characteristic to be seen

as someone who presents consistent candor, someone who is

right out there with information

and is out there to share information with your people.

It has to be a part of your

style, a desire to make your

employees realize that you are

about building trust and consistency. It’s about all of those

things, and it’s a lot about

appreciation of others and their

contributions to the organization. No one accomplishes

much by themselves. That’s

why we have a constant team

effort in this organization.

HOW TO REACH: St. Luke Hospitals, (859) 572-3100 [east], (859) 212-5200 [west] or