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Episode 123: Leading Healthcare Teams with Data and Heart

May 22, 2024

Episode 123: Leading Healthcare Teams with Data and Heart

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May 22, 2024

Episode 123: Leading Healthcare Teams with Data and Heart

May 22, 2024

Joni: 

Hi, this is Dr. Joni Watson. Welcome to The Handoff, the podcast for nurse leaders brought to you by Works. I'm thrilled to introduce our episode guest today. We have Dr. Michael Jones, a regional director at CommonSpirit Health. He's a charismatic leader and a driving force behind efforts to improve healthcare outcomes. With nearly two decades of combined experience in leadership, clinical informatics and nursing practice, he's dedicated to making healthcare more efficient, effective, and patient-centered. Mike's approach is all about early intervention prevention and outcomes management, and he knows how to leverage data, technology and innovative practices to achieve these goals. His commitment to social responsibility and fiscal discipline is the backbone of his strategy to drive improved patient outcomes while ensuring we're making the best use of our healthcare dollars. Mike has a unique skill set that combines the technical expertise of health informatics with the human touch of nursing.

As a doctorally prepared healthcare administration fellow, a certified nurse executive, and an informatics nurse, he has the credentials to back up his ideas. He's also an affiliate member of the American Nurses Association, the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Healthcare Information and Management System Society. Mike is known for his enthusiasm, energy, and his ability to bring out the best in teams. He's a master of stakeholder engagement, process improvement, and change management. Whether he's leading a team through a new initiative or finding ways to improve operational outcomes, Mike does it with passion, vision, and a deep commitment to the people he serves. We're excited to have him on the show today to talk about his journey, his insights into the future of healthcare, and his thoughts on what it takes to be a servant leader in this dynamic industry. Dr. Michael Jones, welcome to The Handoff. I'm so glad to have you today,

Mike: 

Joni, I can't believe we were just talking about me. Thank you for a great introduction and thank you for having me here today. How much fun on a Friday that we get a chance to sit together and chat about things that we love in healthcare. 

Joni:

Oh my goodness, Mike, what a gift. What a gift. Thank you so much for giving us your time and your energy and your expertise today. I've really been looking forward to it, so I'm just going to jump right in because we have a lot to talk about. So, the headwinds and tailwinds of healthcare today, oh my goodness, they are just dizzying. They can put us into a tailspin, honestly. And we talk a lot about resilience today, and there are certainly responsibilities for resilience at the individual level and also at the system and process level. I'm curious from your perspective, what strategies have you developed for managing change and building resilience within your teams, especially during turbulent times and, oh my word, what turbulent times we have been having.

Mike: 

Isn't that the truth? Joni, when we look at the rapid pace of change right now in healthcare, it can almost be paralyzing. And then depending on where we are and what I would consider the healthcare continuum, we can often feel victimized in the space. And so part of our job as leaders is how do we help our teams and really ourselves, frankly, when we talk about our teams, we're doing the same sort of activities with ourselves. 

Joni: 

So true. 

Mike: 

And that is one of the first things I work with my team about is what's within our sphere of control. We often get stuck on events, decisions that really fall outside of our sphere of influence. So I try to bring them back in and say, okay, what's in our sphere of control? How do we manage that? And that's where we're going to invest and spend our energy. That is one of the techniques that I really try to bring in immediately. So we don't spin into the shoulda, coulda, woulda. Someone else needs to do something and say, Nope, let's circle back in and what are we assessing and how do we influence and what do we have control over?

Joni:

Oh my goodness, Mike, that is gold right there because so many times, you're right, we do go into this kind of frenzy of we should do this. What if we did this or this person needs to do this, and you are spot on. What is it that we can control? I love that. And so you have a pretty diverse team that you oversee. You've had quite the varied background. Right now you're working in an informatics type space with lots of different leaders. And when I think about burnouts in healthcare, which we talk a lot about today, I must say informatics team members don't necessarily pop to my mind first. They don't rise to the top. And when we've talked about this before, I really had to pause and check myself because you actually helped me identify an implicit bias because goodness knows, as a nurse leader, I have texted and called and emailed my fair share of informatics colleagues after hours and on the weekends, and I'm so sorry, colleagues. I'm curious, Mike, how do you balance as an executive in informatics, what initiatives have you implemented to keep you and your teams engaged and prevent burnout in these high stress environments?

Mike:

Yeah, no. So first of all, we work in healthcare. That is 24/7, so I appreciate you acknowledging that. But the reality is that we don't start at nine and end at five as a general role. So that's what really we work together with our teams and really the larger organization saying, knowing that we have this 24 hour every day service delivery, what are the mechanisms that are in place to support you as a leader? And then still protect our teams because we know they're not on call 24/7 either because that contributes to burnout. We don't have that separation or ability to recharge our batteries so that we can come back and give our whole selves. So first we need to acknowledge the space we're in and just talk about it out loud. Of course, you may say, of course, Mike, we all know we're in 24-7, but sometimes you just got to pause and say it out loud.

When we're talking about specifically informatics, we will talk about this in a little bit. We really are the fabric or the threads within the fabric between tech and clinical practice. And that means we develop relationships and we know when we're having a tough time or a problem, who are we calling just in our personal lives are friends. And so these relationships have been formed and you call and whether it's night or day. So one of the things that we work on with the team is boundary setting and giving options to folks when they need help outside of what we call our business hours, saying, you know what? There are great resources available right now to support you and help you even though I'm not available. So that long story around burnout, one of the first things we do is we work through boundary setting and responses. So the team does not feel like they always have to be on.

Joni:

And what does that look like? I'm curious from a practical pragmatic perspective.

