We’ve all heard talk about the evolving role of the CIO, but just how big of a role does relationship development and management play? If you ask Tim Stettheimer, it’s as much as 80 to 90 percent. Whether it’s being able to talk about the business on a deeper level with fellow executives or knowing your people well enough to identify the high performers, CIOs will not thrive unless they are willing to get personal, says Stettheimer, who is regional CIO for Ascension Information Services. In this interview, he discusses staff engagement and the waterfall effect, the question he asks to get to know people better, and how he works to maintain a strong presence despite being at a large organization. He also offers advice for introverted CIOs, and talks about what it takes to create a sense of trust.
- Face-to-face sessions to “create a profile for each leader”
- Partnership with Harvard Leadership Direct
- Professional development plans — “Everyone is involved.”
- Staff engagement & the waterfall effect
- New criteria for CIOs: know the business
- Engaging with other senior leaders — “You have to be in those conversations.”
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We come together as a senior team to walk through accomplishments, to look at opportunities for people who may be high performing and have really been knocking it out of the park, and try to consider together how we may give them opportunities for further growth.
It comes back to people wanting to get better and wanting to improve, and most people do. And so if you work with them on that, everything else follows. Their job satisfaction will go up. Your retention rates will go up.
We have to be able to know the business at an even deeper level than we ever have. Otherwise, it’s hard to have conversations with our customers that are relevant.
What we do in healthcare is of critical importance, both for the clinicians who use the services that we deliver, as well as for the patients and families, who eventually received healing from those services. This is a big deal, and this is a big job.
Gamble: In terms of some of the other ways to trying to increase staff engagement and build those relationships, I read about something Ascension does called a talent review sessions. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Stettheimer: Sure. And let me be specific, this is actually something we do within Ascension Information Services on almost continual basis, but we have different activities we do around this. In the spring, we do have a face-to-face session with all the senior leaders within Ascension Information Services. And we come together to spend multiple days dedicated to talking about our talent, particularly our leaders and in within Ascension Information Services. It’s the director levels, the CIO levels, the senior director levels — all these levels of management that really are responsible for helping our organizations operate every day. We come together as a senior team to walk through accomplishments, to look at opportunities for people who may be high performing and have really been knocking it out of the park, and try to consider together how we may give them opportunities for further growth, as well as benefiting the ministry, and the organization we’re in, in terms of meeting needs.
For example, we’ll have profiles of each leader that will include things like what are their skills, what’s their education and talent, are they open to relocation — just different details that truly create a profile for each leader. And then we’ll walk through and share experiences over past year in particular that we may have had with that leader’s delivery and performance. And from there, we’ll actually talk about what may be beneficial for them as a growth experience. That may be a work assignment, for example, let’s assign them to go work on this program or project in addition to normal duties and that will give them an extra set of experiences that’ll be beneficial, or it may be an education experience. We have a lot of resources that we have poured into development and education for the IT organization, including things like mentoring. We have a mentoring program that’s many years old where we will match up leaders with more senior leaders and help them develop on particular lines where they feel like they have either skill gaps or where they have a growth opportunity. That’s one. We have different programs where externally they’ll work with organizations for furthering their education.
Here is an example of a really interesting one. We have programs where we’re also partner with another organization. For example, last year we initiated a Harvard Leadership Direct partnership where we worked with HLD to bring 50 of our top IT leaders a yearlong growth and education development experience where there were assignments throughout the year, there were real-time meetings throughout the year, there was focus on case studies and articles, and dialogue, study groups — a very, very intensive experience that every one of them coming out of was just very positive about it. And again, it’s an example of things that we do. So we try to target programs, whether they’re education programs like that or whether they are growth assignments toward what are those development needs that leaders have, because we all have them. Every leader has a development opportunity or development need.
In fact, one of the other exciting things we do is that every year, when we go through our goal-setting process for our organization and for individuals — because every associate, every employee of Ascension Information Services has a set of goals every year that is refreshed and discussed with their leaders, and we talk about it throughout the year. But along with those goals, we also create a development plan.
If you work within Ascension Information Services, you have a development plan. It’s documented and it’s updated every year. And it reflects how you work with your leader on those opportunities. It’s sort of a waterfall effect, if the waterfall can go both ways, up and down, because everyone’s involved; every leader is involved in these processes of setting up development plans and then working to actually realize them. Because we don’t just set them and leave them. We set them and visit them, revisit them, and go through them throughout the year to make sure that every associate and every leader is progressing. It’s pretty exciting. It’s tied into the fabric of our culture — that’s a way I would put it; because we have done that since our founding 10 years ago. We’ve had that process. I’ve watched it throughout that time and we just keep getting better at it. It’s pretty exciting.
