Audio Insights: Chat with the Chair–Leadership Volume 1
William Morice, II, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and President of Mayo Medical Laboratories (MML), talks everything leadership with Kelley Schreiber, Social Media Marketing Manager at MML. Dr. Morice polled his Twitter followers on what they wanted to hear about, and "leadership experience" was the top choice. Listen now to hear about Dr. Morice's leadership experience and advice. Connect with him on Twitter @moricemdphd to let him know what you would like to hear next.
Kelley Schreiber: All right, hello, Everyone. I’m Kelley Schreiber. I’m a social media marketing manager with Mayo Medical Laboratories, and I am sitting down today with Dr. Morice to talk about his first leadership podcast, so thank you everybody on Twitter who took the time to respond to our poll; that was great, and we had a great response. Please keep an eye out for future ones as well. So today, we’re going to talk about Dr. Morice’s leadership experience within his career, and I’m sure it spans quite very long.
William Morice: Yeah, yeah, actually thinking about it, I’ve been in a leadership role for at least the last eight or nine years of my career.
WM: So, it’s interesting when the people on Twitter requested leadership experiences, I really didn’t think that was where they were going to go, but I’m glad that they did because I’ve had to be quite reflective; and we are actually sitting down, you can’t see us, and that’s the challenge in and of itself is to get me to sit down (laughs) so there you go.
KS: (laughs) Well, definitely a depth of experience for sure, so everybody’s in for a real treat. Dr. Morice, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your leadership style? How do you approach various situations?
WM: I think the most important aspect of any “leadership style” is to be genuine, right? You have to be genuine to yourself. One of the things I remember early on, I have to say that one of the great developmental experiences I’ve had is that Mayo Clinic has invested in leadership, and so I’ve had a number of leadership experiences and coaching experiences, and some of those were group experiences with other consultants from Mayo; and for those of you who know me and those who don’t, I’m a really extroverted person and so when I’m in those group settings, I tend to be very open with my ideas; and I remember at one of those, and this is not to sound self-serving, but one of the more introverted people in the audience said, gosh I wish I was like you so I could . . . for my leadership; and I thought, you shouldn’t have to be like me to be a leader; you’ve got to be like you to be a leader. That’s one of the reasons I like about reading a lot about leaders is that if you read a lot about leaders, there are all sorts of types; and the one ones that are most true to themselves were the ones that were most effective. So if you look in U.S. history, George Washington was very much an extrovert type of person that was very good at pulling people in. Thomas Jefferson, I just saw his memorial . . . . I was in D.C. yesterday . . . was an extreme introvert. In fact, he never even held a cabinet meeting. He would just distribute written notes. That’s why we know so much about his presidency.
WM: So it’s just to say that you don’t have to be a style, but you have to just be true to who you are . . . .
WM: Because if you’re not genuine, then people will read that right away and you won’t build trust because the most important aspect of leadership is trust. So in various situations, I think really being as transparent as possible; now as I’ve escalated in leadership, it becomes more challenging because there are some things you really can’t share for a variety of reasons, including legal ones; but to be as open and as honest as possible with people, to listen and I . . . to really . . . the most important approach to any situation, because leadership is about people, is to demand people to be open with their ideas as well. The worst is to have a leadership team around you or be in a situation where someone’s not sharing their opinions or all their information. That means you have to be sensitive to how people want to share information because, obviously, introverts are not going to want to just blurt stuff out like I will.
WM: But I think that’s a . . . and to listen a lot. The most important thing then when you approach a situation is to listen. Earlier in my life . . . I might say a former life (laughs) . . . I was actually . . . I took lifeguard . . . I took lifeguard training, and the whole first six months of lifeguard and rescue trainings are actually about reading the situation because the most common cause of drowning is actually trying to rescue someone who is drowning, and so you have to be very aware of the situation. I think that also goes for leadership. If you don’t listen or are not really tuned in, in reading the situation, but then also demanding, that means you have to demand from people that they are really open with you and be willing to accept conflict or, you know, draw out a difference of opinion and manage it.
KS: Sure, that’s a great way to put it. Thank you. In your opinion, what is the most difficult aspect of leadership?
WM: Well there’s a lot (laughs) obviously. I thought a lot about this and about the . . . oh gosh, this is going to sound so management podcasting the journey; I’m using finger quotes for those of you who can’t see me, obviously, which his everyone listening (laughs). But really thinking back and a quote that I actually tweeted that I really liked was from JFK that learning and leadership are indispensable to each other, and that’s kind of a vague comment that we could really think about in a lot of different ways in education and everything else; but for me, it was more about personal learning; and the most challenging aspect, I think, before if someone were to ask me if I was going to go back and ask myself a question before I even started being a division chair or, before that, flow lab director, is how open are you going to be to actually learning and learning about yourself and learning about how you need to kind of change your . . . how willing are you going to be to change, right?
WM: Because learning is about change, right, ultimately.
