When I joined the U-M Medical School Information Services (MSIS), I was excited about the opportunity to create an effective and service-oriented IT organization knowing that we would contribute to healing patients, training the next generation of physicians and enabling life-changing research. I believe the most important part of my job has been to create a culture of collaboration, innovation and learning.
We branded our culture as “One MSIS” and tried to create an environment where:
- Every person is empowered and engaged;
- We work in teams;
- We learn from mistakes;
- We celebrate success;
- We embrace change;
- Believe we can make a difference;
- We are supportive of each other; and
- Progressively evolve through “relentless incrementalism”
We have launched a number of initiatives over the last four years to create this culture in MSIS. We invested in training, knocked down (literally and figuratively) walls to bring teams together in open office workspaces, supported employee ideas through events like “Hack Days”, made our work visible across the University (and beyond), and brought in professional coaching.
The most transformational experiment for me was the Fear to Freedom coaching program Kim Knapp, our executive coach, and I developed to help our leaders learn how to hold others accountable in a supportive way. Through the program, I was mentored by Kim and she helped me see how many of my own actions were inconsistent with the culture that I was promoting. It wasn’t just transformational for me. Several participants have told me how valuable it was for them and it has changed the way we interact as a team across MSIS.
Over the course of several months, I met several amazing thought leaders that continued to challenge my thinking. Steffani Webb shared the “Jayhawk Way” program that she created that has fundamentally changed the culture at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC). Kim Cameron described his research on the benefits of being a virtuous organization, Jane Dutton talked about how to infuse positivity to accelerate change and create high quality connections. Jim Loehr spoke about the need to manage energy and change our stories in order to excel and Billy Taylor demonstrated the power of storytelling.
After these interactions, I took a long hard look at the “One MSIS” vision and created a word map of the “One MSIS” vision statement. It helped confirm in my mind that the vision itself was flawed because it was self-focused. If we want to accelerate our culture change, we need to infuse positivity and virtuous behaviors throughout the organization, and focus on others rather than on ourselves.
In the last year, I have learned and grown more as a person and leader than I thought was possible. I am fully committed to becoming a virtuous leader who practices what she preaches. It has not been comfortable or easy, but it has been rewarding and energy infusing. I have learned that the most difficult work I have to do is on myself and that it helps to surround myself with others who are also on the journey to being virtuous leaders.
I invite you to start your own journey to becoming a virtuous leader and join me as a fellow traveler.