Best practices in leadership

Find your passion, four other stepping stones.
By Matt DeVries

As a busy lawyer and father of seven young children, I know that it takes the right team to achieve success at work and home. Whether you are talking about adjusting to the challenging healthcare environment with new regulations and technologies, or fostering good relationships with your colleagues, staff, family and friends, anyone can find the right balance by planning ahead and using some best practices.

The Adventure
Over the years, I experienced what I initially called “stumbling blocks” to my professional goals, including health issues, uncertainty of passing the bar exam, long hours away from family, and tens of thousands of dollars of debt. Ultimately, I survived law school and my first fifteen years of practice by answering the question, “Why do I want to be a lawyer?” Although I wrestled with that question for many years, it finally came down to the following two words: helping others.

What about you? Why are you in the healthcare profession? Is your job mundane or lack luster? How can you make it better?

I am exactly where I want to be in my career and family life—right in the middle of the adventure. Answering the Why? enabled me to start an amazing journey that continues to this day. I realized that many of my so-called “stumbling blocks” were actually “stepping stones” to a more fulfilling career and life.

You may feel that your staff or co-workers simply can’t keep up with the ever-changing regulations in the industry. You may think that your fellow physicians don’t share the same work ethic. You may be overwhelmed with thousands of pages of documents that you have to process by next week. Whatever your circumstance, I challenge you to continue your journey and find success professionally and emotionally. Here are some tips that can turn your stumbling blocks to stepping stones:

1. Find And Pursue Your Passion. Your job is more than a title—you are more than an office manager, hospital administrator or practicing physician. It is about doing what fulfills you while at the same time helping others. It is about finding your passion and implementing the best way to use your skills and talents. It is more about the journey than the destination.

Once I resolved to help others, the next challenge was to identify my true passion. I got involved and remain in construction because I enjoy working with all sectors (healthcare, transportation, and infrastructure) to build a better future.

Your passion may currently align with your career in healthcare. It may not. That is okay because you always have an opportunity to find your passion. In the end, a day started with passion will help combat the challenges.

2. Seek mentors. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. Throughout my career I have relied upon different mentors to help me grow as an attorney, husband and father. It is important to have a bookshelf of different advisors because, frankly, your role in healthcare is comprised of so many roles. Sometimes you have to be good researchers and writers. Sometimes you have to be good record-keepers. Sometimes you have to be good money-handlers. And, if you go home each night to a family, you have to be good encouragement-givers. The key is to build a relationship with someone who can (and wants to) invest in you—whether you need business advice, practice area advice, or even marital and parenting advice.

3. Prioritize Your Demands. Most of my hurdles over the past ten years stemmed from trying to compartmentalize every aspect of my daily life (work, health, family, friendships). Each had their own little box. Until I realized that there is only room for one life, there was the constant conflict between what I called my professional life and my family life.

While it remains a daily challenge, I adopted the “family first” approach to my priorities. Although I still work late on many nights, “family first” helps me identify which nights I commit to being home for dinner.

4. Expect Change. We live and work in unprecedented times. Cost-reductions, increased regulatory compliance, and new complex technologies affect every industry, including healthcare. Whether you are an administrator, manager, physician or educator, you need to understand a few things about the concept of change:

Change will happen. Whether you are talking about your professional career or personal life, there will be change. Most of the time, people who fail to recognize change have the hardest time adjusting to it.
Change and your responses will come in stages. Consider a change resulting from a merger of two healthcare facilities. Undoubtedly, you will go through numerous changes in how you perform your job, who you will lead, who will be your leader and how much you are compensated. If you expect and welcome those changes in stages, you are better prepared for the transition.
Communication leads to success. Communication is always important, but it is especially important when you face change. You need as much information about the change as possible, to make intelligent decisions. Talk to your boss, your employees and your co-workers to get their understanding of the changes you and your team may experience. Be honest in all of your discussions and deal with problems when they arise.

5. Prepare For Rain. Ultimately, if you want a successful team of employees, healthcare facility or medical practice, you need to prepare for rain. What does that mean? It is best described in the movie, Facing the Giants. Wanting to encourage the defeated football coach with a few words of wisdom, a local pastor shares the following story: “There were two farmers who desperately needed rain in a drought. And both of them prayed for rain, but only one of them went out to plow his field to receive the rain. Now, which farmer trusted and believed that is was going to rain?”

The final word. If I had one final bit of encouragement, it would be to keep plowing ahead. You cannot be discouraged by the drought in either your professional career or your family matters. I remember the late nights as a young attorney. Often I would climb into bed with my wife and groan, “I can’t do this anymore.” She would always whisper words of encouragement: “Honey, just a few more days and you will be prepared for this case. And when you win, we can go celebrate as a family.” Let me whisper in your ear: Keep plowing—keep preparing for the rain—you can make it.

Matt DeVries is a member of the Construction Service Group of Stites & Harbison PLLC in Nashville.