Honing Leadership and Management Skills Through Structured Change

Jul 8, 2023 | Articles, Career Growth, Director Insights, Director Insights - Chapter President, Leadership

By Kelly Brian Flannery

As the season of spring renewal passes into the languid warmth of summer, I’ve been reflecting on a new role I recently undertook, and how it has inspired me to break out of some professional stagnation by exercising my skills in new ways. My daily work has transformed, and this change is significant, challenging, stressful, and rewarding. 

As many of you know, I am the Chief Planning Officer for the VA Sierra Pacific Network, where  I work with seven U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare systems across most of Nevada, central and northern California, Hawaii, the U.S. Territories in the Pacific, and the Philippines. Interestingly, I do not directly supervise any individual or healthcare system; rather, I leverage a high degree of collaboration, influence, political savvy, and team building and leading to assist our sites with their strategic-operational planning work.

In early May, I was presented with the opportunity to accept a 120-day stretch assignment as the Acting Deputy Network Director while my immediate supervisor covered our Network Director vacancy. In considering the role, I realized that this structured change to my daily routine was something I had been needing. While I apply several elements of my leadership skill sets as Chief Planning Officer, I haven’t had the opportunity to use them all; I saw the chance to push the limits of my comfort zone and operationalize the knowledge I have gained through several VA and Veterans Health Administration (VHA) leadership programs, the Board of Governors Exam, and the annual ACHE Congress.

In my role as Acting Deputy Network Director, I now directly supervise many high-level program managers and subject matter experts spanning diverse healthcare operations areas, from emergency management, capital asset, and business implementation management, to supply chain, finance, biomedical engineering and prosthetics. I also have new ways to exercise servant leadership through leading by example, reminding my team why their work matters, assisting them to grow and develop, and ensuring they feel heard. 

My current vantage point has also shed new light on VHA’s High Reliability Organization journey and how I can contribute meaningfully while I am Acting Deputy Network Director. Presently, I have more influence with focusing on staff and care processes, anticipating risk, getting to the root causes, bouncing back from mistakes, and empowering and valuing expertise and diversity for both me and my direct reports. So, what are some takeaways from this mid-year message? My bottom-line is to acknowledge when your environment may be stagnant, and you need structured change. Accept opportunities to trial new assignments and assume greater and/or different responsibility, and leverage change to refresh your mind and professional life. Although a stretch assignment may be temporary, the benefits will be long lasting and may open the door for a new position within or outside of your organization. I am twice as busy now as in my Chief Planning Officer position, but I have a greater level of authority for decision making, influence, collaboration, and teamwork in my current assignment. Whether or not this assignment leads me to a new role, this structured change is reinvigorating me with exceptional challenges and rewards that disrupt my comfort zone and allow me to professionally grow.

I hope you and your families enjoy the rest of summer and find time to relax and rejuvenate. If you have not already done so, mark your calendars for the evening of August 24th when CAHL will be hosting our Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony at the Boundary Oak Golf Course in Walnut Creek, CA. As always, please feel free to contact me and share your CAHL thoughts at any time.

Best regards,
Kelly Brian Flannery, MHA, FACHE
President, California Association of Healthcare Leaders