Mike: 

So, I'm going to be honest with you, it's hard because what I realized we learned as leaders too, right? So I'm laughing. I'm laughing because when I arrived, air quotes “arrived” and I provided this profound information of work in a boundary setting. And here's the messaging that we can work together and use to redirect folks if they need help outside of our working hours. And the resistance of folks, my folks, the team that I work with. And it's because helping is a part of their identity. 

Joni:

Yeah, I see. So good. 

Mike: 

And I would probably tend to say, at least for me and likely for you, our servant professional commitment is a part of our identity as well. So helping them understand that it's okay to be committed to your role and want to serve and pause and give yourself the permission to recharge. And that's a journey. That is a journey.

Joni: 

You used a key word there, and we don't have to have one or the other. You can do this simultaneously. It's okay to think through this and to wrestle through it too because it is a bit of a wrestle trying to balance that internal desire to help and also taking care of yourself too. Wow, that's definitely a journey. You're right, that's the right word. A journey for sure. In leadership, you've mentioned before too, this concept of helping embed in your team this inherent worth that. I love that. And I have fallen into this trap too sometimes, Mike, where I want to help. And then I have instant gratification of knowing that I've helped, and I can see that happening in informatics too. Does your team go through that?

Mike: 

Absolutely. So a little personal note, there are sometimes on weekends, I will make a checklist just so that I can check the boxes, right?

Joni:

Oh, yes, I failed that.

Mike:

Right? And so I don't think that's really any different in our work life because in healthcare it seems like so many of our initiatives are what we would consider a continuous operational practice. It does not necessarily have a definitive start and a definitive stop. Some things do projects, et cetera, but the gross majority is really around operational, ongoing practice. So we don't necessarily get that gratification of getting out that marker and putting the check mark of “we're done.” So, with that, I think folks look to those instant gratification moments so that they can fill their glass, fill their worth bucket.

Joni:

Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes I feel like I have worked and worked and worked, but I can't put my finger on one thing that I have finished for the day. It's like that you were saying the checklist, I know that I did X, Y, Z for this nurse leader. I clearly know I did that. 

Mike:

Yeah. 

Joni: 

I love your perspective on making sure that team members know that they have inherent value even when they can't check off that box. 

Mike:

Absolutely. 

Joni:

I love that you are a skilled communicator. Mike, I must say when I have talked with you before, you have these kind of leadership pearls or jewels just in the way that you talk about team members with team members. And you've mentioned helping team members think through open bi-directional communication. Tell me what does that mean to you and how do you approach difficult conversations with both compassion and honesty?

Mike:

Yeah, thanks for bridging into that conversation. I will tell you I am a lifelong learner. Every single day I am self-reflecting on what didn't go the way I wanted it to go. Did I not approach something in the manner in which I could have approached it to get a better outcome? So part of that emotional intelligence really influences our ability on how we communicate. And my point in sharing that upfront is that I'm not perfect, frankly, I'm bold enough to say none of us are.

Joni:

Absolutely.

Mike:

And how do we have that interaction with our team to create and foster that relationship of three core values here, trust, honesty and integrity? And circling back to the direct question of how do I build that? One is showing that one, I'm authentic. Two, I make mistakes that show that vulnerability in me, and three, if I mess something up, quickly clean it up. And that creates a baseline foundation with your team to generate and start that trusting relationship. And so that is probably one of my fundamental foundational building blocks in that space. And again, remember we just talked about a journey. We're going to talk a lot about some journeys today because there is no magic wand. You are waving over to say, we now have trust and we now have this great relationship. It takes a minute.

Joni:

It does take absolutely. And you mentioned big concepts that I feel like they sound so easy, but you're right, they're hard. Authenticity, vulnerability, openness to fix things that you've done wrong. I mean, those sound really simple until you step into the leadership space and you actually try and do it. And it's hard.

Mike:

It is really hard. And I am telling you, I feel like some days I have to put on the wading boots and I'm talking about the ones that come up to your chest, right? I'm not talking about the ones that go to your thigh just because of one, the different viewpoints in which we interact every day, and we have to look through other people's lenses. And that's something I work on every day because I surely do come to the table with a point of view, but then it's pausing and saying, let's hear some other POVs and figure out how we navigate that together. And sometimes I'll say something I'm like, that was not really how that was meant to be delivered. And then you spend some time cleaning that up. But that is called life and the reality in which we work in and we need to recognize and give ourselves grace as leaders to each other to say, let's fix this together because we ultimately want to zero in and achieve the same outcomes, or at least we should. 

Joni:

Yeah, that is music to my heart, Mike. That's beautiful. You've mentioned reflection, and I use reflection quite a bit in my practice. And when I teach others, reflection is hard. It's hard work. We've kind of talked about that a little bit earlier in the podcast too, because looking in the mirror, but I can hear the reflection in the things that you're saying. And I'm curious because your background is quite diverse, and I love that about nurse leaders. I mean, no two of us are the same, and we all have these interesting journeys like we've mentioned. Tell me more about your background in nursing and technology and business, and how has that shaped your approach to healthcare leadership?

Mike: 

Yeah. First of all, I'm ready to show my age now because I actually had to pause and think about this for a hot New York second and say, okay, back in the day when we nursed by candlelight…

Joni:

I get it. 

Mike:

So I started out in cardiac surgery, so I always had an affinity for hard problems and leveraging data. Let's pause on that in specifically cardiac surgery and cardiovascular ICU and using data to solve these hard problems. Now, ultimately, we know that data is not a total way of solving a problem, but, and when I was at the bedside, I had really sick patients. I worked at Hopkins, that's where I started my nursing career journey. Had really sick patients, had the most high tech equipment available at that time in care delivery 20 something years ago. And it gave me great insight to the patient. So I had that capability of looking at data from the high tech, looking at my patient, and then using my critical thinking skills, along with my interdisciplinary care team by the way, and then saying, okay, how do we best achieve the outcomes? And oh, by the way, Hopkins was an early adopter of EHRs, and so I never walked into practice writing on paper even more than two decades ago, or minimal documentation on paper.

