Climbing to New Heights at the RLI Expedition

"The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and influence their actions." — John Hancockclimbing to new heights

The ACR Radiology Leadership Institute™ (RLI) was launched in July 2012 at the Kellogg School of Management on the campus of Northwestern University. I was there, and by all accounts the attendees at the sold out event felt that the program with keynote speaker Jeff Immelt, chief executive officer of GE, was a huge success.

Over 1,000 individuals have now enrolled in the RLI. We have had successful offerings, including two online three-month Harvard Emerging Leaders Seminars. RLI course material has been presented at multiple venues, including at AIRP, and several state chapter meetings. And the RLI Leadership Webinar series has been well received. Furthermore, the all new 2013 RLI Annual Event is set for July 25-28, 2013, at the Kellogg School, and this time former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle will be the keynote speaker.

All of these courses and materials are fabulous, but what I really want to tell you are about the three days I spent at the RLI Expedition in February. This may be difficult to explain in a short Bulletin column, but here goes. The expedition was a spectacular and intense learning experience designed for a small group. The three-day program, held in a hotel in Dallas, was produced by the RLI in conjunction with Impact International, a management training and organizational development company.

Plenary sessions included instruction and discussion on such topics as leadership skills, level of communication and engagement, and leadership in action. A model for leadership was presented, focusing on meaning, value, and structure. These interactive sessions included exercises intended to showcase leadership skills and weakness and brainstorming solutions to complex ambiguous tasks. Attendees were also divided into groups of five or six, each with its own facilitator. Group sessions discussed such skills as influence, persuasion, competency, listening, change management, and conflict management.

Prior to arriving, each participant completed a survey to collect feedback from them, their manager, and their peers about their competencies. This activity set the stage for what they were about to experience and gave their group facilitator insight into their development needs. Attendees were also given reading material prior to the expedition about leadership, and immediately upon arrival, attendees were informed that they would be videotaped responding to a question. They were given one minute to prepare and then one minute to tape a response to the question, Why should others be led by me? Later on, during that first morning in the small breakout groups, each tape was played, analyzed, and discussed. The small groups also had a very interesting opportunity to experience peer consultation, in which members of the group asked one another for help in solving actual current conflicts or problems. Each attendee also had a private interview with his or her facilitator.

The main event, however, was a leadership simulation. From early Saturday afternoon until that evening, the small groups were told to assume that each was a 20-member practice with 28 years of history. They were then given a letter from the new CEO of their hospital, informing them that the hospital was issuing a request for proposal for the provision of radiology services. Each group had seven to nine hours to prepare a response and was asked to present their proposal to members of the hospital management on Sunday morning. The proposals addressed areas of concern, including 1) 24/7/365 subspecialty onsite coverage; 2) a demonstration of quality, including a turnaround time of 30 minutes or less for ER final reports, delivery of critical findings, use of voice recognition technology with self-editing, and documentation of peer review; 3) the unique benefits of their group versus national companies; and 4) flexibility, service mentality, and practice leadership.

Between 1 p.m. and about 6 p.m., each team was bombarded with phone calls, memos, emails, and other interruptions. The teams were informed that the hospital was concerned by complaints from the ER and surgeons about one longtime partner in the practice who was losing his skills and becoming a liability. A second complaint concerned a radiologist in the group who had refused to do a CT scan on an ER patient at 5 p.m. on a Friday because she thought the exam was not indicated. Later in the simulation, actors appeared to play the roles of these problematic radiologists. As members of the teams interviewed and counseled the characters, an actor playing a journalist interrupted with questions about radiation safety. Meanwhile, a group of cardiologists (portrayed by Cynthia S. Sherry, MD, FACR, Burton P. Drayer, MD, FACR, and myself) called each team and informed them that the hospital's new CEO had asked the cardiologists to take over computed tomography angiography.

On Sunday morning, the final day of the expedition, each group presented its proposal to the hospital management. Once again, we had an opportunity to role-play. Dr. Drayer was the hospital COO, Dr. Sherry acted as the CEO, and I played the role of CMO. We peppered each group with questions and concerns about its proposal. Although there was some anxiety among the groups, all of them responded to the challenge with great results!

This was an amazing experience for all those present. I hope I have captured at least some of the realism and timeliness of the simulation. The RLI Expedition was fun, informative, and unlike anything I have ever experienced.

ellenbogenBy Paul H. Ellenbogen, MD, FACR, Chair

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