The Time, The Place…for Building Your Leadership

It’s so easy and so trite, but alas so often containing the kernel of truth, it’s a leadership issue. I’ve said it myself and you have too, we need to strengthen our leadership capacity, in this time and in whatever place you are working today.

First, it is so easy to think that you’re not the leader, and it is someone else’s responsibility. But we’re all leaders in health informatics (HI) – whether that’s being a team lead for the business requirements definition or project lead for that software upgrade or help desk lead, or product development manager or sales lead for your territory or division or… the list goes on. It could be the infamous Christmas party committee chair or the volunteer COACH HIPE co-lead or the standards committee chair or the second-in-command to the CIO. And for EVERY HI professional, you are the leader of your career.

Leadership is the often spoken, but not often detailed, measured or monitored quality that we expect of so many across the HI community. From the CEO to the senior executive team to the direct reports and directors, to the project and team leads and to the subject matter experts – the ability to achieve the objectives, deliverables and service expected is absolutely dependent on getting the right things done! It’s dependent on your leadership.

Building your personal leadership capacity, skills and expertise is something that we all think about from time to time, but the mountain of daily job tasks, meetings, emails and documents is always too high, urgent and important to allow personal and professional development to achieve any level of priority. Or so it seems.

Second, and you knew I was going to get to this point, so here it is. COACH is about helping you build your leadership. Building your knowledge and capacity though webinars, symposiums, the e-Health Conference, our official Journal and the connection with others through communities of interest, forums and local HI events are all part of your toolkit for professional development. And I also know there are many other avenues for professional development that members partake of on an as needed basis and many aspects of leadership to build.

So, ya, ya, ya, we’ve all heard this before and we all know this to be true. And I do it…choose one –l very little, l some, l lots, l always. (I’m told that a four-point statistical scale is the only correct survey method – my learning of yesterday.) But the real question is, “Why do you put it off and what are you doing about it?”

The easier answers are items like read something on HI to expand your knowledge, every day – this Journal, the COACH Journal, that white paper, the business news, the latest business book, the top item on your desk reading pile. You know that. ‘No time’ is an excuse and 15 minutes for reading, for professional development, can be found, most every day or at least weekly.

Active listening is another intuitive answer to building your personal leadership capacity. Your peers, your staff, your executive leads have many grains of needed information, knowledge and wisdom that they share every day. Are you really catching the key ideas on how to communicate with your stakeholders that your executive has been saying for weeks now? Are you hearing and probing and understanding the physician’s or lab tech’s or finance manager’s issues to complete the requirements and functional specification? Can you summarize the top five trends in HI today? Do you know where your external peers are going with their implementations, strategies, governance? What is your board saying about the strategic plans for your organization in the two to three years ahead? Listening well applies to all of us.

More difficult and often disliked is writing. It’s so much easier to edit, critique, assign staff or others to write it or simply say you’re too busy to write. The toughest job we all know is creating that first draft. That takes leadership, yes, and time, to be that leader, the thought leader. But the rewards are strong, as your ideas, your thinking, your way of communicating demonstrates your leadership. COACH’s HI community is indeed fortunate that so many of you take the time to write articles, prepare presentations, create papers, author professional practice documents and contribute your thoughts across the country so many times and in so many places.

Read, listen and write… shouldn’t have to be mentioned, but, unfortunately are often needed as a reminder for all of us. Here are two more points and two areas where COACH is working hard in building leadership. Participating in events and activities where you can engage with peers, respected colleagues and other leaders (at all levels) and learn at the same time is essential to building your leadership capacity. We need to build Canadian Leaders in Health Informatics, serving and supporting any and all HI mid-career professionals in building their HI leadership capacity, expertise and knowledge. The special interests of this very large group can be served through key education programs, networking events and targeted communications. Stay tuned for details about the upcoming COACH’s Leadership in HI Series starting in three cities this spring and fall.

And lastly, growing in value and uptake, particularly as seen elsewhere in this Journal with the names and faces of the 2012 achievers, is the leadership developed and demonstrated by those with the CPHIMS-CA credential. This credential marks a visible and internationally recognized achievement in a body of knowledge – that of health informatics. Having just received my CPHIMS-CA, I can attest to several points that COACH is actively working on through the staff and committees leading the COACH professionalism agenda.

First, we have surveyed all our CPHIMS-CA Exam challengers for their input on ways to improve the exam process, quality, experience and value. From personal knowledge, there are ways we can work together to improve and grow our credentialing service. And with that experience I can share the feelings, apprehension, post-exam traumatic stress syndrome and associated comments that we’ve heard from the first 200 exam writers. Part of that experience is determining the value of the credential for you personally. Whether at the senior executive levels where we know there is a definite fear of failure, but significant “leadership demonstration” as a positive driving force, or for all levels of HI professionals that know their jobs, there are real challenges in learning and being tested on a particular systems- focused body of knowledge, along with the Canadian HI body of knowledge. We know that we can help make the experience, preparation and process better. Work with us to do so.

Building your leadership? Is it the time and the place to really target your professional development? I truly hope it is and that applies to all of us. There are certainly also additional aspects of leadership to build and multiple ways to do so, beyond those mentioned above. Chat with me on your thoughts and what we together can do to build HI leadership in Canada for the betterment of our healthcare system and our health.

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