3 Questions to Help You Avoid Leadership Blind Spots

Healthcare organization leader talking to two employees about better engaging with employees

Sometimes despite our best intentions and effort, there is a disconnect with the outcome. Too often, I encounter leadership teams shocked or surprised to find out information that they wish they had known ahead of time. These instances share commonalities:

  • Finding out after a negative safety event or near miss that a team member knew there was a problem but was afraid to speak up
  • Learning that a direct report was frustrated with their working relationship and decided to accept a position with another organization
  • Seeing negative employee engagement survey results and comments that did not fit how the leader perceived his/her relationship with their team
  • Learning that new employees felt unwelcome in their department and resigned within the first 90 days to one year but gave a “safe” excuse for leaving instead of the “real” reason

We have all encountered varying degrees of these challenges as leaders. There is an adage that “there is no shortage of feedback we receive as a leader,” yet sometimes the feedback we receive either covers up critical information or fails to address the most important aspects of giving employees a voice to their supervisor.

Finding Blind Spots

We call these leadership blind spots. Just as failing to pay attention to our car’s blind spot can result in a bad outcome, leadership blind spots can carry weighty consequences. Taking that extra glance as a leader can have a big pay off and save avoidable mistakes.

How can we get there? As leaders, we need to aspire to create not only the healthiest team dynamics but also trusting relationships with our employees. Ultimately, our team can help us uncover a lot to make the best decisions. Emerging research demonstrates that leadership vulnerability and cultures of psychological safety are among the top determinants of high performance. Yet, before we can ever ask employees to trust us, feel safe speaking up, or give feedback when a voice is needed, we need to open up ourselves to feedback.

The 3 Most Important Questions You Need to Ask

In The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle outlines three questions I am convinced every leader in healthcare (or any industry) for that matter needs to begin asking their employees and direct reports immediately:

  1. What is one thing I currently do that you would like for me to continue to do?
  2. What is one thing I don’t currently do frequently enough that you would like me to do more often?
  3. What can I do to help you be more effective?

When a leader asks questions such as these, it allows employees to have a safe environment to give candid feedback. It is so important, no matter how difficult to hear the feedback, that you always embrace the messenger and accept the feedback with appreciation.

By integrating these questions into your one on ones, employee rounding, and performance conversations, you will receive the gift of learning about and strengthening your leadership attributes—a gift any of us should be excited to unwrap.

About the Author

Katie Owens Headshot

Katie Owens - Senior Vice President, PRC Excellence Accelerator®

Katie joined PRC’s leadership team in 2018, helping to create the PRC Excellence Accelerator® Division to equip our clients with proven paths to improving employee, physician, and patient engagement. Katie believes the healthcare experience matters for every individual: patients, caregivers, and providers. She has worked both on the front lines of healthcare and in senior leadership roles. Now, she is taking bold steps to assure every organization has access to resources to achieve results. Currently serving as its senior leader, she co-founded the Healthcare Experience Foundation—created with the ambition for every person to receive and deliver the best possible care. She has worked with hundreds of organizations and thousands of leaders to equip their cultures and instill competencies that achieve breakthrough performance with quality, safety, patient experience, and workforce engagement. She is lead author of the HCAHPS Imperative for Patient-Centered Excellence and frequently authors in respected industry publications.