“Do you mind if I take Friday off?” asked Nancy. “Jake has a party at school, and they’ve asked me to chaperone.”
“Sure,” I said. “No problem.”
“Do you mind if we meet on Tuesday or Thursday instead of Wednesday this week?” asked Kate. “I have an interview with Randy McCleese.”
“Sure,” I said. “No problem.”
“Can we take our vacation time in half days or do we have to take full days?” asked Nancy.
“Take quarter days if you want,” I said. “No problem.”
Ninety percent of requests from your employees fall into this easy “yes” category, but how many of you are able to respond with such a yes 90 percent of the time? And if not, what is holding you back? Is it a personal issue of wishing not to seem like a pushover? Is it a short-sighted company policy? Whatever the reason, if you cannot give a quick and easy yes to requests which warrant it, you are in trouble.
And you are in trouble because you, perhaps, do not realize the cost of no — and it is a steep one. Picture a full balloon representing your employees’ zeal for their work, and their eagerness to take ownership and exert their talents to the utmost in furtherance of the goals you have jointly established. Each “no” you decree releases a bit of air from that precious balloon and, with it, your overall teams’ effectiveness. With so much to do, you simply cannot afford to let this happen.
Mind you, I am not saying you should say yes to everything. As a leader, you must say no to requests that take the team off course; that pull right or left when all have agreed on true north. You must say no when proposed precedent-setting and public-facing actions are contrary to stated policies, rendering them meaningless.
Let us return to the concept of a full balloon as representing your department’s output when each and every employee is operating at full capacity. At a high level, perhaps the highest level upon which you operate, your job is to make sure this balloon is as full as possible as much of the time as possible. Your main function is not to put in an EHR, not to achieve Meaningful Use, per se — these things, and many others, will flow as the results of effective leadership and management. Yet how many of you — most rising up through the IT ranks — have received any formal training in these areas?
First things first, and before more FTEs — who may not be affordable nor, in fact, exist — should be thrown at the myriad projects under your purview, let’s all take a step back and make a study of leadership, management, and organizational efficiency. Let us first strive to get 100 percent from the folks we have. I firmly believe staffs whose leaders have not been trained in that art/science may, perhaps, be getting 70 percent out of their workforce. The missing 30 percent is frittered away with unnecessary no’s or other clumsy management decisions that harm more than they help. Even communicating a necessary message the wrong way can become a deflationary event when, with a little coaching, it could have been a net positive.
At healthsystemCIO.com, we have resolved to provide such leadership education by making it even more of a focus in our contributed pieces, Podcast interviews and Webinars (all exclusively by, or featuring, CIOs). Luckily, the study of leadership is my absolute passion. I spend every possible waking moment reading or listening to biographies of great figures from both the past and present. It is not work to me.
And so, as with the best decisions, this clicks. It feels right, and our energy level has gone up quite a few notches. More air, as it were, has been pumped into our balloon. At HIMSS this week, I’ve run these thoughts by a number of CIOs, and all have responded with an enthusiastic, and inspiring, “Yes!”
To get that kind of support from some of the top leaders in the field is all the affirmation I need.