Government // Leadership
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10/25/2010
11:56 PM
Anthony Guerra
Anthony Guerra
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Guerra On Healthcare: Mentoring Key To IT Continuity

CIOs who fail to mentor leave their organizations overly dependent on their presence, leaving IT operations without a succession plan and them unable to step away.

There's no better way to recharge one's batteries than detaching completely from the workplace. This practice, commonly known as vacation, is a right granted to almost all, but truly enjoyed only by a few. That's because for CIOs, and others in top leadership positions, having a certain number of vacation days in the bank doesn't mean much if you haven't prepared your staff to take the reins while you rest.

I'm talking about mentoring -- the practice of passing to others what years of sometimes painful experiences have conferred upon you. Much like continuing education is the first thing to get cut when economic times are tough, mentoring is often the first to go when time is short. And never before have healthcare IT executives had more to do in less time. Mentoring, is goes to reason, is about to be put on the chopping block.

But this would be a very hazardous road to go down, because without a staff able to step in, you'll get no time to step out, even if you claim only "intermittent access to email," as many wishful thinking executives communicate in their out of the office emails.

Insufficient mentoring results in the same dynamic as having no staff at all. When I started healthsystemCIO.com at the beginning of this year, I was owner and sole operator. With no one to mind the virtual store while on vacation, I literally once had to leave my wife and son on the beach and run back to the hotel to handle some pressing business. What about the BlackBerry, you ask? Well, that medium is good for yes and no communications, and but little more than that. For real communication, I need a full keyboard and quiet room; at the very least, I can't have the sun in my eyes and my son crawling on me.

I'm sure every executive reading this column has their own "run from the beach" story about a vacation or dinner interrupted by work. If you've got staff, especially senior staff, and that's happening often, you're doing something wrong. You're holding on too tight and not empowering your staff enough. Don't be afraid that sharing your wisdom will make you expendable, because it will do quite the opposite -- your staff will appreciate the energy you are pouring into them and wind up performing at a higher level. Know whom your manager will credit with such performance -- you as their leader.

We all work too hard not to take a real break and those breaks only come when you can shut off the BlackBerry, disconnect from the workplace and know that Jim or Suzy or Bill can handle anything that comes up. They know you so well; they'll probably come up with just the solution you would have suggested, maybe even a better one. But those folks will only be able to make the decision you would have made if you share your thoughts with them on a regular basis. Start mentoring and you'll never wind up ditching your family for an empty hotel room again.

Anthony Guerra is the founder and editor of healthsystemCIO.com, a site dedicated to serving the strategic information needs of healthcare CIOs. He can be reached at aguerra@healthsystemCIO.com.

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