Managing The Bottom Line
Renown Health CIO Chuck Podesta joins Ben for a wide ranging conversation on cost management in IT organizations without compromising customer service and results. Chuck describes his 'Stick to the Knitting' approach that focuses on core competencies, clear communication, and goal setting.
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With over 30 years in Healthcare IT Leadership, Renown Health CIO Chuck Podesta has developed his own playbook for managing costs while increasing IT service levels and employee engagement. In this episode he explains his management philosophy emphasizing goal setting, transparent communication, and a clear-eyed view of IT department core competencies.
- Building a sense of belonging is critical for fostering a positive work environment and driving productivity.
- Leveraging proven technologies and analyzing their impact before implementing new tech can help senior leaders avoid risky solutions.
- Stick to the knitting! Focus on core competencies and outsource the rest.
- Mentoring the next generation of CIOs is crucial for continued growth and innovation in the healthcare industry.
Since 2021, Charles “Chuck” Podesta has served as Chief Information Officer for Renown Health, a Reno-based not-for-profit integrated healthcare network serving Nevada, Lake Tahoe and northeast California. Before that, Chuck served as Interim Chief Information Officer for UCONN Health’s John Dempsey Medical Center, School of Medicine and Clinical Research IT. Prior to that, he was CIO for UCI Health/UC Irvine School of Medicine and the University of California Health System. He also served as CIO for University of Vermont Health Network/Fletcher Allen Health; Steward Health/Caritas Christi Healthcare; Berkshire Health; Baystate Health and UMASS Medical Center, all in the New England area.
Chuck Podesta [00:00:00]:
Chasing the shining bright objects is actually how you build your career, right? If you have AI on now, you’ve implemented something in AI. Boom. You put that on your resume, wow, it’s going to be great for your next job. But what you’re missing as a CIO is that there’s a way better story to tell with a stick to the knitting program. You went from 7% to 4%, right? Imagine that on your resume. You increased customer service service by x. Your employee engagement went from bottom five in the organization as a department to top five in an organization over a two year period.
From healthcare. It leaders. You’re listening to leader to leader with Ben Hilmes. On today’s episode, our guest is chief information officer at Renown Health, Chuck Podesta. Chuck is a seasoned It executive with over 30 years of leadership experience at some of the nation’s top healthcare organizations. At Renown Health, Chuck is achieving measurable improvements in service levels and employee engagement while still tightly managing his department’s bottom line.
Ben Hilmes [00:01:05]:
Welcome to the next episode of leader to leader. We are joined today by Chuck podesta at renowned health. Chuck has a rich history, a lot of different roles across a number of different organizations. And today’s episode we’re going to focus on probably one of the biggest challenges I know that it leaders, specifically in healthcare are facing today. They show up to the leadership meeting and you’re having the conversation around cost and the CFO or the CEO saying, hey, Mr. It leader, I really need you to help me figure out how to drop your opex by some percent.
chuck podesta [00:01:39]:
Ben Hilmes [00:01:39]:
On the other side, you’re challenged with physicians and nurses and other providers and even consumers saying, we need more. So this will be an interesting dialogue because Chuck may have cracked some of the secret sauce and how do you go do that and how do you do it in a sustainable way? So, Chuck, welcome to the program. It’s great to have you. It’s Friday. I know you have a big weekend planned in tahoe, so I’m excited for you there. It’s a wonderful place, maybe one of the coolest places on earth. And with that, let’s kind of get into it. So as I started, we do have a big challenge in healthcare.
Ben Hilmes [00:02:13]:
There’s more demand on it than there ever has been yet. We’re in a really strained time from an overall economic standpoint and it being one of the largest line items that CFOs and other leaders are challenged with. And so you have spent a lot of time at renowned health building a programmatic approach to figuring out how to build a sustainable reduction in opex, yet at the same time delivering against all the demands. I love just to hear from you. How in the heck are you doing that?
chuck podesta [00:02:46]:
Yeah. So thank you, Ben. Thank you for having me as well. Yeah, it’s been interesting. I’ve been at CIO for, gosh, 28 years now, I think in healthcare it for 40 years. I used to introduce myself as that just makes me old, right? But somebody stopped me one time and said, no, that means you have wisdom. So I was like, yeah, I like the wisdom thing better, basically. Over the years, as I’ve developed my career and moved in from different organizations, there’s been certain things that I’ve captured in each one or I’ve done in each one that resonated.
chuck podesta [00:03:22]:
And so over the years, I’ve been able to put these things together into one package. Because when I did come to Renown Health, it kind of had all the things that needed to be fixed that I had fixed in other organizations, kind of in a onesie two z fashion. This was all encompassing. I mean, we didn’t have any governance. We had 7% opex. 7% of the total organization operating was being spent by It. And that was after a month before I got to Renown. There was a reduction in force, and 20 people were eliminated from the It organization.
