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Understanding Who You Are and How That Impacts the Bottom Line [PODCAST]

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In this episode, we’re pleased to welcome Olivia Smith, Transformation Expert and Founder of Write a New Story, to discuss understanding who you are and how that impacts the bottom line.

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Highlights of this episode include:

  • The importance of understanding “who you are” when you are in leadership
  • How behavioral assessments, such as the DISC assessment, can be used in leadership development
  • Common problems you see when dealing with leaders in the healthcare space
  • The process for working with leaders on building their leadership skills
  • How a healthy workplace culture can improve the bottom line

Kelly Wisness: Hi, this is Kelly Wisness. Welcome back to the award-winning Hospital Finance Podcast. We’re pleased to welcome Olivia Smith. Olivia is a transformation expert, founder of Write a New Story, and a master certified professional coach who counsels clients on leadership, team building, strategies for growth, conflict resolution, and company culture. Olivia began her career as a registered nurse and transitioned to the corporate world, founding and running a multi-million-dollar organization. Since founding Write a New Story, her work quickly expanded into Vanderbilt University, where she successfully consults executive teams and business leaders across the U.S. Olivia’s signature process includes behavioral assessment work, followed by one-to-one debriefs, giving people the edge they need to thrive in team situations, corporate environments, and helping them become high-performance leaders. In this episode, we’re discussing understanding who you are and how that impacts the bottom line. Thank you for joining us today, Olivia.

Olivia Smith: Thank you, Kelly. It’s great to be here.

Kelly: All right. Well, let’s jump in. What is the importance of understanding “who you are” when you are in leadership?

Olivia: The main reason it’s so important to understand who you are, is because you have accepted a leadership position and you are bringing others along, training others, leading others. And most of the time, people do not practice a whole lot of self-awareness. And so they are not aware, number one, of who they are. Number two, they’re not aware of how they’re coming across to others, and they are not using their strengths and opportunities to connect with others in the best way possible to facilitate the most effective communication. So, most of the time when I go into organizations to work with their people and help them figure out the culture issues that are taking place, it all boils down to needing to improve communication, and that starts from the top, from the owner or the leader on down in the organization. So, we work very hard. First of all, I work very hard with the leader or the owner of the organization to help them first understand who they are, and then we usually work it from them down to their top leadership on down, as far down the line as they want to take that work. But it’s just vitally important that as leaders, we understand who we are, how we’re coming across, which affects behavior and communication to others around us that we are trying to lead.

Kelly: Completely agree. And how can behavioral assessments, such as the DISC assessment, be used in leadership development?

Olivia: So, the starting point with all my clients, my process involves doing a DISC behavioral assessment. And what that is, is simply an online link that I send each person that’s going to do the assessment. They click on the link. It takes probably 10 to 15 minutes to complete the assessment. And what that assessment gives me is 40 pages of information on that person. And because of the training I’ve had on the disk assessments, I’m able to go through and do a very thorough individual debrief with each person that’s going to do the assessment. So that’s private time behind closed doors that I get with each person to really dig into what their results show and say about them as people, both their natural style, sort of how they were born, what their style is naturally, and then what’s happening to them when they go into the work environment; what changes are we seeing, what shifts are taking place, and then we’re able to dig into why that shifting is taking place, why they feel like they’re having to operate in a completely different way, in many instances, sort of against their natural style. And so what we find is if people are going to work and really changing who they are pretty drastically, over time that wears you out. It’s exhausting. You are basically walking into the workplace and feeling like we’re perceiving that you’re supposed to be acting in a certain way, and in many instances, that is against your natural style. And over time, that wears you out and exhausts you, and it leads to employee turnover and employee dissatisfaction if the person ends up staying in that job and that affects the overall climate and culture at work. And if you’re a leader and you’re in that boat, you are now leading–you’re probably fairly unhappy, and you’re trying to motivate and lead a group of people that are underneath you, and most likely, you don’t have the greatest attitude, and therefore what you’re putting out into the world and reflecting on others is not very healthy.

Kelly: Yeah, I’ve done the DISC assessment a few times in my career, and it’s always very fascinating. What is a common problem you see when dealing with leaders in the healthcare space?

