Productivity is the clarion call of most organizations, and healthcare is no exception. When productivity is low or inconsistent, typically the tendency is to focus on the people, not the problem, and search fervently for whom to blame. What is most often not seen or valued are the conversations that were not held, or not held well, that led to this lack of productivity. The team, in the case study below, is no exception.


In this organization, the challenge originated with the leader and her communication style. Though she was perceived by her staff as being skilled and caring, her style of communicating was blunt, directive, and at times, overly aggressive. Consequently, she alienated key stakeholders in the organization, and intimidated her staff. This intimidation resulted in her not receiving timely, complete, and accurate information, as well as, avoidance of discussions around potential and real problems from her staff.

The Solution

Hand & Associates began working within the organization by first providing Executive Coaching for the leader. From her coaching discoveries, it was mutually decided to conduct 360 interviews with her staff and key stakeholders to get more specific input and behavioral examples of the perceptions of this leader’s communication style and her impact, both positive and negative.

Strategic Response

After the 360 interviews were completed and debriefed with the leader, an action plan was designed and implemented. This plan included (but was not limited to):

  • Two half-day training classes were created for the entire department leadership team on:“How Effective Communication Creates Results.” The leader attended these classes as a participant and role model for the desired behavior moving forward. The content of the class included dialogue skills, discussing the undiscussable, and how to think/act “above the line” when it comes to holding oneself and one’s team members accountable.
  • Following the classes, six follow-up coaching sessions were completed with three of the most senior leaders. This coaching centered on specific issues and challenges related to the content of the classes and their workplace dynamics. As part of this coaching, these senior leadership team members were assisted in developing their skills in candidly and effectively working with their boss’s sometimes “intimidating,” though improving, leadership style.

The Results

The ROI of this intervention was that team members began taking more risks with each other and with their boss to both approach conflict situations and hold the type of open, honest, candid conversations that led to timely and effective resolution of problems. The tone of the dialogue became focused on the problems, not on “blame” and consequently, there was greater buy-in and more timely resolutions of issues. Morale improved as measured by self-reports, and subsequent check-in on the leader’s communication pattern, reflected a definite improvement in style and effectiveness.