WM: And if you don’t ask yourself those questions up front, you can get yourself into really difficult situations. And I thought even from my own personal story, each level, so if I think of the flow lab director was really, I would say, a work group head, kind of level, right. It’s a small group of people and there, it was really learning how to use my . . . I’m very social and I like to have fun, but I had to learn how to use that to galvanize a small group of people.
WM: In a job as . . . I had a really strong supervisor, CeCe Myers. We still . . . we worked together a number of years, so she managed . . . she had the management part of the allied health staff, but I had to learn how to get those people galvanized and how to get them (6:09 inaudible) core. From there, my next leadership role was as a hem-path division chair.
WM: Which was still small enough that I knew everybody.
WM: You know but it was bigger; it’s a hundred and some employees and about 20 faculty, and the thing I had to learn there, which was actually kind of painful, was all those really strong relationships I had developed as a workgroup head actually could be perceived as unfair relationships once I became the unit head.
WM: Because you realize that people are walking up to me that there are certain people of the same job class that have access to me than some that don’t, some that got to call me by my first name and some that didn’t, so it was . . . and of course, people aren’t going to tell you that we think this is an unfair workplace because you have your favorites.
WM: But you start to see that manifest in some of the behaviors of people around you.
WM: And so I had to accept myself was I willing to sort of create a boundary when one had not existed before with some of the employees because it was important for the job that they saw that it was . . . that I was fair because, to me, being fair and not being . . . I am not a hierarchal person, you know, and so I . . . but at the same point in time, when you’re in charge, you have a different role, and so that was tough, and that’s one of the many things. The other thing I had to learn at that level too was how to reign in my energy because even with the other consultants, once I was in a leadership position, my capacity to blurt out ideas quickly actually many people saw as sort of suppressive. I thought it was a great way to drive conversation, and then you get feedback that, you know, I never get to share my ideas or my ideas don’t count.
WM: And that’s because when the leader isn’t . . . and so I had to learn. Actually, what I did with that when I was at meetings, I would write down the time when I made a comment and actually watch and make sure I had at least let five minutes passed before I made another comment.
KS: Oh interesting!
WM: So I had to actually . . . I had to actively . . . not only did I have to be aware of it, I had to actively manage it.
WM: And then I think now, of course I’m a department chair and it’s a big department, and the hard part of learning there is if I take that same vein of connecting to people is that most people connect to me without ever meeting me or having one or two interactions.
WM: And so all of the sudden, all of the things that I really enjoyed doing spontaneously now have to be extraordinarily purposeful. I mean we all can see . . . because when you make some small move that’s seen by so many different people.
WM: Just even some of the things that have happened recently with institutional leadership and you can see where things have gone sideways on people, so to be really . . . and to be purposeful in how I communicate and how I manage my communication with people and, again, just realizing that even when I took this role that it’s great when your workgroup head is a guy you’d love to go and hang out and have a beer with; but when it’s someone that’s kind of in charge of the operation, you want to just have a . . . the level of trust that you build there is different than the level of trust that you build in a work unit.
KS: Sure, exactly.
WM: And the way that you harness that. So I think the most difficult but . . . and where I’ve seen people really struggle with this . . . and the personal struggle for me is that the feedback that you get about who you are as a person and how that is manifested as the leader becomes more and more remote. So when your workgroup had . . . you’re getting feedback from people that you’re around a lot, so it’s pretty easy.
WM: It doesn’t feel impersonal. When you’re the . . . when you’re, you know, a unit head, it . . . you know, it hurts a little bit because it’s people you don’t know very much.
WM: And then when you’re a section head, it’s people you never even talk to.
WM: And you have to . . . but it doesn’t mean that those opinions or those observations or their feelings are any less valid.
WM: But where I have seen if . . . you know, the real trap for anyone in a leadership role is if they’re not comfortable taking that feedback in and filtering it and determining what they respond to and they become defensive, that’s when . . . and that’s all of the sudden the job of leading becomes not energizing but it becomes draining, it undermines the trust of people and that, to me, is . . . that is a huge cause; and when I now look at leaders and potential leaders, that’s a huge red flag for me. I think you have to really . . . that’s a strength at the behavioral interview because you really have to explore how willing someone is going to be to accept feedback because no one . . . no one’s . . . . there . . . I just still don’t believe in the whole idea of the natural leader.
WM: You know, I don’t know that that’s a really valid concept, per se.
WM: Because I don’t think anyone that’s a Swiss army knife of leadership right out of the womb (laughs).
KS: Right (laughs).
WM: I mean because it’s not, so it’s all going to be about the capacity to learn.
WM: And so I think that becomes . . . to me, that . . . but that’s also the hardest part of the job, no doubt, because you can only learn by making mistakes.
WM: And it’s going to hurt. There’s just no way . . . there is no two ways about it.
KS: Well great. Thank you for sharing that. That was really insightful.
WM: Well no, thank you for the opportunity to talk, and I look forward to . . . I hope people enjoy this. We will put it . . . we will tweet it out there. You guys can let me know what you think and we’ll go from there, so thanks a lot, Kelley.
KS: Great, thank you, Dr. Morice.