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Leadership Development in the ASC How to train and mentor your star employees into management roles BY TERRY BOHLKE, CASC

Having served in the US Navy, I cannot help but see many similarities between an ASC administrator and the captain of a ship. Like a

ship captain, the administrator has ulti- mate responsibility for the organiza- tion, which is serving a mission where lives are often at stake. The success of the mission relies on the team and its leadership.

The demands placed on an ASC leader are unlike those in any other health care setting. The risks associated with the work ASCs do are substantial and increasing rapidly. And ASCs, typi- cally, do not have the multiple layers of management and support found in larger health care organizations. While the leaner management structure has helped ASCs be agile and more respon- sive to local market demands, that struc- ture also puts a tremendous responsibil- ity on the ASC leadership team. Many ASC administrators and man- agers are in their first leadership posi- tions. Many started out as staff mem- bers who were very good at their jobs, demonstrated initiative and earned pro- motions, becoming center or department leaders with little or no formal leader- ship training. They are natural leaders, which is why the governing board has entrusted them with great responsibility. This begs the age-old question: Are leaders born or made? Is leadership a natural trait or can leadership skills be taught? The answer is that the key qualities of a leader can be taught and learned through observation, experi- ence and training. Inexperienced lead- ers can learn to be better and good leaders can learn to be great. As a “leader of leaders” it is every ASC administrator’s responsibility to


Discipline Leadership


Leadership styles, leadership rounding, mentoring/ coaching, goal setting, employee empowerment, building commitment, adapting to change, conflict resolution, leading teams, ethics and compliance

Management Communication Human Resources

Time management, conducting effective meetings, going from coworker to boss, delegating, managing your boss

Communicating professionally, assertiveness without ag- gressiveness, negotiating win-win

Recruiting and selecting talent, interviewing techniques, retaining talent/rewards and recognition, setting expectations, giving constructive feedback, performance evaluations, employee discipline, holding people accountable

Business Development Setting organizational goals, marketing, strategic planning Customer Service

Improving patient, physician and employee satisfaction, building a culture of service


Understanding your monthly financial statements, budgeting, financial benchmarking, financial analysis

Is leadership a natural trait or can leadership skills be taught? The simple answer is that the key qualities of a leader can be taught and learned through observation, experience and training.”

— Terry Bohlke, CASC ASCA Board of Directors

do just that. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Administrators who evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the leaders under them can position themselves to seize opportunities and fortify their vulnerabilities.

Skill Building One way for new leaders to enhance their leadership skills is to participate in a formal leadership development pro- gram. ASCs that have implemented

leadership development programs often hold training sessions monthly, bimonthly or quarterly. Some of the courses can be taught by individuals within the center who have experience in the topic. More advanced topics can be covered by outside speakers. These speakers do not have to be costly to hire. Jennifer Butterfield, RN, CASC, cre- ated the Michigan Leadership Institute at Lakes Surgery Center in West Bloom- field, Michigan. The leaders at Lakes meet offsite quarterly to learn about leadership. “We knew there would be too many interruptions if we had it at the sur- gery center,” Butterfield explains. “The managers were very leery about all of the leaders being absent from the center on a surgery day. But it really gave the team leaders a chance to take responsi- bility and develop them as well.” The quarterly program lasts four to

five hours each meeting and has covered the disciplines and topics described in the box above.

The advice and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author’s and do not represent official Ambulatory Surgery Center Association policy or opinion.

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