July 25, 2017

Open Door Leadership in Remote Settings


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second installment in a three-part series by Sarah Laird on the issues and solutions associated with coder burnout. 

Remote work settings can constitute an adjustment for anyone, whether a team member or leader. The remote work setting typically provides flexibility in work hours, eliminates stressful commutes, and increases productivity. It also highlights the need for communication in order to stay engaged with team members.

In this article, we will be focusing on the communication efforts that were necessary to create open-door leadership in remote settings we have implemented at Novant Health.

It is important to first gauge your remote team members’ expectations about communication. The term “communication” can be vague, and each team member has his or her own perspective on what constitutes effective communication. While these expectations can vary, being aware of them allows you to build a communication plan that meets everyone where they are. Our planning efforts are further supported by the values of Novant Health that allow us to include the following elements:

  • Diversity and inclusion, which are needed to build a strong team by listening and including feedback from all involved, since it is our diversity that strengthens our problem-solving abilities.
  • Compassion, which allows us to ask a question and then listen in order to achieve understanding.
  • Courage, which is needed to try something new and required in order to get comfortable with the sometimes uncomfortable topics we are sometimes required to address.

Once you have developed a communication plan that addresses the individual needs of your team, how are you going to gauge success? You could consider a Survey Monkey quiz that allows for anonymous feedback; you’ll want to take action on the feedback provided before asking your team to take another survey. Phone calls with team members and their direct leadership team members also allows for open and inclusive conversations. These should involve all levels of leadership within your department, which can help create additional transparency into the topic and ultimately allow all to work on building the necessary elements of trust within the team. This also provides an opportunity to demonstrate listening for understanding, which fosters compassionate communication.

Lastly, emails can help ensure that day-to-day work is connected to the big picture of goals, projects, and the creation of an avenue for feedback, questions, or comments. Your communication plan can include a variety of other options and should be unique to your individual team members and their expectations.

When team members have a consistent way to bring forward concerns without the fear of repercussion, it helps build up courage. When leaders can listen for understanding instead of listening for responding, it helps build compassion for their team.

When we use our diversity and inclusion for problem-solving and strategic planning, it helps build a high-performing, change-ready, and resilient atmosphere required to excel in business. When leaders use transparent and compassionate communication in every setting, it helps build the trust necessary to have an open-door leadership style while working in a remote setting.
Sarah Laird, RHIA, CCS

Sarah Laird has more than 10 years of experience in health information management (HIM), within revenue cycle services at Novant Health. Prior to joining Novant Health in 2011, Sarah worked at Cone Health. While at Cone Health, Sarah helped increase efficiencies for paper workflows in medical records departments, trained on appropriate charging/coding for chemotherapy, and was the company’s first RAC Coordinator. Sarah was responsible for the development of the RAC program and managed all RAC activities at Cone Health.  Since joining Novant Health, Sarah has participated in several key initiatives for the system, including developed a remote coding environment, transitioned from a decentralized coding structure into a corporate department for the coding team, increased coding accuracy, developed a Coding Career Ladder, created a Coding Academy to help onboard new coding graduates into successful coders at Novant Health.

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