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The importance of building trust and respect | Lessons for Leaders


Sonia Millsom, CEO of Oxeon, discusses the importance of setting a vision and building trust within teams.

As the CEO of Oxeon, a company that helps organizations find executives, Sonia Millsom has gained some insights in leadership.

In a recent conversation with Chief Healthcare Executive®, Millsom shared some of her perspective on how leaders can succeed in getting the most out of their teams.

“Leadership all comes down to trust and respect,” Millsom says.

“And the leaders that are the best at setting a vision, but then also building a high degree of trust and respect within their teams, are where I have personally performed the best and where I see others perform the best,” she added. (See part of our conversation with Sonia Millsom. The story continues below.)

Part of building trust is encouraging people to speak their minds, even when they have other ideas or disagree. Leaders build trust, and find new and useful ideas, when they create a climate where team members feel free to share ideas.

“When there are leaders who have very strong points of view, and don't allow for room for others to ideate, or create a diversity of thought and perspective, people don't operate, I think, as well as you possibly can,” Millsom said. “And I think again, today more now than ever, you've got to be able to bring those diverse voices to the table.”

Millsom also talked about the value of basing decisions on the best data available, even if it’s a smaller organization and the data is relatively limited.

“I also think it's so important to use data as you're informing what you're building,” Millsom said. “And I've seen both sides of it. So I’ve been at large, publicly traded companies where data is available, and you can really think about optimization and efficiency. I’ve also been at startups where you're at the piece of paper, and there's not a lot of data available.

“But you've got to at least use what you can to be nimble,” she continued. “And in both scenarios, even if you're making the wrong choices, which inevitably you do, having some point of data, for which you made the choice, just allows everybody to have a clear point of view, and then think about how you think about the future.”

While leaders and health systems are focused on improving and solving problems, Millsom says they must pay attention to perspectives from outside the organization.

“I believe deeply in ‘the outside in,’” Millsom said.

“I think a lot of times, people in organizations get very heads down, they're driving towards what they need to do, and they don't get the time to like look out and A.), get the voice of the customer we talked about from the patient perspective, or from a provider perspective, and then B.), see what's happening externally in the market, and how that influences what you've got to do with your people.”

“And that's not just the role of the CEO,” Millsom added. “It's the role of everybody in the organization, to be constantly monitoring those signals. So you can use that leverage and information to think about how you may have to adapt or change, or go dive deeper into something that you're doing really, really well to be successful.”

(If you’d like to submit your lessons in leadership in healthcare, great advice you’ve received, or insights you wish you had earlier, submit an idea for our “Lessons for Leaders” series. Email Ron Southwick, senior editor of Chief Healthcare Executive: [email protected])

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