I'm not saying that it was completely paperless at that point. So that really informed my personal interest on how tech can improve the experience of the clinician. Now, have we gotten there yet? No, not quite, but we're making strides. How can we improve the experience of the clinician and improve the outcomes for our patients? And we have seen that as a journey over the past couple of decades. Now, let's keep it high level for a hot New York second, let's not drive into the weeds of we have documentation burden and collect data that we don't use. We know we have those finite problems today, but when the reality, if we look at big picture, we've been able to reasonably start to normalize patient information, share it across the continuum, as well as sharing it with our patients so that we can have the right folks at the right time engaged in patient care delivery.

And we have certainly moved in that direction. Now, do we have plenty of opportunities to improve in that space? Sure, we do. Sure we do. And it is likely going to be evolutionary and likely until well after I retire too. 

Joni:

Yes. 

Mike:

So you asked about how did my journey, my leadership background, it started recognizing that tech and data can absolutely have a space in influencing practice and in influencing patient outcomes. And I found I never would've mapped out the life that I've had professionally. It's just sort of managed itself through relationships and moving in, using a little bit of gut to navigate. Went into working for some tech firms, worked for some management consulting firms, moved back into the health system space, which is where I live now. And just I would not change that for the world because my exposure to the multiple health systems, including some of our largest for-profit and nonprofit health systems, and getting to interact with these leaders shaped me as a leader today. So happy to continue to talk about that. I feel like I have shared a bit in that space, but that has really shaped me into the leader where we can design a conversation around having crucial conversations, staying focused on what we need to accomplish, and more on the behavior and tasks, less about a person being able to have those direct conversations and drive to the outcomes that has certainly been formed over many decades.

Joni:

You have hit the nail on the head, Mike. I mean, we are just as leaders of our experiences that really set us up for success in the future. And what an amalgam you are. You are a beautiful amalgam. Mike, you've mentioned this concept and you said we'd come back to it, so I'm going to circle back to it. Let's go. You've mentioned a concept, the fiber of practice. So to help me about this concept, you're thinking about clinical informatics as a fiber of practice and its impact on patient care. I've never heard anybody say or use that phrase, but I love it. It's beautiful. Tell me more about what you mean by that.

Mike:

Yeah, so again, let's talk a bit globally. When we look at how we deliver care and approach patients, we have some key concepts. It is the people component, the caregivers. There's the process component, there is the platform or our tech. And then more recently, the heavy and intense focus on data and data-driven decision making. And frankly, and this is a bit subjective, through my set of lenses, we've only gotten better. I'm going to use better, not good, better at that within the recent decade or two, right? Decade or so of looking at data to help influence our decision making. So when I say fiber informatics, when you look globally at us, and by the way, you can go to ANA, ANA has a really defined statement of what informatics is, but let's just keep it simple here. The simple space is that we look at how we can get the maximum value for our clinicians.

And typically it is in some key areas, right? It's workflow or efficiency. We're looking at quality outcomes. How do we improve the quality or outcome for our patients? We're also looking at regulatory compliance. We know if we aren't regulatory compliant, we certainly aren't keeping our doors open, so no margin emission. And then really as we bring that home, we look at fiscal responsibility. It goes to that no margin emission conversation. So when you're looking at the fiber of what informatics brings, we are coming to the table with that mindset and saying, okay, now looking at our tech, looking at our people and process. Now, how do we develop the right workflow and help you decide and make good decisions? Looking at the right data first, are you collecting the right data and then looking at the right data to get to where you need to drive toward. So that is again, a bit winded, but how we look at when we come to the table as a consultative service, how we help leaders and clinicians move in a direction and achieve the outcome we need to.

Joni:

Yeah, I hear that. And in today's work, I mean, there's really no work that I can think of that doesn't require an informatics colleague at the table.

Mike:

Absolutely.

Joni:

I mean, early on in my career, I left out a key stakeholder of an informatics colleague and very quickly realized the mistake. I mean, our informatics colleagues are just colleagues in arms and have a completely different perspective and lens to help spur patient work and care forward. And so you've talked a lot about data today and using data in decision making, which I am certainly a fan of. How do you encourage team members to focus on the data when addressing problems or proposing solutions? And this might circle back around to the sphere of influence a little bit, but I'm curious from globally, how do you keep team members focused on data?

Mike: 

Yeah, so it's interesting. I'm going to use my personal reflection for a minute around how I interact with some executives when they come to me, and I'm going to use some words that are intentional, and we talked about this before. I call it speaking in absolutes where they're like all of the doctors, the nurses, everyone is having problem X. And so I pause and I'm like, I am sorry to hear that, acknowledge what they're saying, but then dig a little saying, help me better understand where you're hearing this from. Is it really everyone? Is there a particular group of folks, where can me and my team go and do a little deeper digging so that we can attempt to find out more about this? So first, we need to acknowledge and including leaders, and even us sometimes certainly me, I have to catch myself and I'm like, you're talking in an absolute, there's really no such thing as everybody always all the time. And then it is then circling around saying, what data's available? Do we need to go get data? Where might we find that? And then how do we bring that in to the conversation so that we can have a more informed dialogue on round number one, what is the problem? And two, how might we course correct it?

Joni:

Yeah. I'm curious, do your team members just kind of automatically expect that from you now?

