“If you really want something you have to work for it. Now be quiet, they’re about to announce the lottery numbers.”
– The great American philosopher, Homer Simpson
TYLER, Texas — As we speed to the end of summer this Labor Day weekend, I have been thinking about a line I used in a recent speech: Dreams are important but people who only dream rarely achieve their full potential.
When these dreams are about your career you must have specific goals and a strategy, a plan. You must also have the passion and desire as well as the ability to be flexible and adaptable. Without the latter, you will face some very tough sledding.
In other words, career brand management is important to your success, and as the new healthcare delivery model evolves, how executives manage their career will be increasingly relevant.
There are few corporate success stories where throwing it out there and hoping for the best was the winning strategy. So why apply that approach to your career?
A middle-aged senior executive recently complained that strategic planning for one’s career was really a dumb idea and that by writing about it I was giving undue credibility to a concept that that he likened to a consultant’s version of selling snake oil. “Things are going to change. I have no way of knowing what the future holds. Why should I waste my time writing a plan? I seem to be doing OK without that waste of time.”
He was right about two things. Things do and will change, especially at this time in healthcare and, yes, it is certainly difficult to forecast the future. If you doubt that, just compare the predictions of 90 percent of our industry’s futurists over the last 10 years with what has actually transpired. Most futurists are wrong 70 to 80 percent of the time.
Smart companies appreciate that change is part of business and that is why they re-evaluate their strategies and business tactics, typically on an annual basis, to ensure that their prices, product mix of communications strategies are relevant.
This certainly applies to career management. There is, I believe, a strong corollary between career planning to the level of success an executive achieves. Yet, so many leaders who strong devotees of strategic planning for their companies fail to apply the same principles in their own lives.
Would you hire a CEO to run your business who had no idea where he wanted to take the company? You would probably decide, fairly quickly, that he or she was someone you easily could do without. This type of go-with-the-flow approach to strategy is, at best, hit or miss.
Think about your career brand. You are the CEO of you. Are you willing to gamble your dreams in such a laissez-faire manner the way you buy lottery tickets?
Editor’s Note: We will be taking a holiday on Monday. See you back here on Wednesday.
© 2015 John Gregory Self
For several years I have been writing about hyper competitive markets and the impact the intense competition for patients, physicians, and skilled workers has on leadership.
Now there is a new term being floated by a growing band of outspoken leaders and patient advocates concerned with the state of US healthcare — hyper accountability. Our costs are too high and our quality of care and patient safety, two important measures of how we are performing, continue to be a problem despite the industry spend of hundreds of millions of dollars to reverse these troublesome trends. There seems to be an undercurrent within the industry that these issues are just part of the cost of being in the business of healthcare.
Last year, in a speech to more than 350 healthcare leaders, that is precisely the reception I received — they were polite, they seemed to enjoy the talk, and said so afterward, but then they moved on. This is a fairly typical response, I am told by those who have far more experience in this field than I.
Why do we appear to be so numb to this very serious problem?
We put more effort into meeting financial targets than making meaningful inroads to improve quality and reduce the shocking number of preventable deaths that occur each year in hospitals across this country.
Hospital CEOs and senior leaders are fired all the time for missing their financial numbers, said a long-time friend who has run major hospitals and is now teaching and consulting. Being fired for missing your quality or patient safety targets — that is to say delivering care that is substandard or outright dangerous — is very rare, especially in the investor-owned hospital world.
“There is no resounding industry outrage over this very serious issue,” said a patient advocate who has been “harping about this for years. I know this sounds harsh, but I sometimes wonder if what we are really saying is, let’s pretend this didn’t happen.”
© 2015 John Gregory Self
Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.
If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!
The Red Queen, Alice Through the Looking Glass
The vast majority of healthcare executives I have interviewed do not see themselves as entrepreneurs. Innovators, turnaround experts or change agents, but an entrepreneur? Definitely not!
The definition of an entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking a greater than normal financial risk in order to do so,” according to Dictionary.com.
If you look at the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur, especially those who launch innovative start-up companies, they recognize the enormous risks, that the odds are against them — if you look at the number of failed startups each year — and that these ventures require an enormous amount of physical and mental energy, hard work as well as long hours.
To succeed, most entrepreneurs understand that they have to put the business and its needs ahead of all else. The serial entrepreneurs who have launched more than one successful business, typically will confide that it must be all about the idea, the concept, serving customer needs and the bottom line success, not someone’s inflated self importance. There is no safety net — aka severance – for these executives. The smart entrepreneurs who are afraid of failing typically run twice as fast, and most go twice as far. Fear for these people is a potent motivator.
For all those executives who push back against being called an entrepreneur, I want you to consider this: You are, in fact, an entrepreneur over at least one aspect of your professional life: career brand. Here you work for yourself (and your family). You do take risks in how you position yourself reputationally by the jobs you choose to take on (yes, for a salary) and, despite the salary, still being exposed to the significant risks of failing, especially when an industry is experiencing a transformative shift in the business model as is the case with healthcare today.
Moreover, I would argue that in this period of unprecedented change, salaried healthcare executives would be better off if they approached each salaried job as an entrepreneur, at least when it comes to the part about a passionate commitment to the concept (the mission and vision of the organization), serving customer needs (better quality, improved safety and satisfaction at a lower cost), and bottom line results (profits or retained earnings).
When executives incorporate the spirit of entrepreneurship into their leadership style, their organization, and the communities they serve, will be better off. And so will their careers.
Become a better entrepreneur in your career. The financial security is not always what it is cracked up to be and you will probably go twice as far.
© 2015 John Gregory Self