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Shop Talk with Jennifer Thayer of Lakeland Health System

Shop Talk with... Jennifer ThayerJennifer ThayerNot-for-profit Lakeland Regional Health, based in Lakeland, Fla., has been serving its community for more than 100 years and has attained national recognition in the areas of patient safety, innovation, and workplace engagement. It’s also home to the busiest single-site emergency department in the country—in 2017 it handled more than 212,000 patient visits. But Lakeland Regional Health is not an organization content to rest on its laurels. Today, it’s actively working to be known as the friendliest health system in the country.

In this conversation, Jennifer Thayer, Director of Learning and Organizational Development, discusses how Lakeland Regional Health is using blended learning to develop its leaders to help the system become the most customer experience-centric provider in the region.

How did Lakeland recognize the need to develop its leaders?

Lakeland Regional Health’s strategic plan, Vision 2020, places a special emphasis on hospitality and the patient and family experience. To help us identify human capital obstacles that hinder our service experience, our executive team invited the senior leadership team to brainstorming sessions. These senior leaders held focus groups and think tanks and identified where they saw the greatest need, which was determined to be developing coaching skills in our frontline leaders. 

We recognize the impact our frontline leaders have on team member engagement, and the influence they have on promoting an exceptional patient experience. Effective leaders provide a supportive environment that promotes safety, quality, and ensures the staff have a voice. They promote development and encourage innovation. Our learning objective was to provide leaders with tools, resources, and guidelines for how they can effectively communicate with their team members in a positive, growth-promoting manner.  

How did you approach developing your leaders’ coaching skills?

We knew we needed to connect the learning with Lakeland Regional Health’s Promise statements: to treasure all people as uniquely created; to nurture, educate and guide with integrity; and to inspire each and every one of us to do our very best. DDI’s Key Principles are well aligned with our Promise statements, so partnering with DDI was a natural fit. Also, emphasizing DDI’s proactive coaching techniques aligned directly with our learning objectives. 

The courses we chose [from DDI’s Interaction Management® leadership development system] help leaders prepare for all aspects of coaching, from setting someone up for success on a new assignment to dealing positively with chronic performance issues. We also knew that to fully live our three Promises, we couldn’t just offer our leaders a course and be done. A true blended learning approach was needed to ensure success.

Our blended learning approach to developing coaching skills in our leaders takes place over three sessions. 

The first session is all about the “what.” It’s an in-person, one-hour introduction to the learning that is facilitated by our CHRO. We lead a robust discussion on what coaching is and isn’t, and how improving coaching skills can help Lakeland Regional Health improve its overall service experience. We dive deep into the WIIFM—the “what’s in it for me.” 

The second session is the “how.” Leaders complete the web-based version of the DDI’s course, Coaching for Peak Performance, on their own time. They must complete the course’s mastery check and bring their results to the third session. 

The third session is a one-and-a-half-hour, in-person skill practice that I lead with a partner. We make sure that this session cements the learning, but also includes a healthy dose of fun. 

Why did blended learning appeal to your team?

We knew that we couldn’t take a group of 20 people off the floor for a whole day or even half a day, but we could have them participate in multiple, shorter sessions. We thought it was vital to follow up the online training with the in-person skill practice to make sure that the learning stuck. The skill practice teaches the leaders how to integrate the coaching skills into their daily routines. By applying the learning, the leaders see the value of the course and their new skills. 

Additionally, we wanted leaders to practice these skills in a safe environment where they can gain valuable feedback about their style, approach, and mannerism. This approach affords participants the opportunity to practice their learning by receiving peer feedback, as we believe the concept of “use it or lose it” applies to soft skills as well as the more traditional hard/technical skills.   

How did you get everyone engaged in the program?

One thing we did was make it mandatory for people to bring proof of completion of the web-based training to the skill practice. This resulted in a 98 percent completion rate for both courses that we offered.

Commitment to developing our staff at Lakeland Regional Health starts at the top. Our leadership institute was driven by an executive-level steering committee who has wholeheartedly supported this blended version of developing coaching skills.

Our HR team works hard to get our leaders onboard with the training. First, we’ve been persistent with our communications, making sure that we are connecting the training with our Promises. Second, we’ve worked to inspire “word of mouth” promotion by making the training feel both relevant and fun. Finally, we’ve emphasized the WIIFM, acknowledging that leaders’ success is dependent on their team’s success, and that building their coaching skills can help get them there. 

Is there anything else you would say that has been impactful in developing your leaders’ coaching skills?

I remind our leaders that one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch. A team member’s performance issue becomes your performance issue. This is not to be taken lightly. It’s a big responsibility. 

I also tell our leaders not to underestimate the dynamics of human behavior. No one is perfect. It takes time and patience. You must believe people can improve. We’ve heard from our leaders that the training is helpful, valuable, and applicable to their jobs. 

One leader who’s been with Lakeland for 18 years shared that this is the best training she’s ever attended. And when you work in healthcare, you’ve been to a lot of training. We were understandably proud of such high praise, and more proud that our training programs are making a difference for the patients and families we serve.

Learn more about DDI’s healthcare practice and our solutions across the continuum of care.


Talk to an Expert: Shop Talk with Jennifer Thayer of Lakeland Health System
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