How to Build a Future Radiology Leader

July 31, 2013

The Johns Hopkins radiology department developed a program to foster and train leaders in their growing institution. Other institutions should do the same.

MINNEAPOLIS - Only a fraction of the Johns Hopkins Radiology Department’s employees serve in formal leadership positions, but those managers know their organization depends on the leadership abilities of everyone on staff.

“You don’t have to be a supervisor to use leadership skills,” said Alison Ramos, MBA, CNMT, technical manager of Johns Hopkins’ division of nuclear medicine, speaking this week at the AHRA 2013 annual meeting.

Johns Hopkins’ radiology leadership decided that widespread leadership training is especially crucial given their growing number of employees reaching retirement, Ramos said. They asked themselves: “How are we going to mentor and grow that next set of informal leaders?”

The answer lay in the creation of the Future Leaders program, an initiative that launched in 2006 and eventually developed into a formal developmental program within the radiology department.

Future Leaders is a 10-month program where members meet once a month for a full day of lectures and workshops. Participants learn practical leadership skills, such as how to facilitate meetings, deliver effective presentations and conduct behavioral interviews. Other topics focus on building leadership characteristics and values.

“When you have an employee whose values are aligned with your department’s core values, you have a highly engaged employee,” said Elyce Wolfgang, RT (R), a co-chair who also serves as the pediatric technical manager in the radiology department.

Wolfgang suggested other institutions should try creating a similar program. She recommended that anyone from a large, academic hospital who’s interested should meet with senior leadership to kick off a full-fledged program. Smaller hospitals or imaging centers may find it easier to focus on smaller, shorter workshops, she said, or it might help to team up with sister ancillary services, like a laboratory.

“All of these workshops have nothing to do with radiology specifically,” Wolfgang said. “They translate to any group of leaders.”

In that spirit, Future Leaders participants are not just culled from the Johns Hopkins staff of radiologists. “We get transport, IT, nursing, all of the imaging modalities, our call service, our customer service reps, and even the university and our imaging sites participate,” Wolfgang said.

Launching such a program does take some investment, Woflgang said. Consider the time it takes to arrange speakers and develop a curriculum, and the nominal costs associated with reserving meeting space if necessary.

Institutions and facilities must also consider the logistics of employees missing work. The co-chairs of the program present employees’ managers with the schedule well in advance so they can ensure they’ll be able to take the day once a month to focus on leadership.

“We do pay them as if they were working in the work area,” Wolfgang said. “Senior leadership supports that because they know that the one eight-hour shift that we’re paying them for that day to be out of the work area. They’re still going to give back to us at some point, because we’re developing them.”

Johns Hopkins leadership is so confident of the benefits of Future Leaders, Wolfgang said, that when the organization was ramping up two years ago to move into a new building, they refused to let the program slide off their priority list.

When planning Future Leaders that year, Wolfgang said the three co-chairs had been nervous that the program’s schedule would clash with key dates associated with the move.

“So we decided to go to our radiology leadership and pose the question to them,” Wolfgang said. “What do you guys think? Do you think we can do this? Because we were thinking they would want all their staff and their clinical areas to do all the prep work for moving. And they said without a doubt [that] we have to do the Future Leaders program this year. We need these future leaders to help us through the change.”