Shilpi Banerjee, PhD
2019 Nominee President-Elect
Head of Audiology, Bose Corporation
BSc: Audiology and Speech Therapy, Bombay University (India), 1992
MA: Audiology and Hearing Sciences, Northwestern University, 1993
PhD: Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, 2003
Why are you interested in serving on the Academy board?
I love Audiology! We are scientists, educators, entrepreneurs and, above all, health care professionals. We have chosen this profession as a vehicle to help people. In my day-to-day work, I do this by conducting applied research, developing products that improve hearing, providing continuing education and educating future audiologists. Importantly, throughout my career, I have been actively engaged with my state, national and global professional communities. As a professional, I maintain Board Certification in Audiology, support the Academy’s Foundation, contribute to the Academy’s advocacy work and serve in state and national Academies.
Professional organizations are made up of persons with diverse perspectives, work settings, career aspirations, talents, interests and time. We are bound together by a desire to engage and contribute meaningfully to our chosen profession. I share this desire and also understand the challenges that accompany this diversity. The camaraderie and fellowship of working toward a shared vision is powerful and rewarding—to me, this is truly a labor of love and ownership. And, yes, I enjoy continuing the audiology discussion as it moves from boardroom to bar! I am interested in serving on the Academy board to do my part in advancing the profession of Audiology. I believe that my ability to see possibilities, think clearly and get things done will serve the Academy well.
What challenges or key issues do you see for the Audiology profession in the next five years? What would you hope to accomplish relative to these challenges during your term on the board?
Challenges are a necessary ingredient for a vibrant profession. In my opinion, there are three main professional challenges that we must address.
First, our profession is evolving. For example, as little as 10-15 years ago, the practice of audiology was essentially synonymous with the audiometric test battery and dispensing of hearing aids. Aspects of the profession—such as cochlear implants, tinnitus and balance—that were once highly specialized have seen incredible growth in the past several years. We have reached, or are approaching, a tipping point where practice in these areas has moved from the hands of a few experts with deep subject matter expertise to the masses whose experience is broad, but less deep. Now is the time to support progress in these burgeoning areas of audiology by developing a body of evidence to advance science, shape clinical operating procedures and demonstrate outcomes.
Second, audiology is also buffeted by external forces—for example, the changing landscape for delivery of hearing aids. What was once considered the bread-and-butter of audiology practice is increasingly under pressure from market forces that have made available cheaper, and less regulated alternatives. While it is not clear that this will be the panacea for those seeking hearing help or for those seeking to enter the hearing aid market, we must acknowledge and participate in the changing landscape. This may take the form of reevaluating our work processes to incorporate more assistants/technicians, using decision aids that encourage active and informed participation of patients, embracing new technologies and form factors to meet individual and/or specific needs, and so on. None of this is comfortable or easy or unanimously accepted or universally appropriate. The point here is only that we must engage with the multitude of stakeholders, vigorously and often, seeking as much to understand as to be understood. Perhaps the most important final step in this process is taking action based on best evidence and judgment, in spite of the uncertainties that may continue to exist.
Finally, an important challenge for our profession is audiology leadership (or the perceived lack thereof). One of the most striking things about audiology is the fact that we are represented by multiple organizations on the national front, especially given our relatively small size. Dissonance among these voices costs us credibility with external stakeholders; and, duplication costs us precious internal resources. As the largest organization of, by and for audiologists, the Academy is best positioned to take on the mantle of audiology stewardship and leadership. Toward this end, we must find ways to work together toward an inspired vision of our collective future; to boldly challenge the process, take action through self-determination and competence, and celebrate the victories. I know this can be done.
I am under no illusion about these lofty goals being accomplished during my brief term on the board. However, I intend to work to clear these paths where I can.
What experience do you have in the planning, evaluation, and implementation of a strategic plan?
I have been involved in the planning, revision or execution of strategic plans for various organizations. My earliest experience with strategic planning was at Laboratories and involved exploring the path for research and development of future products.
While I was a board member of the Minnesota Academy of Audiology, we revised the vision and mission of the organization, which then served as the basis for our strategic planning. The benefit to this approach was that it made our path forward clearer and reduced some of the tension around decision-making when evaluating proposals or initiatives.
