ELM: An Effective Growth Tool for All Leaders


Russell CainBy Russell L. Cain, CRA 

December 2013—I had been following the ELM program with interest since its inception and had reached the conclusion that it would be excellent for those who were looking to move up the career ladder into the executive suite, and for those early in their careers who were looking to attain knowledge to complement an advanced degree and develop a network of like-minded individuals.  I thought that there would be little for a seasoned, experienced radiology leader who also had eclectic leadership experience in other areas, including the executive suite, and who had no desire to move “up the ladder” and away from clinical management.  But for some reason, announcements and conversations about the program continued to intrigue me. The opportunity presented itself to attend the program beginning at the 2013 Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, and curiosity compelled me to apply.  During the preliminary discussions, attendees were asked to provide some information and to prepare a presentation outlining our goals and objectives for the program.

The first session was enlightening.  The other ELM participants were bright, mature, experienced, and exciting people to  engage with.  David Waldron, the ELM facilitator, is an insightful, thought provoking person who challenges you to think creatively, innovatively, and to use non-traditional leadership cognitive patterns.  One of my personal goals from the beginning was to develop three new concepts or tools that I had not had when I arrived in the class. This was accomplished by the end of the very first day in Minneapolis.

First, the professionalism and experience level of my ELM classmates is exceptional, and they introduced new perspectives on old challenges.  Second, although a veteran of developing presentations and inflicting “death by PowerPoint,” I learned how to effectively use a balanced score card in non-financial presentations.  And, third, for hopefully the last time, I learned to listen without judgment until the information was complete.

One class exercise was to develop a program to “narrow the competency bandwidth” of a modality or work area.  The primary objective was to improve the performance of the lower level performers to, in turn, enhance the performance of the better performers, thereby raising all skill levels.  This became the ELM project that I brought home.

I started the first week I was back at work by challenging the imaging services modality leaders to establish personal programs for enhancing both their leadership competencies as well as a chosen technical competency.  Each leader was challenged to identify goals and objectives which I monitor with them.  In turn, they develop competencies for their teams, geared toward improving performance both as individuals and as a unit.  Goals identified include technical, patient service, communication, and other organizational objectives.  These goals have been written into position descriptions, and each leader has established regular coaching sessions with the staff, as have I with the modality leaders and the department operations managers.

The program was blended with our facility’s existing organization wide program, “Foundational Excellence.”  Though some of the advances have been delayed due to implementation of EHR, a new RIS, the merger of two hospitals into one organization with multiple campuses, and other challenges, the program is working and will continue to evolve. We are looking forward to evaluating where we stand at the six month point soon.  Preliminary assessment indicates that the program will be effective.  We will likely modify it and permit it to evolve in the final six months of the year.

An additional, invaluable resource of the ELM program is that David is available for calls and consultation and speaks monthly with each of the members of the group. The phone conversations allow for questions and discussion related to the project, as well as general leadership issues.

The ELM program is exceptional for those who want to learn more about what they do daily, learn new concepts, and refresh what they’ve previously learned.  It provides an opportunity to renew your passion for leadership, and improve your ability to lead with enhanced insight, knowledge, compassion, and understanding.  ELM provides an opportunity for all medical imaging managers who want to grow, including even those with  extensive experience and education.  Although I’m only halfway through the program and am still enjoying the ELM process, as well as networking with esteemed ELM graduates, I have already derived many benefits, including:

  • A work PI project that will continue to enhance our quality
  • New presentation skills, including PowerPoint techniques
  • Renewed passion for imaging leadership
  • New patterns of cognitive analysis
  • A new appreciation that learning never stops

Russell L. Cain, CRA is the director of imaging services at Atlanta Medical Center in Atlanta, GA. He can be reached at russell.cain@tenethealth.com

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