Academy of Leadership &
Professional Development

Demystifying the Conscious Leadership Research
at GHS

We’ve all heard a lot about conscious leadership and conscious professionalism at GHS over the past several years, as it has become a part of our culture for the healthcare system. But really, what is it? How do we use it? Perhaps most importantly, what impact does it have in terms of helping improve the lives of our employees, leaders, and patients? To answer these questions, Dr. Marissa Shuffler of Clemson University has worked for the past two years with GHS’s Tod Tappert, Chief Learning Officer, and Sharon Wilson, Director of Conscious Leadership Development, as well as other members of the GHS Academy of Leadership and Professional Development to conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups of staff and leaders. This included conducting a special survey of GHS leadership and management in Fall of 2014 and 2015, as well as the Clemson researchers utilizing unit-level responses collected from the 2015 GHS Annual Employee Engagement survey conducted by Press Ganey.

Shuffler and Tappert recently presented some of the initial results at the February GHS Leadership Team meeting highlighting the finding that there does, in fact, seem to be a value added when GHS leadership and management are aware of and engage in conscious leadership practices. Specifically, matching leaders’ responses from the special leadership survey from Fall of 2014 with unit level reporting of engagement and commitment from the Annual Engagement Survey, Shuffler found that leaders who were more knowledgeable of conscious leadership also had better quality relationships with their employees. In turn, these better quality relationships predicted employee satisfaction with GHS as an organization and commitment to GHS. While these findings are still relatively correlational in nature, Shuffler is planning additional research with the 2015 and 2016 surveys to determine if the effects still hold over time and across different types of units.

Additionally, what about all of the leadership development activities that are currently offered by GHS—do they make a difference in terms of helping improve this knowledge of conscious leadership? Indeed, they seem to be providing benefits and cultivating conscious leadership. How? Leaders and managers who had higher levels of engagement in conscious leadership development activities—such as monthly Leadership Grand Rounds and workshops at quarterly Leadership Development Retreats—were more knowledgeable about the principles of conscious leadership.

While this research is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding the importance and effects of conscious leadership at GHS, it has provided some initial promising results that will be further expanded in the coming months. For example, Shuffler’s research team is currently conducting interviews with GHS leaders, clinicians, and staff in order to better understand what conscious leadership looks like “on the ground.” Additionally, her research team is examining how the quality of relationships between leaders and employees might affect perceptions of issues such as justice, commitment, and overall performance. Shuffler looks forward to continuing to build this strong partnership between Clemson and GHS, especially to advance our understanding as to how, when, and why conscious leadership might matter to everyone from top management to front line employees and patients.

Authored by:

Marissa L. Shuffler, PhD
Assistant Professor, Psychology Department
College of Business & Behavioral Science
Clemson University
mshuffl@clemson.edu

Tod N. Tappert
Vice President, Chief of Staff and System Chief Learning Officer
Development
Greenville Health System
ttappert@ghs.org