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How Disease Management Leaders Can Win the Gold: Learn from Mrs. Phelps

Posted Dec 02 2008 3:08am
The Disease Management Care Blog has been enthralled along with the rest of the world by Michael Phelps’ stunning 11 gold medal, world-record studded achievements. However, the DMCB couldn’t help also cheering for that indefatigable mom, Deborah Phelps. What’s not to admire about a divorced woman who simultaneously worked, completed graduate school and successfully raised three children, one of whom was diagnosed with ADHD? She’s clearly a force to be reckoned with, not only as a middle school principal but as the worst part of her son’s DUI: Michael reported his greatest dread in that ordeal was the prospect of having to face her.

What a woman. Deborah Phelps reminds us about the ingredients necessary for successful leadership:

Role-appropriate listening and helping: According to an ABC news interview, she said "I've been there not to dictate or guide. I'm there to listen to what he wants to do and try to help him problem-solve and make a wise decision…”

Example for DM: The DMCB observed a physician colleague talk with his company’s data analysts in a two day exercise in systems-level data collection and reporting improvement. The analysts had most of the answers, thanks to a manager who talked with, not to, these very bright people.

Willingness to accept risky suggestions: Michael wanted to stop his ADHD drugs. Deborah Phelps agreed.

Example for DM: The DMCB watched a nurse manager agree to letting her nurses modify a new patient education approach that had implications for a core outcome measure that crossed multiple business lines. There was a lot at stake and it worked out.

Let experts handle the things that experts handle: Michael has access to a number of expert coaches and other advisors. Deborah Phelps stays out of their way.

Example for DM: Nursing protocols underlying patient coaching are very sophisticated. A VP known to the DMCB learned this the hard way when the nurses were instructed to use an old approach for a different patient population all in the name of HEDIS. It did not work out.

Recognize talent and build on it: Michael was not very good at math, but his swimming prowess quickly declared itself. Guess which skill was the focus of Mrs. Phelps?

Example for DM: Dissatisfied with the response rates and data from an in-house wellness survey, one disease management company familiar to the DMCB decided to outsource it. After all, nurse coaching was their core competency.

Stay in the background: Watch Deborah Phelps in an interview and it’s clear that she rarely talks about herself. If forced, she portrays herself as just a mom.

Example for DM: The DMCB thinks the best CEOs give few interviews and stay off the covers of magazines. Instead, they’re too busy giving credit to the folks in their companies.

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