Shaping young minds and tomorrow’s leaders

I was running late in wrapping up a meeting before my next one. I was meeting with a young IT staff member whose manager had encouraged him to get time on my calendar for career advice. We had acanstockphoto14947189 great half hour chat about his future goals. I introduced him to the next person patiently waiting to meet with me – the manager for telehealth – a young man who was relatively new to his position. I figured they should know each other.

The telehealth manager walked into my office after the intro and said “So you’re shaping young minds”. “Absolutely!” I replied.

I have adult children and so I realize how valuable this type of access and advice can be. I saw some of the challenges my daughters faced when they graduated from college and started to navigate and grow their careers. I asked myself, “why not be available to their generation?” After all, each of us can probably remember someone who helped us early in our careers. So I concluded it was time for me to give back; I made a commitment to help develop the next generation of leaders.

Even though I have had a full schedule as a CIO, I have been willing to take short calls and meetings with anyone who wants to talk about their career and get advice from me. They may be staff members in my IT department or in other departments. They may be students who work in my organization and need to interview the CIO for a class assignment. Or they may be someone to whom a colleague has suggested that I’d be a good person to meet. Many such referrals are for young women who want to learn from me as a female executive in IT. There aren’t that many of us yet in health IT but the numbers are definitely going in the right direction.  Continue reading

Learning from leaders

It’s rare that a CIO gets to watch another CIO at work. Yes, we all network regularly at CHIME and other conferences. We learn from each other on topical webinars. And we pick each other’s brains on canstockphoto13851442phone calls about something that is new for us and our organization.

But to see someone working day to day with the executives, their peers and their own leadership team is different: how they set expectations and deliver tough messages; how they make commitments with appropriate caveats; how they answer questions if they don’t have enough information yet.

I’ve been fortunate to watch our new CIO, Joy Grosser, at University Hospitals, at work. I’ve stepped back since she became CIO and serve as an advisor to her during the transition. We look for pockets of time to do transition and turnover.

During these few weeks of transition, we’ve had some production issues and vendor challenges. We are developing next year’s budget. We are finalizing a plan for new hospital integration with the help of a consulting firm. These are big initiatives to walk into, to learn quickly what you need to know, and to lead with authority and confidence.

But that’s what leaders do. They listen and learn. They share their values and vision. They don’t pretend to know or have all the answers. They rely on their team to keep them informed and to solve problems. And at the end of the day they own it. Continue reading


How can I not comment on the most watched Presidential debate ever? There were 84 million people watching the debate. It was up against Monday night football and in my temporary town, thecanstockphoto10414040 Cleveland Indians were clinching the American Central championship.

For women who have dealt with blatant and subtle sexism throughout their lives and careers, it was the ultimate show.

As my twitter feed and Facebook filled with commentary Monday night and all day Tuesday, the gender politics came into focus.

 “Sexism is a man screaming he has a better temperament than a woman who has been patiently waiting to speak after being interrupted 10 times.” A tweet from @nickpraynerr shared by Hostile Politics

“Finally the whole country will watch as a woman stands politely listening to a loud man’s bad ideas about the field she spent her life in.” A tweet from Alexandra petri @petridishes shared by Being Liberal

“And now, a completely unprepared man will interrupt a highly prepared woman, 51 times, only to prove he actually has very little to say!” Ezra Klein sharing a video clip from Vox to prove it. Continue reading

Adventure in a new city

A year ago, I suggested to my husband that I would consider doing a series of interim CIO engagements. He is a retired minister and does a lot of volunteer projects for the denomination and ministers associationcanstockphoto20995234 – all from his home office. So he was supportive. His view was we’ll just have an adventure in a new city. We’d bring the dogs with, stay in an apartment and go home to check on our house once a month. That was a great working assumption.

The first interim opportunity was at University Hospitals in Cleveland, which was a great location to start this plan!  It’s just a short 3-hour drive from our home in Ann Arbor. But then we relocated from Michigan to Rhode Island in order to be near family so things didn’t work out quite as we planned. There was way too much work in Michigan to sell and move out of our house; on the other end way too much work to find a house and move into it. So I’ve spent many weeks in Cleveland on my own without my soulmate to have those new city adventures with.

But in the past 8 months, we got to know Cleveland as best we could and it’s truly been a fun adventure! Some of the highlights to pass on to our new CIO who has relocated to Cleveland from Iowa and anyone planning to visit: Continue reading

Saying goodbye

“Hi short timer”, “So you’re winding down”, “What’s next?” These are just some of the comments and questions I am getting from people I run into at work these days. Some add congratulations and that it will becanstockphoto27502107 nice for me to see my grandkids more.

 If you’ve kept up on my recent posts, you know that I’m in the final weeks of my interim CIO engagement at University Hospitals in Cleveland. The transition to the new permanent CIO started this week.

I only once left a job and organization without knowing what was next. I followed my newly ordained minister husband to a church in central Massachusetts 17 years ago. We moved from Dallas and I went into the job search and was hired as the CIO at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Now, I don’t have a firm “what’s next” beyond a much needed break, a couple of coaching engagements, and a number of leads for more interim work. And that’s OK. The idea of this next chapter I started in January was to have more flexibility and work less than full time over the course of the year. As I’ve encouraged others in the past, I am “open to the possibilities”.

