Transformative change forces HIT execs to lead in new ways

As healthcare radically changes, leaders must understand themselves and then realize how to best motivate their teams to make the leap.

Transformative Change is a hot topic in leadership circles. We hear the term in all manner and form as we discuss radically altering our business models, introducing emerging or disrupting technologies, and blurring the lines between providers, payers, supply chain vendors, life science companies and retail.

We see it taking form as we introduce natural language processing, pattern recognition, machine learning (collectively, AI), real-time analytics, chat bots, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) and robotic process automation. We expect that to thrive in business in 10 years, and we must be intensely focused on such advances.

Change leaders must understand how to create these new business models, develop and influence necessary supporting people competencies, adopt technology component capabilities, and conceive an operational systems design of people, process and technologies to realize a transformed state. That systems design is intricate and vastly complex at scale. Yet it starts with the leaders.

When John Maxwell wrote his 2019 book, Leadership: 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace, he saved to the next to last chapter his most important message regarding the movement from being a trained leader to a transformational leader. It is in this chapter that he acknowledges key movements that the change leader must demonstrate in personal transformation – movement from knowledge to wisdom; movement from knowing the right things to always doing the right thing; assuring that others think, speak and act in ways that create a positive world. In short, this chapter teaches that in the work of transforming an organization, we must have already transformed ourselves.

Maxwell’s writing reminds me of the book, The 8th Habit, written by the late Steven Covey in 1989. Most of us are familiar with his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and I acknowledge it was a favorite I read and re-read in my adult life. In 2007, I had opportunity to speak directly with Covey backstage at a major conference event and got some personal reflections and advice on his 8th Habit, not knowing at the time it would become one of my favorite reads and a personal mantra because of his diligence with me.

His 8th Habit as a statement is straightforward: Find your voice… then inspire others to find theirs. I consider it a coming-of-age book, but not the kind that you watch in a B movie remake; rather, it’s the kind that is about our evolution to understanding our humanness and the calling that comes with that eventual understanding. Covey was a role model for his 8th Habit.

John Kotter wrote Leading Change in 1996. He followed Leading Change with The Heart of Change in 2002. The Heart of Change follows the same eight-step process for organizational scaled change as his former writing. However, the book uses intrinsic value-centered and human expression. Kotter offered, “The single biggest challenge in the process is changing people’s behavior.” It is no surprise that the last section is referenced as “We See, We Feel, We Change.”

Life is about navigating transitions. William Shakespeare’s characters have been described as archetypes of males from infant to old age as they move through various life stages, successfully transitioning, or not. William Levinson published his early male studies research on these stages in “Season of A Man’s Life” in 1986. These concepts were observed well before Shakespeare or modern psychology studies in writings and art in old Europe. And in short, we can fail in even our natural transitions through adulthood.

William Bridges’ 2004 book, Transitions, is about its namesake. This work is, in effect, a guide to navigate change to a successful end by understanding the three stages we personally experience during a transition. And now, for the challenge – he positions that every person goes through a transition at her or his own pace.

So if we are to be transformative leaders, where should our focus be? On the intricate system design that is advantaged by the convergence of all manner of technology to a defined business model? Yes, that is absolutely necessary. We have the gifts to do that design, and many people do not.

But the design will fail in the implementation state if the work is not all about the people, those people that need to understand the design with a sense of what it means to “me” in positive expression. To lead that change, the transformational leader must know how to articulate that message in a personally enrolling and engaging way. Then, the leader must shepherd the team through the change, coaching with mid-course adjustments, and pulling the team to the new state.

Some ideas for you to consider:

• Continue your journey to self-awareness, keep a diary or log when you have a personal realization. Look for patterns that inform you of how you need to change.
• Ask yourself, “as I mature, am I becoming more people-centered in how I do my work?” If not, work harder. The task stuff is much easier, so many leaders stay “stuck” there.
• Take time to mentor your people every chance you get in both one-to-one and team dialogue. Pull from personal stories, anecdotes, analogies, and connect with them at in very human place before pointing back to the task aspects of your work.
• Ask your people for feedback.
• Give your people needed direction, empowering them by helping them understand where the “bowling alley gutters” are so they can stay in the lane, and then expect them to demonstrate personal and professional growth.
• Celebrate when something goes well. Create both public and private victories as appropriate.
• Provide immediate feedback and a positive direction when things do not go as expected or intended. Not all is good is rewarded nor bad punished. But then expect adjustments to be made based upon your coaching.
• Teach across and up with your leadership colleagues at any opportunity, not with didactic but by unfolding what you are able to see that needs work in a win-win, non-threatening way. Culturally, this is most successful if you work in a learning organization.
• Take time to keep yourself centered in whatever ways work for you. Others rely upon you to be in balance and able to reach all your leadership gifts at any given moment.

That leader, the one you and I want to be, can only be a transformative leader if we have first transformed ourselves.

Everyone is watching. Let’s do the work.

George “Buddy" Hickman is a health industry and academic health science system technology leader, CIO and analytics executive, who has also led as a Big Four HIT consulting partner. He is a results oriented strategist who knows that his teams create transformation success. Hickman is well known in HIT leadership circles and serves on several outside boards, hoping to positively influence the current and next generation of leaders. He is currently interim CIO at San Ysidro Health, a high performing FQHC in San Diego County.

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