Mike:

They do. Absolutely. And so I have, again, that was speaking to me. That is the approach, and I truly believe it's very much about walk your talk.

Joni:

Yeah, I love that.

Mike: 

And so bringing that approach and then repetitive reinforcement of like, is it really everyone? Is it really always, where's our data to tell the story? Bringing that back, they're like, okay, we need to go do a little bit some deeper digging and let's come back to the table and then let's have a different type of conversation. Yes. But again, what's the word of the day? It's a journey. Because again, you don't walk in and instantly change the way someone thinks because they use their gut reaction to tell the story. That's a shift. That's a fundamental paradigm shift on how we approach problem solving or how we approach innovation.

Joni:

Yes, absolutely. And sometimes that comes through painful lessons when we don't have leaders like you, Mike, and we find out, oh, this was an N of seven and not 700. What have we been doing all of this time? It can be pretty painful.

Mike:

Absolutely. But we work on it together, and that's part of what I embed with my team is that it is a team sport with the advancement of healthcare and the more technology we bring, it is no longer a one person show, really never was, but more so now than ever, it takes that interdisciplinary team to drive to the outcomes where we need to achieve.

Joni:

Absolutely, Mike, I love that. So I ask these questions of all of our guests. They're part of my favorite thing that we do on The Handoff, because again, I love how leaders are kind of just amalgams of their experiences and how they are who they are and think how they think. And so I'm always curious what other leaders read or do to sharpen their skills. There's no right or wrong answer to this question, Mike. So what are you reading or learning about or even doing these days to spur your thinking or nourishing your soul as a leader?

Mike:

Yeah, no, I appreciate the question and the self-reflection there. So one, I'm a podcast junkie and I'll tell you a couple of things that I've been listening to. 

Joni:

Perfect. 

Mike: 

Two, I love to listen to audiobooks, and we talked about that before. So one of the recent podcasts, and she is out there in many different ones, Mellody Hobson, and if you're not familiar with her, she's the CEO of Ariel Investments, a financial firm. And however, her leadership skill sets, especially around the conversation of taking tough feedback was the right time and right place. For me, I highly recommend Mellody Hobson on receiving tough feedback. Again, she's done several TED talks in that space also. There's a masterclass that she's done in that space, but she is someone that I've been following because she is resonating with me in that space. 

Joni:

Wow, Love that.

Mike: 

The other of the books that I have recently hit back again, Dr. Brene Brown, I'm telling you, if you have not introduced yourself to her, please at minimum go search for her TED talk and watch it, but Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead. All of those books resonate with me because we've talked about some of the concepts in this podcast, and that is vulnerability, being authentic, coming to the table, being able to share those raw experiences and lead and that builds those relationships. So again, she's another one of my faves, and then I'll end with this one, Dr. Adam Grant. 

Joni:

Love him. 

Mike:

Yes, love him. So again, he has a podcast, go find him, the podcast app is free. Listen to him. And then if you want to take a peek at his books, Hidden Potential and Think Again. That's a little bit where I feed myself. Then on a personal note, I find community service really enriching and gratifying for me. So I'm committed to not only professional groups, but then personal community groups, ANA, or some of my professional groups, and then the Alzheimer's Association. So again, just giving back to that community fills my gratitude cup.

Joni:

So good. So some of those recommendations I currently knew, some I did not. I'm certainly going to look at Mellody, Hobson, Brene Brown, and Adam Grant. I feel like you can't go wrong with those guys. I mean, they're just, you can’t. So good, so good. Mike, we've talked about quite a few things today. I mean, this has just been a treasure trove of leadership. It really has. So thank you for your time and expertise. What would you like to handoff to nurse leaders at all levels and in every setting today?

Mike:

Love this question, Joni, because I think there's one thing that is critical in today's healthcare environment, and I don't know if there's a right or wrong answer because it's going to be situational, but I will tell you something that I think about all the time and nearly every situation is know when to pivot, know when I need to shift and go in a different direction. Having the data, the gut, the EI, giving you some insights. You have to know when to pivot, otherwise you'll be left in the dust or left in a space that you don't want to be in. The second thing, really, the pearls of wisdom from a leader perspective is get out of the way of your team. Your team can solve hard problems, and they can innovate well beyond anything I can do as an individual. So my job really is what do you need from me to get out of your way? What tools do you reasonably need to help you be successful? And how do I advocate and support you through this journey of hard problem solving, but get out of their way. Let them solve the hard problems, and that goes back to burnout, by the way. If they feel your team feels like that they are coming to work and making an impact and a difference, and have that autonomy and collaboration to peer support and drive to these hard problem solving and innovation spaces, you are solving part of that burnout problem, right? Yes. So that's where I'm going to leave on what can you do as a leader, get out of their way, support them, and get out of their way.

Joni:

Get out of their way. Your team can do hard things. Oh, really Good. Great, great handoff, Mike. Where can people follow or connect with you to find more of your work? Because I know that they'll want to do that after this podcast.

Mike:

Yeah. Come check me out on LinkedIn, right? I'm happy to get the LinkedIn profile over to you, Joni, if we put a subtitle or some notes in for the podcast, and yeah, reach out, say Howdy. Love to connect, love to create new relationships. See where we can take these relationships to make a change and a difference.

Joni:

Excellent. Everyone, be sure to reach out and find Dr. Michael, Mike, Jones on LinkedIn. Mike, I love your reflective leadership blend of nursing, technology and business. Thank you for spurring us with your expertise and leadership today. It's been a pleasure. Thanks, Mike.

Mike: 

And Ditto. Thanks, Joni. Thanks for having me today. 

