Regent’s Message – September 2022

Sep 11, 2022 | Regent's Letter

As we reach the end of summer, I trust that you and your teams have taken time away from work to rest and recharge with friends and family. 

As we transition to a new “steady state” phase of the pandemic with new CDC guidance , we continue to be faced with challenges with the uncertain state of the economy and inflationary pressures, ongoing workforce shortages, and high stress levels. Many articles have focused on burnout in healthcare workers and leaders and how leaders need to focus on rebuilding commitment and trust at a time where that seems to be in short supply after several tough years. I would refer you to an excellent article on “5 Ways to Restore Depleted Healthcare Workers.”

One of the ways called out in this article is Allowing Time for What Matters. This seems basic, but too often we abdicate this power at work because we feel that we don’t have choices – nothing seems to be optional. As leaders, it is this decision-making to allow time for what matters that can help restore meaning and clarity in the work that we, our teams, and our organizations do.

I’ve been reading a book by Greg McKeown, Essentialism, a gift from an adviser of mine. The core tenet of the book is that in our busy lives, we have choices both in our professional and personal lives and trade-offs must be made. If we ignore trade-offs and we believe we can do it all, we will be doomed to allow others to dictate how we spend our time and we will fail to discern where we (and our teams) can and will make the most impact. 

To get to essentialism, the key is to say No to those things that are non-essential. Some guidance from Greg McKeown:

  • Separate the decision from the relationship – denying the request is not the same as denying the person
  • Saying No gracefully doesn’t have to mean using the word No – there are multiple ways to say no without using the word no – this can include “No, but…” (not right now), “Yes, what should I deprioritize” (engage in priority setting and ensuring quality work), the awkward pause (before saying yes too quickly to the request, letting the requester further think about what they are really asking you for), and the classic “let me check my calendar and get back to you”, which gives you the time to really think about the trade-offs before making an immediate decision.
  • Focus on the trade-off – thinking about what you will give up when you say yes to someone will either make it easier for you to see if the request is an important priority or that it really isn’t important enough to bump something off your plate.
  • Make your peace with the fact that saying No often requires trading popularity for respect – while there is short-term downside to saying No in a relationship, it shows people that our time is important and when you do make a decision to say yes, your time will be greatly valued.
  • Remember that a clear No can be more graceful than a vague or non-committal Yes – a clear answer allows the requester to move on to other alternatives rather than delaying the eventual No.

Burnout often comes from a combination of being overcommitted to too many priorities (leading to too many hours focused on work) and a feeling of powerlessness in being able to control one’s efforts on what matters at work. As a leader, working collaboratively with your team to discuss and then set these priorities is essential to success.

Board and Leadership Positions with California Association of Healthcare Leaders (CAHL)

Local ACHE chapters such as CAHL are a critical component of the work that ACHE does to advance professional development of healthcare leaders through education and mentorship. The process of selecting CAHL board of director and officer positions for 2023 will begin in September. As a volunteer organization, the programs put on by CAHL could not happen without ACHE members stepping up and giving back to the profession. If you are interested in growing your network with other healthcare leaders in Northern and Central California and contributing to the development of the next generation of leaders, I encourage you to submit your interest via this nomination link. Please reach out to me at if you would like to discuss board service and the available roles for the upcoming year.

Philip Chuang

Regent, Northern and Central California