Chapter 14: An MD Anderson Way of Leadership Training

Title

Chapter 14: An MD Anderson Way of Leadership Training

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Description

In this chapter, Ms. Yadiny characterizes the "MD Anderson way of leadership training." She explains that in 2002 her office settled on a skill-based approach that differed from the theoretical focus of earlier programs. She notes that Dr. Margaret Kripke advocated adoption of this approach and that the program for women faculty, Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine [ELAM], served as a model and was enthusiastically welcomed by all faculty. She next gives examples of challenging situations that MD Anderson leaders can find themselves in (e.g. emotional blackmail and manipulation). She notes that a psychologist at Rice University introduced her to the idea that transition into leadership is a turbulent process akin to an identity crisis. She talks about the learning curve for developing as a leader and emphasizes that MD Anderson is a very complex culture: some leadership consultants have characterized it as the most challenging and toxic they have encountered.

Identifier

YadinyJA_03_20160404_C14

Publication Date

4-4-2016

Publisher

The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Overview; Institutional Processes; MD Anderson Culture; Working Environment; Building/Transforming the Institution; Institutional Politics; Education; On Education; Leadership; On Leadership; Mentoring; On Mentoring; Obstacles, Challenges; Understanding the Institution; The Professional at Work

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

All right, and we are recording. I’m Tacey Ann Rosolowski, and today is April 4, 2016. The time is about 20 minutes after one, and this is my third session with

Janis Apted Yadiny:

, and we’re going to kind of, I guess finish up today if we can, I assume, and looking forward to—we were strategizing before, so I’m looking forward to the list of topic areas that we settled on, and thank you for giving me this time.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Thank you.  

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I wanted to start with that question, is there an MD Anderson way of leadership training that you’ve settled on over the years and how did that evolve, if so?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

There actually is an MD Anderson way, at least for the faculty, and we settled on it in 2002, so we’ve been doing it this way for 14 years. We settled on this particular way of teaching leadership, because I think I mentioned earlier, there were two other programs before this one, one of which was partially successful, one of which was really not at all successful, and they shared some similarities for why they weren’t totally successful, and it was because both were heavy on theory. The Rice program in the mid-1990s was a little less heavy on theory. When I say the theory of leadership, I mean bringing in business professors to do lectures on various aspects of leadership, like strategy or managing people or any of that kind of stuff. It wasn’t skill-building, and Margaret Kripke, who really was a champion for the Faculty Leadership Academy, she was the chief academic officer and she really persuaded John Mendelsohn to put this Leadership Development Program in, to try it a third time, said we really need skill building. So she was very influential and fortunately, we had, on the original committee that put the program together, Kathleen Sazama who, along with Margaret, had done the Executive Leadership and Academic Medicine Program, which is for women. They had done that in the late 1990s and that program really became kind of the model for ours, to a certain extent, and what both those people found really helpful in the ELAM program, it was called ELAM, was the self-awareness part, piece, in which they used assessments like Myers-Briggs and Thomas-Kilmann and so on. And so Kathleen really insisted that the first part of the Leadership Academy that we designed, needed to focus on self-awareness skills, emotional intelligence. I’m so glad she did that because that’s exactly what we did. We made the whole program a skill-building program, and it’s interesting to reflect back on our thinking about that, because we didn’t know whether it would work or not or whether the faculty would take to it. In fact, it was such a success, because it got to the things that they had trouble doing. They had trouble talking to people and resolving conflict, they had trouble with teams who didn’t seem to come together and how do you manage a team dynamic and how do you manage problems where faculty think that you, as the chair, who were once their best friend, are now the boss, are being unfair or trying to manipulate you, or indulging in emotional blackmail of some kind or other. In fact, last Friday, Walter Baile and I spent over and hour with a chair, a relatively new chair, who was just in that situation with a former friend, who is now one of her faculty, really was, who was indulging in serious emotional blackmail and manipulation. Those are the kinds of things that chairs are not, when they get into the positions, usually they’re not prepared to deal with. It stresses them interpersonally, like why can’t I handle this and why do I feel this way? Why do I feel ashamed because I can’t handle it? Why do I feel weak, or why do I become dictatorial an authoritarian? What is happening here with me? I think it’s fascinating to see, and I acknowledge, even in myself. Obviously, I’m kind of my own test case, right? You’re emotionally and intellectually challenged as a leader constantly, and certainly a transition into leadership roles is a very turbulent one, and it’s a transition that we barely acknowledge. I’m starting to be much more forthright with new chairs now. You are going through a period of identity crisis, in which you are probably going to—it’s as big a transition as getting married, having children, getting divorced if you’ve ever been through that, death of a parent, or retirement. It’s that kind of transition because your whole identity is changing, and it is an identity crisis. So when you put it in that way, that this is what you’re doing is you’re growing in terms of self-development, and you’re shifting in terms of your identity, they start to get it, that no wonder this is so hard and so painful, and I feel like I’m walking on thin ice. You are, in terms of your own self.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That must be an enormous relief, for people to understand it in that way, as really, an issue of human development, not personal failing.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Well, as I say, I’m only starting to understand it that way myself, and because I did the program over at Rice University, I did part of the Healthcare Certificate Management Program, and Brett Smith over there put me on to some things to read. He does the leadership development piece and he alerted me to that—he’s a psychologist, to this is what people are going through, and I though ah-ha, I need to work this into the work that we do with chairs, and help them understand that this is a growth period in their lives and they are not going to be the same. If they truly reflect on what’s happening to them and they’re truthful with themselves about how they feel about it, it will really help them grow as individuals and accept the responsibility. The chair that we worked with on Friday, one of the things we counseled that person to do was to have a really, really, how can I put it? A conversation which would go like this. I’m sorry you feel that our relationship has changed, but in fact, I am now the chair of the department and I have to work with all the faculty in the department, and I have to be fair, and my boundaries have to be clear. So for you and I, that means there has been a shift in the relationship, and I’m not going to be as close to you as I once was. We will be working together and I hope to work with you very successfully, and I know we can do that, but I’m functioning now as your boss and there are certain behaviors, as your boss, that I expect from you. Respect. You know?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right, teaching other people how to have a relationship with you in that new role.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Right, I mean this other person was slamming the door on the chair, was obviously demonstrating behaviors that were insubordinate. She would be shocked to know that those behaviors are really insubordination and disrespectfully. Sorry, can’t allow that, that has to stop, because it puts—it’s just wrong. It puts the chair in a very awkward position, a chair shouldn’t be treated like that. But also, it communicates to the rest of the faculty that hey, I can go in there and slam the door if I don’t like what this person has to say to me, what this boss has to say to me.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Or if there are other individuals on the faculty who aren’t going to do that, nonetheless, I mean that to me sounds like incredibly immature behavior, and who wants to work with an immature colleague?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Right.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