Gamble: Definitely. All of that can be applied at different organizations, and I think what makes it so useful too is that you don’t have to be a really large organization to be able to put these things into practice to get people more engaged.
Stettheimer: Absolutely, and let me put out one other thing about that. You don’t have to do it across your entire organization. What I mean is this, everything I’ve been describing really is focused on our IT organization, Ascension Information Services. What we’ve done is create a focus that’s particular to the IT organization. That’s what I’ve been addressing because, especially when you get to large complex organizations, you really do have to slice and dice to make sure what you’re doing is the most beneficial thing, because resources are limited. We are always going to have limits to the amount of funding and the amount of time that we can put into development and focus into these areas. You have to do it wisely. You have to be smart about it.
And so what you can do, regardless of the size of the organization you’re in, is to first, think small — think locally, if you will. We talked about sourcing locally. So think locally. If you are a manager of a team, don’t try to change the entire organization, and don’t even try to change your entire division at first. Try it with your team. Try some of these ideas. Create a development plan for everybody on your team. And make sure you start there, because the reality is once you start these processes, you can then begin, if you will, evangelizing others about them in terms of the benefit. It’s sort of that ‘see one, teach one’ kind of thing. We have an opportunity to do it and then learn from that and help others do beneficial things as well.
Regardless of whether you’re a CIO, a director, a manager, a team leader — whatever your title, try out some new development idea. Try out something. Experiment. I’m not saying experiment on your people, but experiment with your people about how you can grow them and grow their talent, and be very open with them about it. In other words, don’t try to do it in some close room. And that’s the key for success here; you have to work with your teams and work with the individuals on those teams when you set these. You don’t set their development plan for them; you set it with them. You don’t identify it and just send them off without discussion. You look at the possibilities for growth and you have a dialogue with them and say, ‘I’m thinking this might be beneficial for you in terms of some things that we’ve talked about before’ (and hopefully, you’ve talked about them before). And then you agree upon some next steps, because frankly, growth opportunities, whether it’s working operational opportunities or development programs or education, are only going to be beneficial if the person who’s going to participate in them desires to help, desires to participate, desires to grow. If there’s not that desire, you have to step back and first work on that desire, because otherwise you’re throwing money away.
It comes back to people wanting to get better and wanting to improve, and most people do. And so if you work with them on that, everything else follows. Their job satisfaction will go up. Your retention rates will go up. Then what does that do? Well, if job satisfaction goes up, we know our customer satisfaction goes up — plenty of studies have shown that. Again, you have that waterfall effect where good things begin to happen.
Gamble: Yeah. Now, you’ve talked about how much the CIO role has come to be about relationships and communications. How do you think it will continue to evolve as we move forward?
Stettheimer: I think that relationship, communication, and even, dare I say, marketing components of the CIO role are here to stay. I think that is the fundamental qualification criteria skill set for this role now. What builds on that, though, is the really increasing need to know our business. We’ve always needed to know the business — the customers’ perspective on things — to be able to have good dialogues and good assessments of customer needs. But frankly, our business is so complex, and getting more so as we talk about value-based care and as we look at the fact that our health delivery systems are getting bigger or they’re disappearing, and as we realize that we work in more and more matrixed organization. Because of these and so many more reasons, we have to be able to know the business at an even deeper level than we ever have. Otherwise, it’s hard to have conversations with our customers that are relevant.
And I’ll tell you, no one has time these days for irrelevant conversations. And so just having a conversation to build relationships with nothing else behind it, is always going to be something that’s going to be pretty short, because in today’s work environment, time is a precious commodity. You have that need to know the business and know your customer, and that, I think, is just going to keep increasing in terms of the expectations for our roles. You can’t walk into a meeting with other senior execs and not know what they’re talking about; whether they’re talking about a debt ratios on a finance side that are now impacting capital availability, or whether they’re talking about the latest moves we’re doing in terms of ACOs and what that means for how we’re going to be relating to our physicians. You have to be in those conversations, or you’re not going to be relevant.
Gamble: Right. It’s really interesting to see how things have come along and where they’re going, and we really appreciate getting this perspective from you.
Stettheimer: Absolutely, I enjoy talking about it. What we do in healthcare is of critical importance, both for the clinicians who use the services that we deliver, as well as for the patients and families, who eventually received healing from those services. This is a big deal, and this is a big job. We have a reason and purpose for being here, and that makes all the difference.
Gamble: That’s a really nice way to wrap things up. Thanks again, I really do appreciate it. And I think it’s going to be really useful to all of our leaders who read this.
Stettheimer: Okay, Kate. Take care.