Most recently, during my tenure on the Academy board (2012-2016), we used actively used the Preferred Futures document to formulate plans, assess initiatives and track progress. Prior to it becoming the Academy's roadmap, I participated in a town hall style meeting to discuss issues and priorities. I recall being impressed with this collaborative approach, which involved a number of audiologists providing the necessary input … staking our claim to OUR Preferred Future.
I firmly believe that any work worth doing must have demonstrable strategic value in advancing meaning and benefit for all concerned. Also, while we must plan for the foreseeable future, it is imperative that we remain flexible in our thinking and action – the days of the 5-or 10-year strategic plans are long gone.
List any experience in Financial Management. Describe your experience in developing and implementing a budget for a practice, business, department, or organization.
In my professional career, I have developed and managed budgets for projects, research laboratories, departments, and my own business. This makes me directly responsible for projecting costs and revenues, managing resources and ensuring that I stay on or ahead of target.
My elected positions in professional organizations have come with fiduciary responsibilities. In my experience, the breadth of what needs to be done (and, therefore, where money must be allocated) makes this a challenging task. There are innumerable opportunities and many worthy projects that we would like to undertake.
From the list below, select five competencies you feel best represent your leadership strengths:
Accountability, Commitment, Communication skills, Decision-Making, and Problem Solving
Based on the five competencies selected above, comment on how you feel these qualities would positively affect your ability to serve on the Academy board.
According to Gallup, there are four distinct domains of leadership strength: Executing (making things happen), influencing (reaching a broad audience), relationship building (holding teams together), and strategic thinking (focusing on a brighter future). The competencies of accountability, commitment, communication, decision-making and problem-solving feed directly into these domains. These competencies are also inextricably tied to one another.
I firmly believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well and not likely to be easy. That being the case, worthwhile endeavors really do require commitment and accountability. Commitment means being dedicated to a cause or activity. Accountability is the obligation to account for one’s actions, accept responsibility for them and disclosing results in a transparent manner. I take both of these competencies seriously when considering my words or actions.
My communication style is direct. It helps me and others to move forward without any second guessing about hidden agendas. I ask questions, lots of questions, to make sure that I understand as well as I am able. And, I am willing to voice an unpopular opinion and dissent when appropriate.
All leaders are called upon to solve problems and make decisions. I have an insatiable appetite for ideas and experiences; they shape my worldview and are immensely useful in assessing situations from diverse perspectives. I believe that this helps me to think critically about problems, figure out underlying themes, and to realistically understand the strengths, opportunities and limitations of possible solutions. Despite my on-going quest for information, I am decisive once I have considered the available information. My confidence in forging ahead and capacity to follow through offer stability in difficult times. Yet, I am open to reconsider decisions and course-correct as new evidence becomes available.
Collaboration, consensus building, and conflict resolution are three qualities associated with effective leadership. Reflect upon these characteristics and provide your perspective on how each of these traits would be of importance to you as the Academy President.
According to Suroweicki, wise crowds make good decisions when there is diversity of opinion, independence in arriving at the opinions, and specialized and/or local knowledge; the wise crowd also has mechanisms for turning private judgments into collective decisions. I believe that these simple ideas should form the basis of our collaborative work.
Collaboration occurs when parties work together toward a common goal that cannot be achieved by either working alone. All involved must have a say, driven by their own needs, priorities, perspectives and vision of the final outcome. As the discussion progresses and new information is added, consensus and buy-in emerge on the best possible option, which may bear little resemblance to what anyone had in mind originally. This is only feasible when there is trust and a genuine desire to work collaboratively.
Divergent opinions are inevitable when working with others; this need not lead to conflict. Resolution involves staying focused on what’s most important, finding common ground, identifying opportunities for compromise, and taking care to not degrade the relationship. While we can influence others, changing hearts and minds is not guaranteed. I believe that once it becomes clear, after pooling all of the available information, that positions remain too divergent for a win-win outcome, it is best to acknowledge this and proceed without consensus. To this end, effective leadership is vitally important in modeling acceptance of the outcome to move the discussion forward. The work is not done until this is accomplished.