Sunday, May 22, 2011

Women Healthcare Chief Information Officers Prove Glass Ceilings Can Be Broken

How do women break the glass ceiling?  Joan Hicks, CIO, University of Alabama Health System and Theresa Meadows, CIO, Cook Children’s Health System shared their thoughts on this topic  during The Monarch Center’s virtual roundtable series on Profiles in Women’s Leadership in May (see's%20Leadership%20Profiles%20-%20The%20Monarch%20Center.htm  )
Meadows and Hicks fielded a range of questions from an engaged group.  And throughout the two roundtables, I couldn’t help but note that the leadership actions both espoused coincided closely with the hybrid model of leadership that The Monarch Center has developed for its women’s leadership training.  These two dynamic women seemed to nail the highpoints of the Center’s strength-based and values leadership model in every way.
From managing work/life balance to setting IT priorities in the explosive health IT environment, these women exuded confidence and ability but recognized the importance that building relationships plays in a successful career path to the top.
Hicks, a health information management professional, and Meadows, a registered nurse, both received graduate degrees in health informatics from The University of Alabama at Birmingham before beginning their trajectory into the C-Suite. 
In assessing their careers, both CIO’s had key advice for those women wanting to move into top tier leadership positions.  A good work ethic, both agreed, that includes doing the best in your current role and making yourself valuable to the organization is paramount to success.  Meadows encouraged participants not to be afraid of new challenges but to seek them out.  Facing new challenges not only demonstrates your value it also builds self-confidence, she said.  But it is not enough to be competent, Hicks warned.  You must also effectively and in the right way let people know what you contribute, she stressed. 
Setting a career goal, making smart career choices, and building relationships were top priorities for Meadows.  It’s 90 percent about relationship management, Meadows remarked, and you must learn to use your network and relationships to their fullest potential. 
Hicks and Meadows agreed that playing to your strengths is essential.  Hicks reminded the roundtable participants, that no matter what the position, you must be authentic; your career is not sustainable if you try to be something you authentically are not.  Be decisive and don’t obsess, Hicks advises.   Even when the sharks are circling, she added, you must be transparent.  Integrity and honesty are overriding qualities for leadership success. 
The take-away from these women leaders is that glass ceilings can be broken.  And fortunately there are role models like Meadows and Hicks who are showing women every day that they can do it too!  Share your thoughts.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Leadership is a journey, not a destination.

Leadership is a journey, not a destination.  If you believe that you will become a leader by attending a class, workshop, seminar, or by a reading a book you will be disappointed.  Leadership is a long-lived journey.  If chosen, it is one that requires us to continually improve our self-understanding and our capacity to guide others for the common good.
Most of the fun in any journey is not necessarily getting to a destination.  Rather it is planning the journey and the excitement of achievement in the progress of getting from one place to another.  New sights, sounds, experiences, fragrances, people, cultures, and foods all play a part in the dynamic nature of the journey.  In fact, arriving at a supposed destination launches an avalanche of memories and retrospection that moves us to new dreams and provides the momentum to continue our journey to yet another place.
Leadership is a constant journey.  Fed by our observations, experiences, and perceptions leadership is about reflecting, learning, applying our strengths, and engaging others in a spiral of innovation, inspiration, initiation, and improvement for the common good.
Embrace and enjoy your leadership journey.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Downshifting Caretaker Instincts to Improve Leadership Mentoring is as Easy as 1-2-3!

Cary Sylvester, Executive Director of Technology for Williams Reality International, hit a cord with me on a   “Just for a Moment” podcast when she described a frequent leadership mistake:  taking care of everyone’s problems ( .   
When someone has come into your office with a problem, how many times have you said “I’ll take care of it.”  Ok, I confess, I’ve done that!  But how does this grow self-sufficiency and confidence in those you are supposed to be mentoring?  And in the long run how much damage does it do in getting your work done?
Instead, Sylvester recommends:
1.       Acknowledge the problem
2.       Discuss the issues, and
3.       Give ownership for solving the problem back to the employee. 
Is downshifting caretaker instincts as easy as 1-2-3?  What’s your experience?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Subtle Gender Bias Has Big Impact

It has been demonstrated that subtle gender bias is often manifested in classrooms.  For example, males may dominate discussions, interrupt females, ignore women’s contributions or attribute a woman’s idea to a male (See  As these behaviors build up they have a major impact on lowering women’s self confidence in their abilities.  Most experts agree that self-confidence is a foundation for leadership.
Is there similar gender bias evident in professional organizations? 
Last Fall I attended a national association meeting whose 60,000 professional members are predominately female (90%).  Before a crowd of approximately 3000 people the subtle gender bias manifested itself during the awards ceremony.  Five of the award recipients held a PhD.  One was a male and the other four were female.  Only the male was accorded the title of “Doctor”  during the introductions for award presentation.   What was so remarkable was that not only were the awards announced and presented by a female but the audience of 3,000, (composed of almost all females) was non-pulsed by the subtle bias and was consciously unaware that it had even occurred.   This is a profession that has been struggling with recognition problems for almost 70 years and has had tremendous difficulty in finding “its seat at the table.” 
Like charity, recognition, acknowledgement, respect, and appreciation must first begin at home.   If women are to progress and advance in self-confidence and leadership it is incumbent upon all of us to raise our consciousness about subtle gender bias and, when observed, to do something about it. 
Has subtle gender bias played a role in your professional organization?  Share your thoughts and remedies.