Responsibility and leadership
By Gail Marsh, Senior Vice President, OSU Medical Center
I recently gave the keynote address at an Association of Staff and Faculty Women event, and the program leader who introduced me noted that as chief strategy officer I helped take the Medical Center from a $500 million organization to a $2.2 billion healthcare enterprise. As I reflected on that statistic, I realized that, while it’s gratifying to say I played a key role in strategically growing the Medical Center, it’s not the accomplishment of which I’m most proud.
When I look back over my career, what gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment is the small role I have played in helping other people. I’m not saving lives in the intensive care unit or performing lifesaving transplants, but I hope that my legacy will be about helping others surpass their goals. At one point in our careers or another, we are very focused on our own success. But as a leader, I am not only accountable to this organization for results but to the people around me, and helping them achieve their professional and life goals is the essence of being a strong leader.
I like to talk about what I refer to as the “ladder of life,” climbing toward our goals. If someone above you pulls you up, you will achieve success that much more quickly. It’s easy to identify those who have helped or hindered your climb, but how often have you turned around to pull people up with you? It’s a responsibility, not a choice.
Studies show that 80 percent of satisfaction and engagement at work has to do with the relationship with your supervisor. When you hear that statistic, you naturally begin thinking about your relationship with your boss, but I would challenge you to spend more time thinking about your relationship with the people you lead, both formally and informally.
Here are several things I’ve found helpful in building strong relationships and being a better leader.
- Understand that you yourself are a work in progress. Understand that you will never have it ALL figured out, and focus on how you can improve. Remember that it’s not about being a great leader; it’s about being a great person. If you focus on growing to become a better person with strong values and integrity, you will be a better leader.
- Demonstrate empathy. Understand the needs of those around you and help meet those needs. Put yourself in the shoes of the faculty member, the patient, the medical student, the researcher working in the lab in the middle of the night. Help a colleague have meaningful balance.
- Make many connections. Take the initiative yourself to broaden your network. Don’t wait for it to happen. A great “door opener” is to ask others for advice. I encourage you to make the “uncomfortable” connections; it’s easy to ask friends and close colleagues for advice, but reach out beyond the people you currently know. You’ll be surprised at what you learn and the connections you can make.
- Take care of yourself. Creating a healthy workplace starts with taking care of your own physical and mental well being. Work on your mind, body and soul. Schedule time to exercise, build friendships, read and reflect. Eliminate unhealthy habits. If you are healthy you are a positive role model and at your best.
It took me some time to learn these lessons. But with these insights, I’m better at what I do. I’ve not faltered in my performance expectations — I’m well known for being a stickler for results — but I know that, while we might be getting great results, I am not doing my job if I’m not helping the people around me meet their goals.