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6/6/2011
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Guerra On Healthcare: Renew Your IT Job Passion

Don’t stop at being satisfied with your job as a health IT leader. Here’s how to "kick it up a notch."

Probably because it's healthcare, almost everyone I interview conveys a sense of deep satisfaction with their work. Sometimes, however, that serenity gives way to outright enthusiasm. Because I'd like to see more folks adding excitement to their calm contentment, the question begs itself: What are the key requirements to do as Emeril says, "kick it up a notch"?

During an off-the-record chat, a vendor CEO told me her company had reached a new phase in its maturity that called for an increase in operational controls, codified policies, and structure. In short, the company's adolescence was nearing an end, and it was time to grow up. When she spoke of this new phase, there was a level of satisfaction, but little passion for the task now at hand. However, when the CEO, who was also the founder, reflected on the birth and childhood of the company, the passion flared.

"I wish I could do it all again," she said, as much to herself as me.

"Why not? I'm sure you've got 100 ideas for a new company," I replied as she stared out the window, deep in thought.

This week, I interviewed Sue Schade, CIO at Brigham and Women's Hospital (part of Partners HealthCare) about her recent trip to India on behalf of Partners Harvard Medical International. Schade, whom I've interviewed before, is one of those aforementioned CIOs who loves her work, and gains a deep sense of satisfaction from it. Talking about the trip, that satisfaction seemed kicked into high gear. When asked by newly minted Partners CIO Jim Noga to take on the assignment, "I said, 'Absolutely, yes!'--I found the time and added it in," she related.

I've been listening to a gem of a book, Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone," by Martin Dugard. Revealed in the book are the similarities between the two gentlemen, the former a wandering American Civil War veteran turned journalist, the latter a British missionary turned celebrity Africa explorer. Both men were enlivened by movement--actual physical movement--the lack of which inevitably brought on bouts of depression.

It's clear that the greatest sense of satisfaction, passion and, ultimately, excitement--the highest emotion that can be elicited by any endeavor--comes as the result of work that calls on our natural gifts and abilities and allows us to tackle those tasks in the way we work best. As such, your goal should be to focus as much of your work as possible on these types of tasks, while delegating all others to individuals whose nature will get them excited about executing their newly assigned duties. This will not only increase your effectiveness but--if the program is carried out on a staff-wide basis--reinvigorate everyone through the realignment of responsibilities.

But don't stop there. If you are to truly finish the project, thus creating the most effective workforce possible, you must allow each reassigned individual to work in the manner they work best. This means not only must a 9-5 attitude go by the wayside, but also the tendency of managers to demand their employees' work patterns mirror their own. For example, I work best in intense bursts--usually from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.--after which I'm fairly useless. Other factors could include working from home on some days (freeing people from extensive commutes) or working fewer days for longer hours. Winston Churchill liked to break up his long workdays with a nap in the afternoon, enabling him to toil deep into the night.

Running my own organization, I have the freedom to match my natural tendencies to my work, thus creating an environment of maximum effectiveness. Doing the same for yourself and your entire staff could have dramatic consequences.

I love to hear people speaking passionately about their lives and work. When recently talking to a potential new hire for healthsystemCIO.com, I realized how proud I am of what's been created and how passionate I am of continuing the company's mission of quality and focus. Why not take a few moments and think about what really gets your juices flowing, then add some of that spice and "kick it up a notch."

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.

The Healthcare IT Leadership Forum is a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in healthcare come together to discuss how they're using technology to improve clinical care. It happens in New York City on July 12. Find out more.

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