4 hospital leaders on key character traits needed for a successful IT team

Mackenzie Garrity -

It requires much more than being tech savvy to have a successfully IT team within a hospital or health system. Rather, experts say these team members need to have compassion, flexibility and be patient focused.

Below, five health IT leaders share their insights on key character traits that are needed for a successful IT team.

Question: What is the key character trait for a successful IT team?

Jim Mormann, CIO at Peoria, Ill.-based OSF Healthcare: There are four traits that IT professionals in healthcare need: compassion, positive attitude, integrity and hard work. You can take these same characteristics and apply them anywhere. While I can teach a lot of things in IT, I can't teach these key attributes. 

If you can pick these characteristics out, you can move them through technology. If you think about computer science graduates, part of their job is interacting with the business. In healthcare, these same graduates have to think about how products and solutions touch patients. This makes compassion really important. Attitude becomes an important issue because if I ask a new employee to do a different task than what they already know, I can't have someone who is stuck and ingrained in one area. 

Leah Miller, CIO at Dallas-based Medical City Healthcare: Employees must be purpose driven. For us, above all us, our team members must be committed to the care and improvement of human life. Innovation comes from taking risks, and all the good characteristics of amazing IT teams can lead back to being purpose driven. It is a purpose higher than any one of us or a job or function. I can take risks differently; I can do the right thing for our patients differently; I can empower differently. It's all about being purpose driven. It's never about just one person, but the focus is on the patient in the bed.

Jim Beinlich, associate vice president and chief data information officer of corporate information services at Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine: It’s all about hiring people with the right attitude, aptitude and energy. If you hire on those things, you can teach technology.

We have found that senior leadership can set the tone for culture, but it also relies on front line managers to set the messaging and path forward. Over the past few years, Penn Medicine has focused on leadership and management training much more than any other organization I’ve ever worked for, and we believe it’s paying dividends now and into the future. 

Eric Jimenez, director of information at Artesia (N.M) General Hospital: Trust is the biggest factor. Building a circle of safety has been my strategy for the past three years. I've had to go through a transformation as a leader. Before I started going through the transition with my team, I heard among employees that there was a lack of trust.

Simon Sinek said, “We will have a work-life balance when we feel safe at home and when we feel safe at work.” This has been my driving force and has changed my department for the better. I created an environment where employees could fail, and the rest of the team would help to pick up the pieces.

As a leader, I am always transparent with my team. This isn't so much telling them what I'm about to do; rather explaining why I made that decision. Over time, trust is built and secured.

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