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Diverse Healthcare Leaders’ COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable

Question 5


In early April 2020, ACHE invited a group of racially/ethnically and LGBTQ diverse healthcare executives to a virtual career roundtable for them to share in a safe space on how they are managing professional and personal realities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  We extend sincere gratitude to the 23 leaders who made time in their extremely busy schedules to participate.

Participants selected one of three ways to share their perspectives:

  • participate in small-group virtual 30-minute conversation,
  • complete a 5-question online survey, or
  • hold a 1:1 phone conversation with ACHE’s Diversity & Inclusion Director.

Below are highlights from their responses to the fifth question:



What key skills and attributes will early and mid-careerists—especially those from underrepresented groups—need to strengthen in order to advance their career in the post-pandemic healthcare workplace?



General skills/attributes mentioned most often (excluding survey responses)

  • Flexible/agile/adaptable 9 participants)
  • Effective communication (6 participants)
  • Collaboration/networking/building relationships (6 participants)
  • Innovative/creative (3 participants)
  • Equanimity/not easily ruffled (3 participants)


Key Quotes


“I think these underrepresented groups already have the skills to lead but it’s really about opportunity.”


“As we push towards virtual healthcare … we will need people who are innovative, flexible, who can think outside the box, and people who are open to new models of care.”


Selected Response Excerpts and Summaries



Small Focus Group Responses

  • I’ve shared with my teams all the lessons we learned as we push towards virtual healthcare. How do we take that ball and roll with it because we are not going back to the old model of care? If healthcare overall continues to pick up this ball of innovation and move it forward, we will need people who are innovative, flexible, who can think outside the box, and people who are open to new models of care.
  • The digital revolution is going to accelerate. Leaders will have to learn how to lead teams across virtual geographical locations. Effective communication is one thing I’ve learned through this process. Developing skills that are transferable across different organizations. Have individuals with open mindsets and a willingness to learn.
  • Sharpening your soft skills, such as relationship building, networking and collaborating. You should know who people are and what they can do to help you get the job done.
  • Communication is key; it can be a game-changer at time like this. Ability to deal with ambiguity—it will be absolutely necessary going forward. Being diverse leaders, we all take things in differently and learn how to interpret things differently.
  • Flexibility and adaptability are important. There will be a lot of things to change on how we care for patients. This has been an interesting experiment on how to let people work in different ways.
  • Top of my list is agility. Your ability to be flexible and agile. There is a lot of communication needed. Must learn to not take things personally and be in a space to where you learn to extend grace. We are learning as we go. When people are tired and afraid and frustrated, people don’t always bring their best self to our spaces.
  • Another thing that needs to be considered post-pandemic is being creative on how we take healthcare to the community, especially marginalized groups. I am worried about the financial state of the hospital, especially as far as surgeries. How do we be creative to be financially stable?
  • What this comes down to is our ability to have GRIT in healthcare. Our ability to have courage, endurance, agility, creativity, and resilience.
  • You can never go wrong with time management. That’s always going to be key. Having analytic skills will make sure you are on top of trends. Having soft skills, such as communication, is needed going forward. These things are absolutely necessary. I think it is also important to have a sponsor.
  • Working in this remote time is very important to reach out to others, offering what you can do to help someone else. In addition, analytics is also important. I think these underrepresented groups already have the skills to lead but it’s really about opportunity. Providing opportunity is bigger than anything.
  • Opportunity is great especially when you are not in a largely populated place. Flexibility is also very key, and open to change.
  • Post-pandemic there will be new opportunities and being flexible to look into those opportunities will be an advantage. Communication is not only vertical but also horizontal. Team approach is very important; that’s what people see. The willingness to do what’s needed in a temporary moment can affect you positively.


Survey Responses

Survey Question: From the list below, please rank the skills and attributes that early and mid-careerists—especially those from underrepresented groups—will need to strengthen in order to advance their career in the post-pandemic healthcare workplace (ranking: 1 = most important, 5 = least important).

  • 83 average rank: Resiliency: willingness and ability to encourage oneself to bounce back quickly from professional or personal problems
  • 83 average rank: Managing Up: ability to effectively interact with their direct supervisor and other senior leaders
  • 17 average rank: Cross-function skills: ability to work at a functional level in multiple departments
  • 33 average rank: Indispensability: ability to make themselves indispensable to essential operations in their workplace
  • 83 average rank: Self-care: ability to make time to sustain physical, emotional, and psychological well-being


1:1 Responses

  • Communication of vision to organizational leaders
  • Ability to not ruffled by events
  • Adaptable to current situation
  • Deliver high quality job performance
  • Clarity of purpose: consider patient satisfaction experience and other organizational priorities
  • Technical skills. For example, the lab director who led my organization to develop in-house COVID testing, happens to be an African-American woman; she has been lauded for her work; she has a depth of technical knowledge in her industry.
  • Flexibility—not rigid to not accept innovation
  • Ability to think on the fly
  • Staying calm under pressure: In spite of the fear that you, staff and administration have, be the voice of reason when no reason makes sense. Good leaders have to be good at this, even when you’re not feeling it yourself.
  • Keeping your eye on the big vision; don’t have tunnel vision on your part only; your decisions affect everything around you
  • Strong executive presence. You don’t know what meetings you’ll be pulled into. Be ready to perform in advance with any audience; no fear of speaking to the highest levels in the organization.
  • Ability to make complex decisions
  • Ability to lead by example
  • Able to foresee needs because things are moving rapidly. To shine, must be able to anticipate the needs and help others get there faster.
  • Sense of equanimity; the ability to lead through a balanced approach—not getting too emotional, overly excited, anxious.