One of the discussions that comes up frequently when helping our client organizations select leaders for their patient experience (PX) journey is the difference between influence and authority. There is no doubt that whoever fills the PX leadership role must have influence as a change agent regardless of title or rank.
In some organizations, the position can be held by someone who doesn’t have a title or rank that would give him direct authority to hire, fire, or discipline others. It can be held by people who are masterful change agents and passionate about customer service, yet haven’t worked at the bedside. But in other organizations, there is little respect for any leadership that doesn’t carry official rank or clinical experience.
Remember that much of the patient experience journey has to do with culture shifts that compel each person to re-think his or her role, attitudes, and beliefs about service. A key attribute of the PX leader is the ability to collaborate and harness the organization’s energy to the shared goal of improvement. The ability to listen to internal customers and bridge external expectations is vital. (I.e. the ability to collaborate / bridge-build is more important than clinical expertise; the ability to see things from the patient/family perspective doesn’t require a clinical background, but rather a compassionate heart.)
Don’t get me wrong; there are also tactics that must be executed with consistency and accountability, but don’t be fooled into thinking the patient experience leader must be an authority on the work done at the bedside. That’s a different skill set. The bedside expertise is essential at the unit level. Each individual manager and director must be able to set expectations, then coach, mentor, model, and manage for consistency, but this isn’t what is needed at the organizational level in order to achieve success.
What is vital however, regardless of who is appointed to lead your PX effort, is that senior leaders come out loud and clear that the patient experience is a top priority and that the status quo won’t take you where you need to go. The senior leaders will foster greater response when he or she positions the PX leader as a key driver of success, regardless of title.
Remember, it’s not the title as much as it is the ability to influence others and foster change.