Live Webinar | Medicare Payment and Reimbursement
Live Webinar | Innovation and Disruption
Live Webinar | Patient Financial Communications
Live Webinar | Operations and Other Technology
Column | Leadership

'Stuck in the Middle With You'

Column | Leadership

'Stuck in the Middle With You'

Even if you are too young to remember this song going gold in 1972, you probably have heard its catchy hooks: “Clowns to the left of me. Jokers to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle with you.” 

The song was co-written by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan and recorded by their band Stealers Wheel. I also like the Jeff Healey Band’s version. Apparently, the song was written as a parody of Bob Dylan’s paranoia, and the signature line was about being caught at a music industry cocktail party. The fact it hit gold shocked Rafferty. You just never know, right?

The song still gets a fair amount of play, and Michael Smerconish, host of a morning talk show on SiriusXM, has adopted the song as his show’s theme. He applied this idea of being “stuck in the middle” to our political climate, where he advocates not for one party or another, one ideology or another, but rather for what is fair, reasonable and just. The belief is that most are in this middle, yet the voices from the middle are drowned out by the loud voices on the comparatively smaller fringes.

Often, we see this same dynamic in our work environment. I have used a phrase many times that I borrowed from a company called Despair, Inc. (satire!) that goes like this: “None of us is as dumb as all of us.”  

It’s a satirical statement about meetings. But the truth is, how many times have we made group decisions that the participants in the meeting would have never concluded individually? And often that occurs because of cognitive bias, decisions made ahead of time and loud voices. 

Sometimes it’s those of us in finance who are guilty of that. But you have a big opportunity to lead here. In finance, you are involved in a wide variety of conversations and decisions, because money touches most decisions. That gives you the ability to be a convener  —  the one who encourages many voices to be heard, the one who recognizes cognitive biases that are misleading and the one who helps guide the decision to its best outcome.

To improve the outcomes and decisions, to go beyond the numbers as former HFMA Chair Joyce Zimowski called us to do, it takes intentionality, and it takes work. The good news is you have relationships and resources through HFMA that can help you be your best self, the best leader possible. I’m glad to be stuck in the middle with all of you!

About the Author

Michael M. Allen, FHFMA, CPA,

is CFO, OSF Healthcare System, Peoria, Ill., and 2020-21 Chair of HFMA.

Sign up for a free guest account and get access to five free articles every month.


Related Articles | Leadership

Column | Leadership

Jill Geisler on crisis management: Lead like Zelenskyy

Leaders must be prepared to respond to critical situations. Looking to the example currently being set by Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Jill Geisler discusses what leaders need to know and do.

Column | Leadership

New leadership roles at Adventist Health for Todd Hofheins and John Beaman

Adventist Health promotes Todd Hofheins to COO and John Beaman to CFO. Terri Hays, Leon Choiniere and Dan Bugarin also have new jobs, and Dan Moncher has retired.

Column | Leadership

Joe Fifer: Beyond healthcare: What consumers want

HFMA President and CEO Joe Fifer offers perspectives on consumers’ perceptions of value in healthcare.

Column | Healthcare Business Trends

Paul Keckley: Inflation’s impact on healthcare: 5 takeaways

For healthcare finance professionals, healthcare inflation requires intensified efforts to address five concerns: increased bad debt, increased operating costs, heightened public scrutiny of pricing policies and executive compensation, increased competition by privately funded competitors offering low-cost solutions and growth of “Occupy Healthcare” movements.