Sandwiches and cookies.
When Daniel Barchi first arrived at Yale New Haven Health, there was quite a bit of discord among the IT staff. So much, in fact, that some team members weren’t even speaking, never mind working in harmony.
Something had to be done. But instead of trying to force relationships, Barchi, a decorated Naval Officer, chose a different tactic. He has always believed that the best way to cultivate trust is by helping people to get to know one another “as humans” rather than coworkers, and so he started hosting weekly lunches.
The goal, as he explained during Wednesday’s Leadership from the Edge session at CHIME18, was simple: to get people talking. But not necessarily about data, analytics, or anything IT-related. At least, not in the beginning. In fact, Barchi started every meeting by asking a question, like ‘what’s your favorite book?’ ‘What’s your favorite movie?’ or ‘What was your first job?’
Slowly, people started to open up and provide glimpses into who they are, and what makes them tick. Over time, they began listening to one another, and eventually, working together.
The key to this turnaround, he believes, was a willingness to be vulnerable. “Through open, honest sharing, we were able to change the dynamic,” Barchi said. If he had tried to tackle the pain points right away, he would’ve have lost his team long before the sandwiches and cookies had been eaten. Instead, he focused on the long game, giving individuals the time and encourage they needed to let their guards down, and it paid off.
It’s a dynamic we’ve all seen before, particularly at events like CHIME, where vendors are presented with a rare opportunity to grab face time with CIOs and other key decision-makers in a casual setting. While some have adopted Barchi’s tactic of getting to know an individual over a period of time through real conversations, others prefer to go right in for the kill. Rather than getting to know CIOs as individuals and learning what makes them tick and what drives them, they launch into the script about how a particular product is the answer to the organization’s prayers.
And in doing so, they’re missing the point – along with some potential business (this point was illustrated brilliantly in a piece by Dan Morreale, CIO at Hunterdon Healthcare).
In fact, if you ask a handful of people what they enjoy most about CHIME, most — if not all — will cite being able to catch up with colleagues and friends from across the industry. In a recent interview, Russ Branzell referred to the Fall CIO Forum as “a big family reunion,” and I couldn’t agree more. The conversations you hear aren’t about optimizing EHRs or exchanging data — at least, not at first. Rather, it’s people asking each other about their summer vacations or how they’re children are doing. The “shop talk” doesn’t start until people have had time to catch up on each other’s lives.
For some, however, it’s not easy to share personal stories — in fact, it can be downright scary. If someone had told me seven years ago I’d be writing a column that’s chalk full of tidbits about my life, I would’ve laughed it off. What I’ve found, however, is that being willing to share my experiences gives others insight to whom I am, and in turn, helps others feel more confident about telling their own stories. And once you know an individual on a personal level, the relationship immediately deepens.
In Barchi’s case, the result was a more closely aligned organization, which he believes will pave the way to future success. And hopefully, more sandwiches.
[Editor’s Note: In the original version of this piece, the author mistakenly identified the organization to which Daniel Barchi was referring as NewYork-Presbyterian. It has been correctly identified as Yale New Haven Health. We apologize for the error.]