What one CIO can learn from watching another CIO at work

After stepping back from her post, Sue Schade has been fortunate to watch University Hospitals new CIO Joy Grosser take charge. Schade shares insights she learned during the transition.
By Sue Schade
04:01 PM

At University Hospitals in Cleveland, interim CIO Sue Schade is paving the way for incoming CIO Joy Grosser.

It’s rare that a CIO gets to watch another CIO at work. Yes, we all network regularly at CHIME and other conferences. We learn from each other on topical webinars. And we pick each other’s brains on phone calls about something that is new for us and our organization.

But to see someone working day to day with the executives, their peers and their own leadership team is different: how they set expectations and deliver tough messages; how they make commitments with appropriate caveats; how they answer questions if they don’t have enough information yet.

I’ve been fortunate to watch our new CIO, Joy Grosser, at University Hospitals, at work. I’ve stepped back since she became CIO and serve as an advisor to her during the transition. We look for pockets of time to do transition and turnover. 

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During these few weeks of transition, we’ve had some production issues and vendor challenges. We are developing next year’s budget. We are finalizing a plan for new hospital integration with the help of a consulting firm. These are big initiatives to walk into, to learn quickly what you need to know, and to lead with authority and confidence.

But that’s what leaders do. They listen and learn. They share their values and vision. They don’t pretend to know or have all the answers. They rely on their team to keep them informed and to solve problems. And at the end of the day they own it.

Joy repeatedly says “strengthen the core”. I couldn’t agree more. One of my priorities as interim was a stable production environment. When you strengthen the core, you can build on it. As she has said, you shouldn’t be painting a room on the second floor of your house if your foundation is cracked. To use another of her metaphors, the team needs to focus on fire prevention instead of fire-fighting. 

We all compare ourselves to others. We feel guilty if we haven’t taken something far enough. I’ve had both these feelings during this transition. I try to put them aside quickly; they are not productive. Instead, I’ve focused on what Joy needs to know from me and how I can best support her.

I saw that she was the right leader for University Hospitals during the recruitment process. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from her as I watch her in action. I’m confident that University Hospitals will be well served by Joy as their new CIO for the long term.

This post was first published on Sue Schade's Health IT Connect blog.

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