It makes this individual look really bad.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

It makes the individual look bad. The other thing she was doing was trying to enroll people in her point of view.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, gosh.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

So going around to people and saying, you know.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right, creating a clique.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Stirring things up, yeah. So those are the things that leaders face, and they have to learn how to deal with them appropriately, maturely, without setting off a firestorm. When people explode at them, they have to be able to keep their feelings in check, you know, to self-monitor, self-assess what’s going on, and regulate their own emotions around some very difficult situations. It’s very hard and they do lose friends, they lose friends.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, I can imagine. What’s the learning curve like, for people going through this process? You know, I know that’s very individual, but are there some things you’ve observed over the years, that are truisms about this?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yeah. I have observed that chairs who will talk to other chairs or me, or other leaders, about these things, and have touched on, has this happened to other people, is this just me that this is happening to? Why does this feel so personal? I had one new chair come to me, he’d been here about two years and he said, you know, “I’ve made it for two years, but these people have really tried to destroy my reputation.” And he told me all the ways in which his faculty had tried to destroy his reputation, nationally and internationally. It was wicked. So, you know, we, we—what needs to happen even more is the chairs need to understand that we’re aware of these things and that we can help them navigate these critical times more successfully and depersonalize some of the issues. In fact, Marshall Hicks and his project directors and myself, are putting together an onboarding program for new chairs in that division, and I think it’s going to be excellent, because right at the get-go, we’re going to have conversations like this. Here’s what you’re likely to encounter, here are some of the behaviors you may see, here are the things you’re going to be taking home and worrying about possibly. This is a time of emotional and intellectual turbulence, it is a time of transition and here’s what we want to help you deal with, and please talk about it with us, because we understand these things and we can help you deal with them. I think that simply by putting this on the table and being very honest about it, we know what people go through. We have 68 chairs here. I’ve been with many of them on their personal transition into leadership. Now mind you, some of them from a few years ago, I didn’t understand this transition myself really well. So now I understand it a lot better and I think I’m a lot better informed and able to help chairs and division heads, transition into MD Anderson. MD Anderson is a very complex culture. I don’t mean to say that we’re more complex than other academic medical institutions, though I do hear, from consultants I’ve worked with, that this is the most challenging and perhaps even toxic culture they’ve worked with. Whether that’s true or not I don’t know, because I haven’t worked in the other.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Toxic in what way, challenging in what way?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

They’re tough on each other, hard to read the signals, the politics are, it’s very big. Sixty-eight chairs, sixty-eight chairs? Huge. Understanding the politics, understanding the players, who’s in, who’s out. I may even find that if I said that to the top executives, they would say there’s nothing like that here. Well there is, when you’re down here there is.

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Chapter 14: An MD Anderson Way of Leadership Training

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