How to convince the higher-ups

Lisa Poggas outlines some methods for getting buy-in

Lisa Poggas, nutrition and environmental services director at Parker Adventist Hospital and Castle Rock Adventist Hospital—both in Colorado—has implemented her fair share of projects. How does she sell the notion of investments to the decision-makers upstairs? Here are some of the methods she uses to pitch department initiatives to executives.

Champion your department’s needs

Over the years, Poggas has learned to stand firm when explaining her departments’ needs to upper management. Currently she’s trying to get executive buy-in to make changes to the health care system’s wellness program. 

Her hospitals participate in Partnership for a Healthier America, a nationally-recognized nonprofit wellness program. However as her hospitals implemented additional components of the program this March, Poggas noticed a decline in sales.

As a result, she’s gathering data to prepare a business plan to create an in-house wellness program.

When preparing a business plan for executives, she takes time to outline her staff’s day-to-day operations. This helps stakeholders understand the staff’s constraints. “Even if they cannot visually see what you can do,” she says, prepare “just a brief outline as to what it takes to do daily business and how this new process or program can streamline or enhance.”

Tailor your message to various stakeholders

In overseeing facilities at two hospitals, Poggas reports directly to two executives, each with their own concerns. One executive’s top priority is the bottom line, so Poggas provides him with detailed expenditure and staffing metrics when presenting an idea. “I have to bring those components in, otherwise his ears turn off,” she says. 

Another executive is more focused on doctor satisfaction, so Poggas will integrate doctors’ feedback into his reports. This particular executive also prefers to walk and talk, so she’s learned that it’s effective to present new ideas while they walk around a nearby lake.

Have your facts ready—about everything

Sometimes when Poggas is advocating a new project, she first has to address executives’ concerns about current programs. She comes prepared to address the possibilities. When a former manager at Parker Adventist Hospital transferred to another facility, some hospital employees felt that the quality of the food diminished. When an executive brought this up to Poggas, she was able to respond that the facility’s sales have increased by $10,000 and that they were actively seeking guest feedback.

“Hopefully that helps him to feel more comfortable in what we are doing and not just saying, ‘Well, I’m sorry. We don’t have the same chef, so we can’t produce the same food,’” she says.

Incorporate a human element

Before presenting a department project to executives, Poggas integrates examples of customer and patient feedback, along with sales numbers and productivity data, into her pitch. By incorporating customer emails and patient comment cards into her pitch, she aligns her ideas with her health care system’s emphasis on patient experience. “Try to find a mix of data, like, ‘This is how it streamlined costs,’ mixed with those tangible things about what customers had to say,” Poggas says. “They need to see the substantiation.”

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