Description

In this season finale of The Handoff, Dr. Joni Watson sits down with Dr. Michael Jones, a regional director at Common Spirit Health and a leader in clinical informatics. With a rich background in nursing and health administration, Dr. Jones shares his strategies for managing change, building resilient teams, and leveraging data to improve patient outcomes. From preventing burnout in a 24/7 healthcare environment to mastering stakeholder engagement, Dr. Jones provides invaluable insights into the future of healthcare leadership. Listen in for a compelling discussion on the dynamic intersection of nursing, technology, and business.

Transcript

Joni: 

Hi, this is Dr. Joni Watson. Welcome to The Handoff, the podcast for nurse leaders brought to you by Works. I'm thrilled to introduce our episode guest today. We have Dr. Michael Jones, a regional director at CommonSpirit Health. He's a charismatic leader and a driving force behind efforts to improve healthcare outcomes. With nearly two decades of combined experience in leadership, clinical informatics and nursing practice, he's dedicated to making healthcare more efficient, effective, and patient-centered. Mike's approach is all about early intervention prevention and outcomes management, and he knows how to leverage data, technology and innovative practices to achieve these goals. His commitment to social responsibility and fiscal discipline is the backbone of his strategy to drive improved patient outcomes while ensuring we're making the best use of our healthcare dollars. Mike has a unique skill set that combines the technical expertise of health informatics with the human touch of nursing.

As a doctorally prepared healthcare administration fellow, a certified nurse executive, and an informatics nurse, he has the credentials to back up his ideas. He's also an affiliate member of the American Nurses Association, the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Healthcare Information and Management System Society. Mike is known for his enthusiasm, energy, and his ability to bring out the best in teams. He's a master of stakeholder engagement, process improvement, and change management. Whether he's leading a team through a new initiative or finding ways to improve operational outcomes, Mike does it with passion, vision, and a deep commitment to the people he serves. We're excited to have him on the show today to talk about his journey, his insights into the future of healthcare, and his thoughts on what it takes to be a servant leader in this dynamic industry. Dr. Michael Jones, welcome to The Handoff. I'm so glad to have you today,

Mike: 

Joni, I can't believe we were just talking about me. Thank you for a great introduction and thank you for having me here today. How much fun on a Friday that we get a chance to sit together and chat about things that we love in healthcare. 

Joni:

Oh my goodness, Mike, what a gift. What a gift. Thank you so much for giving us your time and your energy and your expertise today. I've really been looking forward to it, so I'm just going to jump right in because we have a lot to talk about. So, the headwinds and tailwinds of healthcare today, oh my goodness, they are just dizzying. They can put us into a tailspin, honestly. And we talk a lot about resilience today, and there are certainly responsibilities for resilience at the individual level and also at the system and process level. I'm curious from your perspective, what strategies have you developed for managing change and building resilience within your teams, especially during turbulent times and, oh my word, what turbulent times we have been having.

Mike: 

Isn't that the truth? Joni, when we look at the rapid pace of change right now in healthcare, it can almost be paralyzing. And then depending on where we are and what I would consider the healthcare continuum, we can often feel victimized in the space. And so part of our job as leaders is how do we help our teams and really ourselves, frankly, when we talk about our teams, we're doing the same sort of activities with ourselves. 

Joni: 

So true. 

Mike: 

And that is one of the first things I work with my team about is what's within our sphere of control. We often get stuck on events, decisions that really fall outside of our sphere of influence. So I try to bring them back in and say, okay, what's in our sphere of control? How do we manage that? And that's where we're going to invest and spend our energy. That is one of the techniques that I really try to bring in immediately. So we don't spin into the shoulda, coulda, woulda. Someone else needs to do something and say, Nope, let's circle back in and what are we assessing and how do we influence and what do we have control over?

Joni:

Oh my goodness, Mike, that is gold right there because so many times, you're right, we do go into this kind of frenzy of we should do this. What if we did this or this person needs to do this, and you are spot on. What is it that we can control? I love that. And so you have a pretty diverse team that you oversee. You've had quite the varied background. Right now you're working in an informatics type space with lots of different leaders. And when I think about burnouts in healthcare, which we talk a lot about today, I must say informatics team members don't necessarily pop to my mind first. They don't rise to the top. And when we've talked about this before, I really had to pause and check myself because you actually helped me identify an implicit bias because goodness knows, as a nurse leader, I have texted and called and emailed my fair share of informatics colleagues after hours and on the weekends, and I'm so sorry, colleagues. I'm curious, Mike, how do you balance as an executive in informatics, what initiatives have you implemented to keep you and your teams engaged and prevent burnout in these high stress environments?

Mike:

Yeah, no. So first of all, we work in healthcare. That is 24/7, so I appreciate you acknowledging that. But the reality is that we don't start at nine and end at five as a general role. So that's what really we work together with our teams and really the larger organization saying, knowing that we have this 24 hour every day service delivery, what are the mechanisms that are in place to support you as a leader? And then still protect our teams because we know they're not on call 24/7 either because that contributes to burnout. We don't have that separation or ability to recharge our batteries so that we can come back and give our whole selves. So first we need to acknowledge the space we're in and just talk about it out loud. Of course, you may say, of course, Mike, we all know we're in 24-7, but sometimes you just got to pause and say it out loud.

When we're talking about specifically informatics, we will talk about this in a little bit. We really are the fabric or the threads within the fabric between tech and clinical practice. And that means we develop relationships and we know when we're having a tough time or a problem, who are we calling just in our personal lives are friends. And so these relationships have been formed and you call and whether it's night or day. So one of the things that we work on with the team is boundary setting and giving options to folks when they need help outside of what we call our business hours, saying, you know what? There are great resources available right now to support you and help you even though I'm not available. So that long story around burnout, one of the first things we do is we work through boundary setting and responses. So the team does not feel like they always have to be on.

