Stories from the Field: 20 Takeaways for (Re-)Invigorating a Leadership Career in Healthcare

We’re Sandy Shroyer and Julie Spalding, colleagues at Lumeris. We recently attended Modern Healthcare’s Women in Leadership conference in Chicago and found it to be inspiring, with outstanding speakers, great content, and lots of networking opportunities. These are our top takeaways as they relate to our career paths.

Sandy: Having over 30 years of healthcare experience, I found that many of the ideas and experiences shared by the speakers resonated with my own. My perspective is based on a career that began with clinical work, as a staff psychologist in a community mental health center (and yes, I have stories!) and evolved into various leadership roles in service provider organizations. Aside from clinical work I’ve been responsible for operations, business development, marketing, general management, client services, consulting—almost the entire gamut of the healthcare business world.

There was so much value in this conference, but here are my top ten takeaways:

  1. Think big, start small, fail fast. I wish someone had taught me this many years ago!
  2. Be authentic. Create a safe environment, allow yourself to be vulnerable, and that will enable you to have truth tellers who will have the courage to tell you when you’re on the wrong path.
  3. Remember the 3 G’s: Grit, graciousness, and gratitude. What a wonderful mantra for all leaders, not just women!
  4. Make adversity a learning and growing opportunity. This reminded me of when I was demoted for not firing someone soon enough. I stayed, proved I was tough (see grit above), and was promoted two levels up within six months.
  5. Seek to understand before making changes. A wonderful mentor taught me to listen, draw out varied opinions, and only then summarize and mobilize the team toward decisions.
  6. Be courageous and confident. These are powerful traits that must be developed. It takes courage to make tough decisions, and we can only overcome the “imposter syndrome” if we project confidence.
  7. Find ways to interview top leaders. That will get you noticed, and you’ll learn a lot. In my very first management job, I made an appointment with the CFO asking him to teach me the basics of financial management. It might have been an audacious request, but he was gracious and I learned a lot from him.
  8. Heed your inner voice – mistakes often emerge when you don’t. I’m still learning to cultivate that voice, the one that gives me an uneasy feeling when I’m on the wrong path, or a feeling of exhilaration when something is right.
  9. Discover your superpower. If you don’t know what your superpower is, ask the people who know you well; they do! Then surround yourself with people who have different, complementary superpowers.
  10. Say what you’ll do, and then do it! That one needs no explanation, but we all fall short at times.

Julie: With just under ten years of healthcare experience, I have so much opportunity to learn and grow from female leaders in the field. My educational background is in healthcare policy which I have used as a foundation for a career in population health. I have worked as a consultant focused on strategy, as a program manager for a large payer, and, now, in business development at Lumeris. I have grown and honed my business skills while working in a sector (healthcare) that I am passionate about.

At the conference, I sought out opportunities to learn from both women who have reached the top and peers early in their journey. I took away advice from both groups.

  1. Go for it. Take chances, especially with good opportunities. As Sheryl Sandberg quotes, “if you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.” This reminds me of two different points in my career when I was hesitant to take on the opportunity given to me. Both times were scary, involved a lot of work, but ultimately provided the best growth opportunities.
  2. Find your mentor and your sponsor. And, if your mentor or sponsor do not encourage or assist your growth, find a new one.
  3. Take charge of your future. While you may have a mentor and or a sponsor, ultimately, your actions determine your path.
  4. Do not neglect your weaknesses. This is challenging for everyone throughout their career, but so critical during the early high-growth career years.
  5. ASK FOR MORE. Know your value and ask for it! This applies for responsibility as well as compensation. Early on, my career was positively affected when I asked for more responsibility and demonstrated the ability to take it on.
  6. You do not have to know everything. You probably will never know everything but take opportunities to ask meaningful questions.
  7. Help each other out… Start doing this in small ways and as you grow, help in bigger ways. A great example is mentoring students entering your field. As you gain more responsibility and ability to hire and promote, remember that is another opportunity to help others grow.
  8. …and it is ok to rely on others. Great reminder for all of us! Just as much as you help others, be gracious and open to accepting help.
  9. Listen to your gut. This is a reminder for all, especially when the brain is in negotiation with the gut (hint, your gut should win!).
  10. You will make good choices and bad choices, but none of them are fatal. Get back on the path you want to be on. Try not to overthink it!

Our twenty takeaways can benefit anyone, any gender, and at any point in their career. We look forward to continuing this leadership dialogue with our colleagues and within the greater healthcare community. Back to you! What are the lessons that have served you well in your leadership trajectory?

Not sure where to start? Talk to one of our advisors.

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