Stretching Your Skills – CliffsNotes Version!

By: Mike Harristhal, MBA | mharristhal@barlowmccarthy.com

“The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.” – Harvey Mackay

These are not original thoughts, but a reminder of three basic things that are foundational to success in our careers:

  1. The only thing that stays the same is that things keep changing. Change is everywhere and, seemingly, increasingly exponential given our real-time, digital world.  We are encountering increasingly complex problems, or marvelous opportunities.  I long for the old comfort zone and a time of less intensity. But, we must admit, acknowledge and embrace that the times they are–a–changing.  We must recognize and embrace change, and not fear the future but envision how it can enhance our professional lives. Which leads me to the second point…
  1. Plan your work and work your plan. Out of this chaos is opportunity for the creative, the intrepid, or those who endeavor to persevere – provided they plan their work and work their plan.  Apply this truism to your career in your current or desired future position.  Think in terms of 90-day periods, i.e. long enough to make an impact, but short enough to be somewhat predictable. State your goals. Quantify them if possible. These may be hard and soft skills.

    At the end of those 90 days, step back and evaluate.  How did you do? What went well?  Why? What hasn’t gone so well?  Why?  What can I learn from these successes (and failures)?

    Now, set the goals and objectives for the next 90 days.  And, apply the learnings of the last 90 days to the next quarter going forward.  Which leads me to the final point…
  1. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. The environment is dynamic. Folks we encounter are unpredictable. Things will come up that were not contemplated. Factors come into play that are outside our control or even influence.

    We will never have all the answers, or be able to eliminate random occurrences. Perfection is illusory. We need to be secure enough to realize that there is nothing wrong with excellence.  And, in fact, the definition of success and/or the goals we aspire to are themselves perpetually evolving.

I was fortunate to work in a teaching hospital when we took on our first full-risk contract.  We understood the concepts of population health management, but had only anecdotal evidence of effectiveness based on specific cases.  We knew academically what a patient-centered medical home was supposed to do, but it was all job descriptions on paper.  After several planning meetings, one of our clinical leaders just stood up and said something like,  “The time for talk is over, let’s give it a try.” We did okay.  When we started, we weren’t perfect (or perhaps even excellent), but we were far better than we were before our launch, and we got better over time.

We had confidence, we knew we could correct problems or limitations on the fly, and we allowed that we would not be perfect out of the gate. We believed in our resiliency, our team, and we were ready to face the future.  (And, that leads us back to item No. 1 in this discussion…).