How to Advance During Volatile Times

VUCA Workshop Offers HIM Training on Upper-Level Leadership Promotions, Change Management Strategies

The health information management (HIM) industry is in the midst of wide-reaching change, spurred by advancements in technology like electronic health record systems and computer-assisted coding. These uncertain and volatile times call for advanced leadership to bring vision and help drive a path to industry stability. However, some in HIM are so focused on managing day-to-day challenges that they don’t see how to advance beyond their current task-oriented position and into upper-level management—where change management work solving big picture industry challenges takes place and the fate of HIM will really be determined.

Sandra Finley, president and CEO of the League of Black Women

Looking to help HIM professionals advance in their careers and gain high-level leadership positions, the new VUCA Leadership Training two-day workshop was offered Saturday and Sunday in the Miami Beach Convention Center. VUCA (pronounced vue-ca) stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, all change forces HIM professionals are facing in their work today, according to Sandra Finley, president and CEO of the League of Black Women and co-presenter of the VUCA Leadership Training. VUCA training aims to help leaders transcend to a level of thinking, planning, and acting that helps distinguish their key leverage points to influence change—and provides individuals the tools they need to practice and build capacity for leadership.

First developed by the US military to train leaders on how to deal with the chaos of combat in unfamiliar environments, VUCA training was adapted by Finley’s League of Black Women and session co-presenter Victoria Jones, PhD, president of Northpoint Group Enterprises, for the private sector. While healthcare leaders are not dealing with war, they do face challenges that align with the VUCA principles—and need guidance on how to overcome these change agents in order to advance both their personal careers and the overall profession, Finley said.

“We are looking at people who are highly talented, highly qualified, and under-supported with regards to their leadership potential—anyone in that space, that is who VUCA is for,” Finley said. “In some situations, like the people from AHIMA, they are facing an environment change in the structure of their business. Which means in order to do what they want in the furtherance of their careers they are going to have to take a leap that they are not prepared for. VUCA offers that preparation.”

By facing VUCA, Finley said workshop participants gain the facility to flip the VUCA acronym and instead focus on vision, understanding, clarity, and agility. The goal at the conclusion of the workshop on Sunday was for attendees to be able to pinpoint natural areas of strength to leverage and development areas to strengthen, then apply this to an actual leadership dilemma at their work. To reach this goal, the training was highly personalized and called on participants to apply the training to their specific personal situation and career. Through various training exercises, attendees learned how to apply VUCA to everyday practices and position themselves as “one who thinks very differently from other people” in order to stand out for a promotion.

While many wait to get “picked and pulled” into career advancement, Finley said VUCA training teaches how one can do things that “push and propel” them into opportunity. Often, this means convincing upper management to not recruit externally but instead to promote from within.

“I think what the industry is hungry for at this particular time in its evolution is dynamic leadership,” Finely said. “It has plenty of people to sit on the nest and manage the tasks of the day. There is downsizing, technology is taking over functions of what people used to do. So, with that being the trend organizations have an appetite for people who see the current uncertain conflicts and change as the state of being the new norm, who are able to transform from volatile to vision, from uncertain to understanding, from complexity to clarity, and from ambiguous to agility.”

One example of a VUCA exercise is as follows: Finley and Jones asked participants to build a plan for advancement, and outline what they need to do to move into the next tier of leadership. When asked, most respond they need to get a degree, another certification, or join another organization. What many fail to mention is they need to reach beyond themselves and leverage a network of help that often has more resources for advancement than one person. While another degree looks good on a resume, what gets a promotion is often the connections one develops while getting that degree with their professor, other students, and affiliates of the educational institution, Finley noted. Being an active member of AHIMA also provides prospective leaders leverage and a network of professionals that can help with issues, something impressive to leaders, Finley said.

Another exercise challenged participants to get to know all they can about the “world” of the leaders in their desired role. “If our participants don’t know anything about the world of the people they are trying to appeal to, then they can’t frame themselves in a way that is inviting or shows they understand the concerns and urgency. They don’t know what their pressures are, they don’t know what their requirements are, what their goals are, what matters in the course of a day, an hour, a minute,” she said.

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