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Lessons in Leadership

Gary Baldwin, for HealthLeaders Media, January 15, 2008
While reporting December's feature article, Not Just 'Techies' Anymore, I was struck by how much my sources realized the value of the intangibles in workplace motivation. The two "Eds" I interviewed--Ed Marx and Ed Martinez--just seemed to "get" what many managers don't. That it takes much more than a paycheck to motivate today's staff. "People thrive on recognition," said Ed Martinez, the CIO at Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. Likewise, Ed Marx, the former CIO at University Hospitals in Cleveland, talked about "connecting the heart" of the people in IT.

Now neither of the two Eds is what you would call a touchy-feely type. They both understand that any good business operation functions on accountability and responsibility. Ed Marx went so far as to publicize his department's performance metrics in upholding service level agreements. It's a practice he hopes to continue at his newest challenge, as CIO at Texas Health Resources.

Both of these fellows acted on the same premise: that the analysts, engineers, and even help desk staff in the IT department want--if not need--to feel connected to the medical mission of their hospitals. Oftentimes, "computer staff" are dismissed as just techno-geeks with little ability to relate to us regular folk (Dilbert, take a bow). Truth is, they can be every bit as dedicated to the mission of the hospital as the most overachieving physician. You just need to get them opportunities to work--and mingle--together.

That was the driving philosophy behind Ed Marx's long-running "Connections" program, in which IT staff--all the way up to the CIO himself--would shadow clinicians on the job. Marx described it as his most successful communications program, and said he will definitely try to replicate it at Texas Health Resources.

Having IT staff follow physicians, nurses, and other allied health professionals on the job created a two-way flow of information that resonates throughout the year. Not only did it teach the computer people what clinicians really need (like easily-portable devices), it informed the clinical staff just who they could turn to in the IT department. It was, in the current parlance, a "win-win." All it took was creativity to bring the cliché to life.


Gary Baldwin is technology editor of HealthLeaders magazine. He can be reached at gbaldwin@healthleadersmedia.com.

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