In my last two CIO positions, the turnover and transition were to internal interims. I needed to provide key information they needed while recognizing that they already knew the organizations and its history. Here in Cleveland, I’m leaving an interim position after 8 months and onboarding a CIO from outside the organization. Continue reading

Improving value, reducing costs

In the current world of health care, most provider organizations are undertaking significant cost management efforts. Health care providers need to deliver care more cost effectively while improving canstockphoto17385502value. We are no exception.

At University Hospitals we call it “Value Improvement Program” (VIP). At the University of Michigan Health System, we called it “Value and Margin Improvement” (VMI). I dont remember what we called it at Brigham and Womens Hospital, but it was similar.

Often it starts with the use of outside consultants. They identify the overall opportunity at a high level using the organizations cost data and industry benchmarks. In some cases, consultants stay on and help staff the teams. In other cases, the organization staffs the teams internally to do a deeper dive, find the specific opportunities, and implement.

Depending on an organizations executive leadership, culture, management and staff buy-in and their approach to system wide initiatives, results can vary greatly. Continue reading

Investing in you, the value of a coach

I was fortunate to work with an excellent executive coach several years ago. He helped me gain new insight into who I am and how I lead. I am a much better leader as a result of our year-long work together. canstockphoto32422551And I periodically reconnect with him now to bounce around ideas when going through major transitions.

Deciding to work with a coach can be unsettling.

I told myself, “sure there are things on my performance evaluation I could work on but mostly I’m fine and don’t need any help; after all no one is perfect”.

And I also told myself, “ok, I admit I could use some help but how much do I really have to expose and what will people think if they know I’m using a coach”.

So yes, I had those kinds of thoughts when I started and expect you might as well.

But my coach put me at ease. He got to know me and started helping me look critically at my leadership style and areas I needed to improve. He was not there to judge me or make me feel inadequate. He took me where I was at.

A good coach doesn’t have all the answers but knows how to ask the right questions. Continue reading

What to expect from an interim CIO

I am now networking for my next opportunities and need to update my resume. This week someone offered to make an introduction for me and asked me to send a current one. So I did a quick pass and canstockphoto11333368added a section for my interim CIO engagement at University Hospitals.

I went right to my CIO focus areas that I had documented back in week 5. I added a few more focus areas a month ago, in response to some new needs.  Good news; with the help of my IT leadership team I either finished or made great progress on all of them.

Interim CIOs can just keep the seat warm and make sure things are running smoothly. Or they can be change agents who shake things up. Or they may help set a new strategy and direction for the permanent CIO to execute.

Basically, University Hospitals wanted an experienced CIO with a fresh perspective to run IT while helping to find the next permanent CIO. The work has been a combination of operations and consulting. Operations means a lot of meetings, long days and plenty of issues. Consulting means there’s an opportunity to look at things differently and make incremental improvements. Continue reading

Next chapter, page 2

It’s been seven months since I started my next life chapter. In January, I Ieft my position as CIO of the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers to begin a more independent and flexible path. I canstockphoto1593928wanted to be able to live near my family and work less than full-time over the course of a year. The first page of this chapter has been to serve as interim CIO at University Hospitals in Cleveland. I had just one weekend between finishing up in Michigan and starting in Cleveland. CIO positions are more than full-time but I knew that when we hired a permanent CIO, there would be time for me to get a break.

This week, the new permanent CIO at University Hospitals was named. Joy Grosser will be joining UH on September 12th. I am confident she is a great match for us. She is very accomplished, and has significant experience in other large health care organizations. She most recently served as Vice President and Chief Information Officer at UnityPoint Health in West Des Moines, Iowa, a 17 hospital health system. I have agreed to stay for several weeks past Joy’s arrival to orient her and to ensure a smooth transition.

For me, this engagement has been a terrific opportunity to work in a very strong organization with an excellent team. Much can be accomplished in a short time and our IT team proves that. They have been wonderful to work with and I will miss them.

For this final stage of my interim engagement, I will focus on two things. One is to keep everything moving including a host of projects and the day to day issue escalation. The second is to prepare a transition plan and do the turnover. I will be stepping back and letting Joy take the front seat come September 12th. I’ll be there to support her.

A new position means drinking from a firehose. Continue reading

One of those weeks…

People often ask me how I find time to write a weekly blog with a big, busy CIO job. I tell them all the same thing – it’s a discipline. I try to start early in the week with an idea, draft it one night, come back to itcanstockphoto6248723 the next night to finalize and then post it on Thursday or Friday morning. Topics are often timely; something strikes me and I tell myself “that will blog”. I add the idea to my running list. This week it included tips on doing presentations for executive groups, personal organization challenges and tips, and what’s possible to accomplish as an interim leader in just 6 months.

But this week I had as many as five new ideas but no time to start writing any of them. By Thursday night if I haven’t settled on a topic and started, I’m in trouble. Taking time to write may compete with critical work I need to finish up by the end of the week. This week was one of those weeks.

This week started out with a bang.  By 9AM Monday, I was juggling 4 different issues. Continue reading