I began my career in academic psychiatry where I quickly discovered my passion for leadership and organizational development. It was clear that exceptional, caring, and compassionate service for customers requires outstanding teams and leaders.
A remarkable transformation
I left psychiatry to serve as full-time leader of clinical care and quality services for 24 years. In one of my early management positions, I led what was initially a highly dysfunctional 70-staff unit to a complete turn-around over two years, achieving much improved staff morale and patient satisfaction.
The most striking part of this story was that some of the people who I initially predicted would have to be fired because they were so difficult, emerged over the two years to be some of the best at conflict resolution--without skills training.
Even experts can act at their worst at times
This experience was a remarkable lesson for me about how powerful stress and complexity can be in provoking counterproductive behavior in anyone at times--even very skilled professionals. The key to my own development has been accepting these human vulnerabilities in myself.
In order to manifest most consistently our highest skills and values in day-to-day leadership, the first step is to recognize and move out of unproductive reactions to stress. You can read more (or see the video) in Are you leading from reactivity or creativity?--four steps to see your blind spots.
Integration of organizational development
It was during that initial management job that I also discovered the field of organizational development (OD). Research and experience in OD confirmed my observations that, without careful attention, work environments just by their nature will create a high risk for unproductive, reactive behavior.
Discovery of QI and critical appraisal of evidence
I later got captivated by quality improvement--learning the way to results through serial small changes based on evidence about what works. I learned to critically appraise large amounts of scientific literature to figure out the most unbiased and reliable recommendations about what works best.
Critical analysis and synthesis of evidence were part of my work as Medical Director for Clinical Improvement at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Washington, overseeing quality improvement for a $1 billion delivery system.
Making sense of 180,000+ books on leadership
In terms of volume of literature, the situation in leadership may be even more challenging than in medicine--to figure out what works, leaders face more than 180,000 books to choose from.
Over many years, I have applied my skills in critical analysis of evidence to the leadership and organizational literature (nowhere near 180,000 books of course but a selected subset) to find high-leverage strategies for day-to-day problem solving--what I call In-the-Moment Leadership Strategies.
To find out more about the strategies and how they were discovered, you can obtain a Resource Guide by subscribing for free monthly articles and tools at Subscribe.
Finding joy at work
Eventually, I made my practice in the field of leadership my full-time work partly influenced by seeing that relational barriers to improvement are extremely common--see my article in the Physician Leadership Journal at Hidden In Plain View.
Also, I had pursued in-the-moment strategies throughout my career. What has become most rewarding to me is when I can help leaders get beyond the deluge of work and back in touch with what they most care about. Then, they are in a position to find powerful, creative strategies. And, this opens up possibilities for finding joy at work more often.
Selected upcoming and past
presentations and workshops
Managing the Risks of Power
in Shaping Culture
Annual Forum, December 2017
Transform Work Relationships--
A Leadership Practice
Annual Colloquium, May 2017
Meeting the Personal Challenge
of Shaping Culture
IHI Change Conference
for Transformational Leadership
Annual Forum, December 2016
for Transformational Leadership
Webinar, May 2016
From fighting fires
to aligned, collaborative action
Alberta AIM Primary Healthcare
Improvement Symposium. May 2016
Leverage Power and Empowerment to Build Partnerships for
Annual Colloquium, May 2015
Building Partnerships to Build Mission:
from reactivity to creativity
Statewide webinar, January 2015
The Human Side
of Transformational Leadership
Upper Midwest Region
Improvement Leader's Network
Integrated Health Partners
March - September 2013
Leadership Without Authority
Oregon Health System
Webinar August 2013
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