Joni:

And what does that look like? I'm curious from a practical pragmatic perspective.

Mike: 

So, I'm going to be honest with you, it's hard because what I realized we learned as leaders too, right? So I'm laughing. I'm laughing because when I arrived, air quotes “arrived” and I provided this profound information of work in a boundary setting. And here's the messaging that we can work together and use to redirect folks if they need help outside of our working hours. And the resistance of folks, my folks, the team that I work with. And it's because helping is a part of their identity. 

Joni:

Yeah, I see. So good. 

Mike: 

And I would probably tend to say, at least for me and likely for you, our servant professional commitment is a part of our identity as well. So helping them understand that it's okay to be committed to your role and want to serve and pause and give yourself the permission to recharge. And that's a journey. That is a journey.

Joni: 

You used a key word there, and we don't have to have one or the other. You can do this simultaneously. It's okay to think through this and to wrestle through it too because it is a bit of a wrestle trying to balance that internal desire to help and also taking care of yourself too. Wow, that's definitely a journey. You're right, that's the right word. A journey for sure. In leadership, you've mentioned before too, this concept of helping embed in your team this inherent worth that. I love that. And I have fallen into this trap too sometimes, Mike, where I want to help. And then I have instant gratification of knowing that I've helped, and I can see that happening in informatics too. Does your team go through that?

Mike: 

Absolutely. So a little personal note, there are sometimes on weekends, I will make a checklist just so that I can check the boxes, right?

Joni:

Oh, yes, I failed that.

Mike:

Right? And so I don't think that's really any different in our work life because in healthcare it seems like so many of our initiatives are what we would consider a continuous operational practice. It does not necessarily have a definitive start and a definitive stop. Some things do projects, et cetera, but the gross majority is really around operational, ongoing practice. So we don't necessarily get that gratification of getting out that marker and putting the check mark of “we're done.” So, with that, I think folks look to those instant gratification moments so that they can fill their glass, fill their worth bucket.

Joni:

Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes I feel like I have worked and worked and worked, but I can't put my finger on one thing that I have finished for the day. It's like that you were saying the checklist, I know that I did X, Y, Z for this nurse leader. I clearly know I did that. 

Mike:

Yeah. 

Joni: 

I love your perspective on making sure that team members know that they have inherent value even when they can't check off that box. 

Mike:

Absolutely. 

Joni:

I love that you are a skilled communicator. Mike, I must say when I have talked with you before, you have these kind of leadership pearls or jewels just in the way that you talk about team members with team members. And you've mentioned helping team members think through open bi-directional communication. Tell me what does that mean to you and how do you approach difficult conversations with both compassion and honesty?

Mike:

Yeah, thanks for bridging into that conversation. I will tell you I am a lifelong learner. Every single day I am self-reflecting on what didn't go the way I wanted it to go. Did I not approach something in the manner in which I could have approached it to get a better outcome? So part of that emotional intelligence really influences our ability on how we communicate. And my point in sharing that upfront is that I'm not perfect, frankly, I'm bold enough to say none of us are.

Joni:

Absolutely.

Mike:

And how do we have that interaction with our team to create and foster that relationship of three core values here, trust, honesty and integrity? And circling back to the direct question of how do I build that? One is showing that one, I'm authentic. Two, I make mistakes that show that vulnerability in me, and three, if I mess something up, quickly clean it up. And that creates a baseline foundation with your team to generate and start that trusting relationship. And so that is probably one of my fundamental foundational building blocks in that space. And again, remember we just talked about a journey. We're going to talk a lot about some journeys today because there is no magic wand. You are waving over to say, we now have trust and we now have this great relationship. It takes a minute.

Joni:

It does take absolutely. And you mentioned big concepts that I feel like they sound so easy, but you're right, they're hard. Authenticity, vulnerability, openness to fix things that you've done wrong. I mean, those sound really simple until you step into the leadership space and you actually try and do it. And it's hard.

Mike:

It is really hard. And I am telling you, I feel like some days I have to put on the wading boots and I'm talking about the ones that come up to your chest, right? I'm not talking about the ones that go to your thigh just because of one, the different viewpoints in which we interact every day, and we have to look through other people's lenses. And that's something I work on every day because I surely do come to the table with a point of view, but then it's pausing and saying, let's hear some other POVs and figure out how we navigate that together. And sometimes I'll say something I'm like, that was not really how that was meant to be delivered. And then you spend some time cleaning that up. But that is called life and the reality in which we work in and we need to recognize and give ourselves grace as leaders to each other to say, let's fix this together because we ultimately want to zero in and achieve the same outcomes, or at least we should. 

Joni:

Yeah, that is music to my heart, Mike. That's beautiful. You've mentioned reflection, and I use reflection quite a bit in my practice. And when I teach others, reflection is hard. It's hard work. We've kind of talked about that a little bit earlier in the podcast too, because looking in the mirror, but I can hear the reflection in the things that you're saying. And I'm curious because your background is quite diverse, and I love that about nurse leaders. I mean, no two of us are the same, and we all have these interesting journeys like we've mentioned. Tell me more about your background in nursing and technology and business, and how has that shaped your approach to healthcare leadership?

Mike: 

Yeah. First of all, I'm ready to show my age now because I actually had to pause and think about this for a hot New York second and say, okay, back in the day when we nursed by candlelight…

Joni:

I get it. 

