By Linda Raichle, PhD
As a member of the Alliance for the past 28 years, I’m proud to say I never missed an Annual Conference because of the old friends I’d see, the new friends I’d meet and for the knowledge I would gain. We are all beacons of light for each other.
I’m honored and privileged to be considered a leader. Here are a few of the lessons I learned and related personal stories I experienced along my journey. Perhaps they can help you embrace your leadership journey.
Know Your Value
You bring a lot to the table, but you need to know your value. You can't know your value until you feel valuable.
Many years ago, upon receiving an ACCME accreditation with commendation, my CEO wrote, “This was all because of your efforts. Thank you.” I still have that note. It helped me know and feel my value. While sponsoring a CME program on HIV-AIDS with the New York Department of Health during the crisis in the early 1990s, I recall standing in the back of a packed auditorium observing attendees listening with rapt attention to the educational messages and thinking, “I pulled this off — it’s a success!”
Later, while working in the pharmaceutical industry and supporting CME activities, I recall hearing from a little boy who can now play soccer with his friends because his asthma is under control and listening to cancer patients describing how a new drug helped them to live longer and more productive lives.
You have all had these experiences because of the educational activities you’ve sponsored or supported. Treasure those moments of pride and acknowledgement, savor them and never forget you are valued and valuable.
Find Your Purpose and Follow Through
How are you seeking purpose or meaning in your work life? How are you leading others to do the same?
Have the courage of your instincts and conviction to keep trying to make a positive impact on patient care. Keep trying to make a difference and how best to apportion your time and energy.
While raising a family, helping to care for elderly parents, working on advancing my career while attending graduate school at night for almost 10 years, it was difficult to see my purpose when I was buried in laundry and just trying to keep afloat.
I found my purpose by gathering my tribe within the Alliance. They were my supporters and mentors who helped center me, focus my thoughts and guide my direction. I encourage you to gather your tribe to help you formulate your purpose and help you to follow through and achieve your goals.
Get Comfortable With Failure
A fear of failure has no place in leadership. When one door closes, make another door open for you. The fear of failure can be one of the biggest impediments to making an impact.
My initial involvement in CME was the result of failure to secure enough grant funds to support my paltry salary as a university assistant professor. I knew my job was doomed when I presented a poster at a national conference and met a woman who was working in CME for the government and she was getting a job transfer. She suggested I’d be a good replacement for her. I applied and got the job. My first job in CME began as a failure in my previous job!
Know and recognize you have transferable skills, and if your job isn’t fulfilling or you believe has no future for you, seek out another job. Ask for informational sessions, people like to talk about themselves and their career journeys. The Alliance is an exceptional vehicle to help you network and stay connected.
Remember Your Voice
We all have a voice, but whether we use it in the workplace is another story. Remember that there's a reason you are here and have a seat at the table. You didn't just miraculously get chosen and show up. Someone saw you and admired your work.
Work hard on each task each day because someone is always observing you. Speak up when you have an idea or contribution to make. Be confident of your contributions and lead with courage.
After receiving a very favorable yearly review from my director and being told I’d receive a 2% raise as a result of my efforts, I quickly said, “that’s not good enough.” Those words seemed to fall out of my mouth, and I’m confident my boss never heard them in a performance review. That year, the cost of living rose 3.5%. I said, “I’m going backward not forward. You’ll need to do better.” After much behind-the-scenes deliberations, I received a 10% raise that year. Remember your voice and use it.
Advocate for Yourself
Say and ask for what you want and stand up for yourself. Don’t get in your way of reaching every opportunity.
If you don't advocate for yourself in your career, no one else will. However, advocate and lead with grit and grace. Growing up in Philadelphia and being raised by a hard-working family, I learned that grit and perseverance — plus treating people well and acting with grace — are powerful combinations to unlock great potential in yourself and in others.
After I earned my master’s degree and with two kids fast approaching college, I needed a higher paying job than my position as a faculty member at the local community college offered. I learned an author and expert educator in clinical laboratory science joined a large university in my city. I took a deep breath, picked up the phone and called her office. To my surprise, she answered her own phone because her assistant was sick that day. I decided the worst that could happen is she could hang up on me, so I went ahead and told her I admired her work and I wanted to work for her. After describing my credentials, I asked if she had a job for me. She did have a job and that led to another job and that job led me deeper into academia and to earning my doctorate in educational leadership, which was paid for by my employer. Be brave and advocate for yourself!
In conclusion, my deepest thanks to my colleagues and congratulations to all of you for your wonderful work. Thank you to the Alliance for this award, which I’m proud to share with each of you. I challenge you to continue to have courage to have an impact and make a difference in improving patient care.