"The Ronan Report" provides insight about the activities at the Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland, Maryland, and about the changes taking place in healthcare today from a CEO's perspective.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sharing Forty Years of Learning

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my milestone anniversary of 40 years in health care.  That anniversary is September 22.  It is hard to imagine that I have spent 40 years in a profession that I had never intended on pursuing.  Being in this profession for so many years, one has a tendency to learn a few things.  The following are the ten lessons that I learned over four decades working in the many levels of health care, from the entry-level position of equipment orderly to CEO and everything in between.

Lesson 1: Get a Mentor / Be a Mentor
I was fortunate enough to have a number of mentors over my many years in health care, especially the formative years.  As a result, I have been and continue to be a mentor to a number of individuals.  I learned how to speak correctly, write effectively, organize everything, manage my time, interact with just about everyone, develop trusting relationships, learn to depend on people, overcome my shyness and better prepare for what has become an amazing journey.

Lesson 2: Accept and Embrace Change
It's amazing when seasoned executives are asked to change and they just can't.  I have seen it all too often, an executive, including CEOs, being asked to consider a change and simply can't, or better yet, won't.  I have witnessed executives being terminated over their unwillingness to accept change.  From the time when I entered the first hospital in which I worked, change has been required.  Sometimes I didn't even have time to assess whether the change was good or bad for either the organization or me.  But, I had to eventually embrace it.  I loved the status quo early in my career.  Let me do my job and stay out of my way.  That was short lived.  As soon as I got into management, change became a critical component of what I had to do and it continues to this day.  Embracing change over the last 20 years, whether it was consolidating the two hospitals, planning for a new hospital, changing how we do business under value-based care delivery or forming the alliance with Meritus and Frederick, was critically important.   Change became necessary and under each of these major changes, we have become a better organization and I a better executive.

Lesson 3: Dress for the Next Level in the Organization
Set yourself apart and dress for the next level in the organization in the traditional sense.  Look professional while at work.  I wear a suit and tie almost every day and "dress down" to a sports jacket and tie; rarely, will I be dressed casually at work.  When WMHS relaxed our dress code to business casual a number of years ago, a department director said to me, "I hope that you don't deviate from your suit and tie everyday; we expect to see our CEO dressed as a CEO."  Fortunately, I like wearing a suit and tie each day, but I also think that the CEO should always look like a CEO, again in the traditional sense--not the Silicon Valley sense of a tee shirt and jeans.  There is plenty of time to dress down, just not at work. Again, my opinion.

Lesson 4: Surround Yourself with the Best
This is a lesson that I learned from Ronald Reagan, who as President of the United States, said that he could not be effective without his team of wonderful advisors.  He said that he always would surround himself with the very best. I recently heard a CEO describe himself as a mile wide and an inch deep.  That's me, a generalist.  I have wonderful people with whom I work; they are highly talented.  I depend on their expertise each and every day.  They, I guess, are the ones who are an inch wide and a mile deep.  Actually, that's not fair to them; they are so well versed in so many areas that an inch wouldn't cover it.   I have always surrounded myself with the best and I have been truly blessed over the last 30 years in health care administration.

Lesson 5: Make Yourself Indispensable / Reinvent Yourself
I don't want this lesson to sound like a contradiction of the preceding lesson; but early in my career, I always tried to know everything that I could about my job but also the jobs of those around me.  I tried to make myself indispensable.  I did so with great results as I had seven promotions in eleven years.  However, as the years went on, I found it to be exceedingly challenging to know everything about every aspect of health care, especially since I am not clinically trained.  So, there can be a limit to indispensability as you take on more responsibility, but constantly be reinventing yourself through continuing education.

The next five lessons will appear in tomorrow's blog.

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