How 4 health IT leaders balance strategy with execution: key thoughts from Ed Marx, Dr. Maia Hightower, Aaron Miri, Matthew Grob

As they climb the professional ladder, the best leaders take time to stay connected to their roots.

It's important for leaders to have an understanding of the challenges on the front lines and develop an appreciation for how their team operates day-to-day. Here, four health IT leaders of hospitals and health systems answer one simple question: how do you stay connected to the actual work that is being done – and not just by watching others execute, but by executing yourself?

Ed Marx. CIO of Cleveland Clinic: I do a few things to supplement the rounding all leaders participate in. I serve as a volunteer at one of our hospitals. Each week I have the opportunity to interact with patients and fellow caregivers (employees). I recently started giving 10 percent of my time serving in the operating rooms. I used to be an anesthesia technician earlier in my career and I have been retrained to do the same now. Finally, I participate daily in our tiered huddles where we cover everything critical to ensuring the best experience for our patients and caregivers. This balance of both has enhanced my effectiveness and reaffirmed my purpose.

Maia Hightower, MD. CMIO of University of Utah Health (Salt Lake City): As a healthcare IT leader and physician, staying connected to the actual work being done is very important. I continue to practice general internal medicine, primary care. I eat the dog food like everyone else. Practicing medicine is such a privilege. I enjoy spending time with patients, reconnecting mission and purpose with each encounter. I also get to experience our IT platform as an end-user. I've always noticed even the most minute change in the EMR, so I like to play around and explore new functionality.

I also like to huddle with my IT team. When the IT teams huddle, they are my teacher, and I am a coach. I round regularly with the physician informatics in their clinical area and am no stranger to rounding. Rounding has so many flavors these days – each with a purpose. Clinical rounding with the care teams, leadership rounding with patients and staff, and IT rounding with our IT teams imbedded in the departments.

Aaron Miri. CIO of Dell Medical School and the University of Texas – Austin Health: I strongly believe in the public habit that Stephen Covey teaches us which is to 'seek first to understand, then to be inderstood.' If you pause and take the time to truly listen to your customers, your team, and to other leaders, you'll be able to see the forest from the trees and thus effectively lead your team in the right direction. This helps me stay connected to the actual work as I am getting out of my office and rounding in the clinical and academic domains.

During those rounds I am listening, assessing, measuring and ultimately making key decisions based on the total feedback received. The balancing act is to not let any one project or issue dominate your total agenda, but to have a key understanding and awareness of what's going on and be able to facilitate rapid assistance and stay connected to all of your colleagues served.

Matthew Grob. Senior Director of IT Governance and Consulting for Mount Sinai Health System (New York City): That's a tough one because historically, I have been the person who said, 'Just let me do it.' I was too connected to the work and that didn't leave me time to lead. I have gotten better at delegating, though it's still not my instinct. And then I learned the difference between 'help' and 'support.' I had been helping: doing something for another instead of them doing it. Now I support: doing something that contributes to someone's capability. That has a twofold effect. First, it keeps me in touch with what's going on. It still gives me a chance to roll up my sleeves. Second, it enables my team and my colleagues.

Mr. Marx, Dr. Hightower, Mr. Miri and Mr. Grob are all featured speakers at the Becker's Hospital Review Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference October 9-12 in Chicago. Click here to learn more and register!

To participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Laura Dyrda at ldyrda@beckershealthcare.com.

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