From First Impressions to Lasting Relationships

How to Become Part of the Team

By: Kathy Stevenson

Senior Project Manager, Kathy Stevenson has been working in healthcare for over 30 years. She has held several healthcare leadership roles ranging from Disaster Resource Manager, House Supervisor, and as the Assistant Manager of the Infant Special Care Unit at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. As Patient Move Coordinator for CHLA’s replacement hospital, she is able to provide perspective as both a client and a consultant. Kathy has worked on more than 20 transition projects which makes her cognizant of the delicate nature of integrating into organizations. Often entering during an already stressful time in an organization, she has relied on some core competencies to ensure that she is able to successfully become a part of the organization’s transition team. Using these competencies, she is able to produce positive project outcomes and enjoy lasting client relationships. Kathy shares her best practices on how to ensure success when beginning an engagement with a new organization.

Do your homework

Know as much as you can before you arrive for the first time. Clients want to know that you know who they are and are ready to work with them.  Coming prepared to your first meeting will make a good impression.  Everyone appreciates when someone they meet remembers something about them; take notes to help you remember names and key things that people discuss-maybe a vacation they are going to take, their children starting school or things that bug them in the workplace.  Keep track of their styles and what helps them stay on track. The next time you see them, call them by name and ask about the things that you remember about them.  Provide reminders and information to let them know that you are there to help. Make it a priority to know who the key people that you will be working with are, the timeline of the work that you will be doing, and any key challenges.  This strategy will allow you to provide relevant samples, templates, and tools for future visits.  As you learn more about their needs, you can anticipate what will help them get to the finish line and create a relationship built on trust and understanding.

Active Listening

“When you talk you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”  Dalai Lama

Take the time to really listen to what the organization wants and needs from you. They hired you because of your knowledge and experience, but with actively listening, you will be better prepared to provide the guidance and help that they need.  As you listen, you will obtain insight into how you can solve the problem together.  A good strategy when listening is to ask for clarification and then summarize what you heard.  Sometimes one or two people will monopolize the conversation, so it is important to provide opportunities for everyone in the room to speak up. This may be the key to getting the information you need! It is important to ensure that what we have heard is what the organization meant to tell us-take time to hear what the organization is saying.  Do not always be so quick to jump in and provide a quick answer. Often there are many complexities to the problem and active listening will help you get to a solution together.

Do what you say and roll up your sleeves

Everyone has had an experience with a consultant that they had great expectations for, who dropped the ball and did not serve their intended purpose.  Know that most clients have this assumption when they meet you-don’t be that consultant.  Be passionate about helping the organization, be excited about solving the issues and helping with the project.  When setting up the work plan, be mindful and clear on expectations, roles, deliverables, and deadlines.  Provide regular status reports and feedback about the work that you are doing. Deliver professional, high-quality work the first time by having someone proofread your work. This will guarantee that your final product it is ready for the executive team to look at and shine.  Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and help with the task that no one wants to do.  Reviewing lists, putting together spreadsheets, pulling research, or helping do final checks of an area, is sometimes just what the client needs to get the ball rolling. Do what you can, elbow to elbow, with the client to help them meet their deadlines.

Integrating into an organization takes practice and a mindful presence.  Think of easy relationships that you have had in the workplace and examine what made them work.  With a little practice, you will be well on your way to working successfully with the organizations that count on you.

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