Column | Leadership

Shake it up — it’s what healthcare leaders need to do to move ahead

Column | Leadership

Shake it up — it’s what healthcare leaders need to do to move ahead


Have you assessed your current state? If you haven’t, it’s time.

Regardless of your job title or personal situation, if your tendency is to play it safe, you are doing what Brené Brown, the best-selling author of Dare to Lead, calls “engineering smallness.” In my experience, when people get into protracted periods of playing it safe, they become comfortable and, at best, manage to stay in place. Growth as a person, coworker and leader comes to a halt.

If that sounds familiar, I encourage you indulge in some self-reflection and then shake things up. In fact, I dare you. And if you’re looking for motivation, check out the recent Wall Street Journal article titled “The Renegade Executives of Houston Who Shook up Sports Management” (Sept. 26, 2019). The article featured two sports executives: Jeff Luhnow, general manager of the Houston Astros, which won the MLB World Series in 2017, and Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, a perpetual NBA playoff team.

Both Luhnow and Morey profess similar philosophies, relying heavily on analytics and willingness to take risks. Every decision they make gets played out in the press and scrutinized by fans everywhere. Playing it safe means choosing decisions to avoid getting second-guessed. How far do you think that would get any of us? Do we have the energy or courage to take a risk and the potential fear and failure that could come with it?

Luhnow said, “If you are always doing things the way the rest of the industry expects . . . you’re probably not disrupting enough.” When asked if they cared what other teams thought of their decisions, both men answered emphatically “No!” Both are intentional about keeping their thinking fresh and ever-changing in a world that doesn’t stand still. When asked about being an outsider, Luhnow said he doesn’t feel like one anymore, but he must force himself to keep changing his thinking to maintain an advantage. Likewise, Morey asks new hires to write down everything they observe that seems really stupid. 

So how does the story of two Houston sports executives relate to those of us working in today’s healthcare finance industry? It all comes down to facing uncertainty and moving anyway. Both Luhnow and Morey profess self-doubt about their decisions as they are about to make big trades at critical times. They admit the fear, but they also position themselves with analytics to make the big decisions. You can, too.

If you’ve been playing it safe, it’s time to shake it up. Let HFMA help prepare you to make big decisions. Armed with the Association’s research and rich content, you could become the healthcare finance league’s next MVP! 

About the Authors

Michael M. Allen

is CFO, OSF Healthcare in Peoria, Ill., and National Chair of HFMA for 2019-20.

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