January 15, 2019 7:00:00 AM EST  |  Leadership and Leadership Development

Great Leaders Leverage Teamwork in the Face of Tough Times

Happy 2019! It’s been a while since my last leadership blog post. My first two posts in this series shared a common theme of the influence military (or former military) leaders had on my development:

  1. Sharing Your Passion and Taking Risks as a Leader
  2. Tough Leadership Drives Teams to Succeed

In this post, I made it a point to find leadership inspiration that did not evolve from being in uniform. Enjoy, and I look forward to your comments!

One of my early roles as a management consultant was in the healthcare sector in the mid-1990’s. Even then, the industry was struggling to transform patient care and reimbursement, primarily in the transition of in-patient activities to out-patient care. In the process, healthcare providers were hemorrhaging cash at an alarming rate.

Working Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Top view of people hands drawing business teamwork strategyMy projects consisted of establishing quality and service indicators across various units in the hospital, while performing work studies that tracked units of service. We found most of our clients were able to shed excess capacity and still maintain the same levels of quality and service. That ‘capacity’ equaled employees. It was intense work, since many jobs were on the line in order to keep our hospital clients from having to close their doors.

My first engagement was a four-hospital system in the mid-Atlantic. We had a large team that flew in from across the country every week. The team consisted of clinicians, as well as business- and process-oriented folks like me. It took a particularly strong leader to manage such a project, given the technical nature of the work and varied skill-set of the team.

Leadership in Motion

In this particular case, our leader was Andy Schramm, a mechanical engineer with an MBA and many years of experience in technology, healthcare productivity, and cost controls. But what really made Andy successful was his unyielding focus on teamwork. In what could be highly-contentious work, he never quit on us or the goals of the project. Our clients benefited from his tenacity and ability to get the best out of us.

business hands of teamwork in an office in a meeting roomAndy honed his leadership and teamwork skills from his many years of playing high-level sports, including four years on the Michigan State football team. He was always willing to roll up his sleeves and help one of us out.

He’d typically take a look at our data and say, “alright, what do we got?!” He always spoke in terms of “we,” rather than “you,” subconsciously reinforcing the fact that we had his support and that of the team, and that none of us had to face the challenging work environment and difficult judgement calls on our own.

He was also talented at finding trends in our studies and pointing out patterns to help make more sense of our work. Andy had a disarming sense of humor and an infectious laugh. He was skilled at stepping into intense client meetings and ‘lowering the temperature’ of the room. He would use facts and reason in response to emotion.

Our project outcomes were typically a 3 or 4:1 return on investment for our clients. While we would often save a hospital from having to shut down completely, it could still mean layoffs. Andy would engage with us and help us maintain our morale in the face of this difficult work. I am grateful to have worked for Andy and experienced true teamwork and persistence in the face of a challenging engagement.

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About the Author

Steve Genn, PMP, BCC

Steve Genn, PMP, BCC

Steve leads client delivery and portfolio growth at the Department of Defense (DoD) for Markon. He is accountable for the team’s professional growth and development, client satisfaction, and the portfolio’s success. He has served clients across the DoD, Intelligence Community, federal civilian, and commercial healthcare markets. With a passion for developing the next generation of leaders, Steve co-developed and facilitates Markon’s Leadership Development Program. Prior to Markon, Steve supported clients for PwC, West Hudson/Cardinal Health, and several highly regarded management consulting firms. He received his MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and a BA from Louisiana State University, where he was commissioned through Air Force ROTC. Steve's military career includes service as an active duty Air Force Air Battle Manager, during which he flew missions in Desert Storm. He retired as a Colonel from the Air Force Reserves. Steve currently holds the Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential and is a Board Certified Executive Coach (BCC), as well as a certified Myers-Briggs practitioner.