In today’s complex and constantly changing health care landscape, it is more important than ever for CEOs to be engaged with and visible to their employees, patients and community. In my former role as the head of marketing at a rural health care system in the Midwest, change and crisis was part of the landscape. COVID-19, poverty, food scarcity and general health disparities made the collective opinion regarding quality of life synonymous with the community’s view of the sole health care provider in the area. The health system acted as a touchstone and a champion for wellness, and the CEO was viewed as a carrier of the torch. (If wellness was a flame, the CEO was viewed as a carrier of the torch.)
During my time in this health system at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I would make public appearances in media and at community events where a leader’s presence had been requested. Sure, my role was to be the health system’s official spokesperson, but given the precarious and uncertain nature of that time during the pandemic, I truly knew how much these folks needed to see the CEO to make that contact.
When CEOs are visible, they build trust and confidence. Employees, patients and members of the community want to know that the person at the helm is invested in the organization’s success and accessibility, and is committed to serving their needs. Much like hearing the voice of your pilot on a commercial flight, that moment of knowingness builds trust and familiarity with the person directing your wellness.
The public’s relationship with a CEO is largely parasocial. Much like a relationship with a celebrity or professional athlete, the relationship is one-sided and requires a higher level of transparency from the side of the visible person. Moments of face-to-face connection is desirable but often infrequent given the urgency and preoccupied nature of the role. This, from an emotional and psychological perspective, is exhausting, but the alternative consequences can cost the organization dearly.
I can speak directly to the impact of an unavailable or invisible CEO on an organization. This elusiveness breeds mistrust in the organization as a whole and ultimately even in the quality of care received by patients. The internal culture of a health system led by an elusive CEO struggles to find health and will never be cohesive without the strong direction of a leader at the top, particularly during times of staffing issues and pandemic uncertainty. It might be easy to overlook these “softer” duties of the job, but they are nothing short of imperative for the organization’s long-term success.
So, what are simple, applicable ways health care system CEOs increase their engagement and visibility? Here are a few tips:
- Make regular appearances in the community. Attend community events, give speeches, and meet with local leaders.
- Be active on social media. Share news about the organization, its successes, and its commitment to the community.
- Write op-eds and articles for local publications. Use platforms to become a thought leader and share perspectives on important health care issues.
- Host town hall meetings, office hours and listening sessions. Give employees, patients and the community a chance to ask questions and share feedback.
- Be visible in the workplace. Walk the halls, visit departments, and talk to employees.
In today’s complex and constantly changing health care landscape, it is more important than ever for CEOs to be engaged with and visible to their employees, patients and community.
Need help? Contact us! We can help you develop and implement a CEO visibility strategy that will:
- Increase trust and confidence among your stakeholders
- Build a strong internal culture
- Position you as a thought leader in the health care industry
- Ultimately improve the quality of care your organization provides