Mike:

So I started out in cardiac surgery, so I always had an affinity for hard problems and leveraging data. Let's pause on that in specifically cardiac surgery and cardiovascular ICU and using data to solve these hard problems. Now, ultimately, we know that data is not a total way of solving a problem, but, and when I was at the bedside, I had really sick patients. I worked at Hopkins, that's where I started my nursing career journey. Had really sick patients, had the most high tech equipment available at that time in care delivery 20 something years ago. And it gave me great insight to the patient. So I had that capability of looking at data from the high tech, looking at my patient, and then using my critical thinking skills, along with my interdisciplinary care team by the way, and then saying, okay, how do we best achieve the outcomes? And oh, by the way, Hopkins was an early adopter of EHRs, and so I never walked into practice writing on paper even more than two decades ago, or minimal documentation on paper.

I'm not saying that it was completely paperless at that point. So that really informed my personal interest on how tech can improve the experience of the clinician. Now, have we gotten there yet? No, not quite, but we're making strides. How can we improve the experience of the clinician and improve the outcomes for our patients? And we have seen that as a journey over the past couple of decades. Now, let's keep it high level for a hot New York second, let's not drive into the weeds of we have documentation burden and collect data that we don't use. We know we have those finite problems today, but when the reality, if we look at big picture, we've been able to reasonably start to normalize patient information, share it across the continuum, as well as sharing it with our patients so that we can have the right folks at the right time engaged in patient care delivery.

And we have certainly moved in that direction. Now, do we have plenty of opportunities to improve in that space? Sure, we do. Sure we do. And it is likely going to be evolutionary and likely until well after I retire too. 

Joni:

Yes. 

Mike:

So you asked about how did my journey, my leadership background, it started recognizing that tech and data can absolutely have a space in influencing practice and in influencing patient outcomes. And I found I never would've mapped out the life that I've had professionally. It's just sort of managed itself through relationships and moving in, using a little bit of gut to navigate. Went into working for some tech firms, worked for some management consulting firms, moved back into the health system space, which is where I live now. And just I would not change that for the world because my exposure to the multiple health systems, including some of our largest for-profit and nonprofit health systems, and getting to interact with these leaders shaped me as a leader today. So happy to continue to talk about that. I feel like I have shared a bit in that space, but that has really shaped me into the leader where we can design a conversation around having crucial conversations, staying focused on what we need to accomplish, and more on the behavior and tasks, less about a person being able to have those direct conversations and drive to the outcomes that has certainly been formed over many decades.

Joni:

You have hit the nail on the head, Mike. I mean, we are just as leaders of our experiences that really set us up for success in the future. And what an amalgam you are. You are a beautiful amalgam. Mike, you've mentioned this concept and you said we'd come back to it, so I'm going to circle back to it. Let's go. You've mentioned a concept, the fiber of practice. So to help me about this concept, you're thinking about clinical informatics as a fiber of practice and its impact on patient care. I've never heard anybody say or use that phrase, but I love it. It's beautiful. Tell me more about what you mean by that.

Mike:

Yeah, so again, let's talk a bit globally. When we look at how we deliver care and approach patients, we have some key concepts. It is the people component, the caregivers. There's the process component, there is the platform or our tech. And then more recently, the heavy and intense focus on data and data-driven decision making. And frankly, and this is a bit subjective, through my set of lenses, we've only gotten better. I'm going to use better, not good, better at that within the recent decade or two, right? Decade or so of looking at data to help influence our decision making. So when I say fiber informatics, when you look globally at us, and by the way, you can go to ANA, ANA has a really defined statement of what informatics is, but let's just keep it simple here. The simple space is that we look at how we can get the maximum value for our clinicians.

And typically it is in some key areas, right? It's workflow or efficiency. We're looking at quality outcomes. How do we improve the quality or outcome for our patients? We're also looking at regulatory compliance. We know if we aren't regulatory compliant, we certainly aren't keeping our doors open, so no margin emission. And then really as we bring that home, we look at fiscal responsibility. It goes to that no margin emission conversation. So when you're looking at the fiber of what informatics brings, we are coming to the table with that mindset and saying, okay, now looking at our tech, looking at our people and process. Now, how do we develop the right workflow and help you decide and make good decisions? Looking at the right data first, are you collecting the right data and then looking at the right data to get to where you need to drive toward. So that is again, a bit winded, but how we look at when we come to the table as a consultative service, how we help leaders and clinicians move in a direction and achieve the outcome we need to.

Joni:

Yeah, I hear that. And in today's work, I mean, there's really no work that I can think of that doesn't require an informatics colleague at the table.

Mike:

Absolutely.

Joni:

I mean, early on in my career, I left out a key stakeholder of an informatics colleague and very quickly realized the mistake. I mean, our informatics colleagues are just colleagues in arms and have a completely different perspective and lens to help spur patient work and care forward. And so you've talked a lot about data today and using data in decision making, which I am certainly a fan of. How do you encourage team members to focus on the data when addressing problems or proposing solutions? And this might circle back around to the sphere of influence a little bit, but I'm curious from globally, how do you keep team members focused on data?

Mike: 

Yeah, so it's interesting. I'm going to use my personal reflection for a minute around how I interact with some executives when they come to me, and I'm going to use some words that are intentional, and we talked about this before. I call it speaking in absolutes where they're like all of the doctors, the nurses, everyone is having problem X. And so I pause and I'm like, I am sorry to hear that, acknowledge what they're saying, but then dig a little saying, help me better understand where you're hearing this from. Is it really everyone? Is there a particular group of folks, where can me and my team go and do a little deeper digging so that we can attempt to find out more about this? So first, we need to acknowledge and including leaders, and even us sometimes certainly me, I have to catch myself and I'm like, you're talking in an absolute, there's really no such thing as everybody always all the time. And then it is then circling around saying, what data's available? Do we need to go get data? Where might we find that? And then how do we bring that in to the conversation so that we can have a more informed dialogue on round number one, what is the problem? And two, how might we course correct it?