Olivia: The biggest issue I see, especially in the healthcare space– I’ll use myself as an example. Let’s say that I was an ER nurse, and then all of a sudden, they decide to promote me into a teaching position. So, I know how to be an ER nurse, but perhaps I’ve not been a leader and certainly have not ever been a teacher. But all of a sudden, because I’m a great ER nurse, they decide to promote me into a teaching and mentoring situation. So, I’ve not been provided leadership skills or training. My skill set as an ER nurse works very well under high-pressure situations, but that skill set doesn’t necessarily translate into being a good classroom teacher. So, you see that a lot in healthcare. They’ll take a really good clinical person, promote them, put them into leadership, and it’s like taking your best salesperson and deciding you’re going to make them sales manager. Those are two very different skill sets, and they don’t always translate. So that’s a real common problem that I see, particularly in healthcare. And the second most common problem I see is leaders– let’s just take leading a meeting as an example. Leader walks in the room, is really excited about the changes they’re going to be putting forth and leading the team through, and they start the meeting with a conversation discussion about some changes that are coming down the pike and how exciting those changes are going to be and how they’re going to transform the organization. And the leader gets through with her presentation, his or her presentation, they ask for feedback, and maybe two people speak up, and the rest of the room stays quiet.

I see it over and over and over again, where the leaders are trying their best, they’re doing their best, and yet, a lot of times, the people around them are not willing to offer feedback and are just staying quiet. And it just creates an environment where the leader’s frustrated, the participants, the team is frustrated. And what’s happening is the leader’s style is typically very different than the styles in the room who he or she is addressing. And so to bridge those gaps, once you have everyone tested, you’re able to sit down with the leader and explain that they are leading very differently than actually how their team needs to be led and communicated with because most of the time, your leaders are very assertive, strong, take-charge kind of people. And many times the people underneath them that they’re leading are sort of the more passive, a little bit more passive style. And so those two styles can really clash if both sides don’t really understand what’s happening in that communication. So, it’s a matter of training that I’m able to offer those teams, both the team and the leader, basically how to speak to each other in each other’s language so that you get a win.

Kelly: That makes a lot of sense, Olivia. What is your process for working with leaders on building their leadership skills?

Olivia: So, the number one rule with me is that we do the DISC assessment first and do the individual debrief and that starts to enlighten the leader on their opportunities for growth within their own communication and behavioral style. And sometimes we work together for several weeks or months just on them. And once they’re ready to spread that out and start then understanding their team, we’ll do assessments on the team and then try to bridge some of those gaps and bring the team and the leader together. But the first work is always, always with the leader themselves and getting them a real clear understanding and training on the disk styles and what they mean, and how not only understanding yourself is so vitally important, but then starting to help them understand how to identify the different styles of their different people and how to communicate with each style effectively.

Kelly: That seems like a solid process. So how can a healthy workplace culture improve the bottom line?

Olivia: To lose an employee typically costs between anywhere from 50% to 250% of their annual salary. So, losing one person, let’s say one person who had an annual salary of $40,000, that can cost you, at the lowest, $20,000 upwards to replace that person. And you see so much turnover happening, and most of the time, the turnover is coming from toxic work culture. So, if you can invest and particularly invest before you have big problems– unfortunately, I get called in most of the time when the big problems have already started. But if employers would realize that the more proactive approach in doing this sort of work before the big problems develop can help protect and build that culture into a safe and trusting place where the employees feel safe enough to talk about the issues that they’re having at work and work productively together to work through those issues. And so the most important thing the leader can recognize is just how vitally important this work is to the bottom line in employee retention because the more employees that they can turn around and be able to save from leaving and going elsewhere, saves hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. And it also makes the workplace and the culture there a much, much happier and healthier place to be.

Kelly: I am over here just nodding away. I’m like, “Preach it, sister.” Thanks so much for joining us today, Olivia, and for sharing all these great insights on understanding who you are and how that impacts the bottom line. Thanks again.

Olivia: Thank you, Kelly.

Kelly: And if a listener wants to learn more or contact you to discuss this topic further, how best can they do that?

Olivia: They can certainly email me at Olivia at, W-R-I-T-E, They can go to my website, They can also find me on LinkedIn at Write a New Story, Olivia Miller Smith, and I’d love to talk to anyone who wants to reach out and find out more.

Kelly: Sounds great. Thanks for providing that. And thank you all for joining us for this episode of the Hospital Finance Podcast. Until next time…

[music] This concludes today’s episode of the Hospital Finance Podcast. For show notes and additional resources to help you protect and enhance revenue at your hospital, visit The Hospital Finance Podcast is a production of BESLER | SMART ABOUT REVENUE, TENACIOUS ABOUT RESULTS.


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