Joni:

Yeah. I'm curious, do your team members just kind of automatically expect that from you now?

Mike:

They do. Absolutely. And so I have, again, that was speaking to me. That is the approach, and I truly believe it's very much about walk your talk.

Joni:

Yeah, I love that.

Mike: 

And so bringing that approach and then repetitive reinforcement of like, is it really everyone? Is it really always, where's our data to tell the story? Bringing that back, they're like, okay, we need to go do a little bit some deeper digging and let's come back to the table and then let's have a different type of conversation. Yes. But again, what's the word of the day? It's a journey. Because again, you don't walk in and instantly change the way someone thinks because they use their gut reaction to tell the story. That's a shift. That's a fundamental paradigm shift on how we approach problem solving or how we approach innovation.

Joni:

Yes, absolutely. And sometimes that comes through painful lessons when we don't have leaders like you, Mike, and we find out, oh, this was an N of seven and not 700. What have we been doing all of this time? It can be pretty painful.

Mike:

Absolutely. But we work on it together, and that's part of what I embed with my team is that it is a team sport with the advancement of healthcare and the more technology we bring, it is no longer a one person show, really never was, but more so now than ever, it takes that interdisciplinary team to drive to the outcomes where we need to achieve.

Joni:

Absolutely, Mike, I love that. So I ask these questions of all of our guests. They're part of my favorite thing that we do on The Handoff, because again, I love how leaders are kind of just amalgams of their experiences and how they are who they are and think how they think. And so I'm always curious what other leaders read or do to sharpen their skills. There's no right or wrong answer to this question, Mike. So what are you reading or learning about or even doing these days to spur your thinking or nourishing your soul as a leader?

Mike:

Yeah, no, I appreciate the question and the self-reflection there. So one, I'm a podcast junkie and I'll tell you a couple of things that I've been listening to. 

Joni:

Perfect. 

Mike: 

Two, I love to listen to audiobooks, and we talked about that before. So one of the recent podcasts, and she is out there in many different ones, Mellody Hobson, and if you're not familiar with her, she's the CEO of Ariel Investments, a financial firm. And however, her leadership skill sets, especially around the conversation of taking tough feedback was the right time and right place. For me, I highly recommend Mellody Hobson on receiving tough feedback. Again, she's done several TED talks in that space also. There's a masterclass that she's done in that space, but she is someone that I've been following because she is resonating with me in that space. 

Joni:

Wow, Love that.

Mike: 

The other of the books that I have recently hit back again, Dr. Brene Brown, I'm telling you, if you have not introduced yourself to her, please at minimum go search for her TED talk and watch it, but Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead. All of those books resonate with me because we've talked about some of the concepts in this podcast, and that is vulnerability, being authentic, coming to the table, being able to share those raw experiences and lead and that builds those relationships. So again, she's another one of my faves, and then I'll end with this one, Dr. Adam Grant. 

Joni:

Love him. 

Mike:

Yes, love him. So again, he has a podcast, go find him, the podcast app is free. Listen to him. And then if you want to take a peek at his books, Hidden Potential and Think Again. That's a little bit where I feed myself. Then on a personal note, I find community service really enriching and gratifying for me. So I'm committed to not only professional groups, but then personal community groups, ANA, or some of my professional groups, and then the Alzheimer's Association. So again, just giving back to that community fills my gratitude cup.

Joni:

So good. So some of those recommendations I currently knew, some I did not. I'm certainly going to look at Mellody, Hobson, Brene Brown, and Adam Grant. I feel like you can't go wrong with those guys. I mean, they're just, you can’t. So good, so good. Mike, we've talked about quite a few things today. I mean, this has just been a treasure trove of leadership. It really has. So thank you for your time and expertise. What would you like to handoff to nurse leaders at all levels and in every setting today?

Mike:

Love this question, Joni, because I think there's one thing that is critical in today's healthcare environment, and I don't know if there's a right or wrong answer because it's going to be situational, but I will tell you something that I think about all the time and nearly every situation is know when to pivot, know when I need to shift and go in a different direction. Having the data, the gut, the EI, giving you some insights. You have to know when to pivot, otherwise you'll be left in the dust or left in a space that you don't want to be in. The second thing, really, the pearls of wisdom from a leader perspective is get out of the way of your team. Your team can solve hard problems, and they can innovate well beyond anything I can do as an individual. So my job really is what do you need from me to get out of your way? What tools do you reasonably need to help you be successful? And how do I advocate and support you through this journey of hard problem solving, but get out of their way. Let them solve the hard problems, and that goes back to burnout, by the way. If they feel your team feels like that they are coming to work and making an impact and a difference, and have that autonomy and collaboration to peer support and drive to these hard problem solving and innovation spaces, you are solving part of that burnout problem, right? Yes. So that's where I'm going to leave on what can you do as a leader, get out of their way, support them, and get out of their way.

Joni:

Get out of their way. Your team can do hard things. Oh, really Good. Great, great handoff, Mike. Where can people follow or connect with you to find more of your work? Because I know that they'll want to do that after this podcast.

Mike:

Yeah. Come check me out on LinkedIn, right? I'm happy to get the LinkedIn profile over to you, Joni, if we put a subtitle or some notes in for the podcast, and yeah, reach out, say Howdy. Love to connect, love to create new relationships. See where we can take these relationships to make a change and a difference.

Joni:

Excellent. Everyone, be sure to reach out and find Dr. Michael, Mike, Jones on LinkedIn. Mike, I love your reflective leadership blend of nursing, technology and business. Thank you for spurring us with your expertise and leadership today. It's been a pleasure. Thanks, Mike.

Mike: 

And Ditto. Thanks, Joni. Thanks for having me today. 

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