chuck podesta [00:04:00]:
So we were still at 7% after that. From a culture perspective, we just had really low employee engagement scores. Customer service was very so so some pockets that were good somewhere. We had this kind of attitude of we know best in It, and we’ll deliver to you what we think you need and hope you like it, because we’re busy and we’re moving on. We were kind of known as the Department of no. Had a lot of consultants at the time doing actually non project work. Our chief Information Security officer was outsourced, so our cybersecurity program was almost non existent. And it was really a culture of effort over results.
chuck podesta [00:04:39]:
If you put the effort out, gave it the old college tries, they say you were still rewarded off of that, even though if you didn’t get the results that were part of your goals, either as an individual or as a department, you were still rewarded. And again, from a culture perspective, that’s not what we want. Process. Like I said, no governance. PMO project Management Office was the name only. It really didn’t work. There’s no kind of RFP process for new technology. It was kind of just buy what you think you need off the shelf.
chuck podesta [00:05:12]:
Because of no governance, departments were going out and doing their own thing. Hence, we ended up with 728 applications in a system that’s 1.6 billion. We were spending $28 million annually on maintenance, much higher than what we should be, and chasing a lot of shiny, bright objects in the organization. So that’s what I was faced with coming in. So it kind of had all the things normally when I go into an organization, it’s one of those things, right? Two tops. It was everything here. So I was able to take all those parts and pieces and put it together, and I branded it as stick to the knitting, and it’s really all about what got you there as an organization to begin with. And it wasn’t shiny bright objects.
chuck podesta [00:05:57]:
It was governance. It was all the things I mentioned that were lacking in it. In successful organizations, they’ve had all those things. And so how do you get back to that and then keep that doesn’t mean you’re not keeping your eye on advancements in technology. That’s important. But for $1.6 billion organization, if you look across healthcare, there’s a lot of organizations that are in that space. Not huge, not small, kind of in the middle. We don’t have the resources to be out there piloting new AI types of technologies.
chuck podesta [00:06:31]:
Let the big boys and girls do that. Let the Mayo clinics of the world, the Cleveland clinics of the world. I just saw Becker’s healthcare thing, which top ten smartest healthcare systems. All of them were billions of dollars in revenue. Let them do the piloting. Stay close to them, network with them. Take the things that work. That’s part of stick to the knitting as well.
chuck podesta [00:06:53]:
So it’s not just giving up on the shining bright objects, but letting others do that work. They have the funding to do that because in a $1.6 billion organization, all you need is one bad program, multimillion dollar program, and you’re in trouble. Right. So that’s part of the program.
Ben Hilmes [00:07:10]:
Yeah. So, Chuck, you come into renowned health. You recognize that you got a lot of fundamental challenges ahead of you. You have an existing culture that hasn’t had a lot of structure. You’re about to introduce a lot of structure and rigor to the organization. Help me understand, because I mean, when you move people’s cheese that much, you can really affect in a challenging way the culture, the people, et cetera. How did you introduce that much change in such a shorter period of time, yet maintaining or even improving your overall associate mentality and their overall core, changing everything that they’re doing and how they’re doing it, the morale of the teams? How did you successfully navigate those waters as well?
chuck podesta [00:07:58]:
Yeah, so the way I did it was start with a really strong goal in mind as to where you’re going to head as an organization. And in my case, I focused on that 7%. Right. If you look at the industry average, it’s somewhere around 4%, maybe a little higher for academic medical centers. So you start there and you basically tell the organization, look, we got to go from 7% to 4%. Not sure yet how long that will take, but that is going to be our goal. So right away, you’re hitting them with something that means, oh, my God, that means layoffs. That means I might lose my job.
chuck podesta [00:08:38]:
Right? So you would think, okay, morale is going to dip tremendously on that. But what I found, what happens is through communication like that and being transparent in how you’re going to do it, people respect that and they get it they’re adults, right? And they’re professionals and they don’t want to be lied to and they don’t want smoke and mirrors. They don’t want rainbows and unicorns. And as an organization, we were losing money as well, which has happened to a lot of organizations post COVID I started in July of 2021 have renowned so it’s been a little bit over two years now and it’s been a struggle for the organization and it needs to be part of that. So people were aware. But again, at communication transparency instituted monthly, all hands meetings focused on the 7% to 4%, went through the there’s a standing item of finance on there going through how we closed the previous month. As an organization, I teach them about EBITDA, things like that, that you never think you would anybody in it would be interested in. But it’s funny, every month now, people are like, okay, where we are with EBITDA because they know that builds your war chest for future spending and capital, right.
chuck podesta [00:09:52]:
Depending on how much you can capture each year in EBITDA, it’s that kind of stuff that you need to work through and then when you get to the point of actual tactics so you start with things that don’t affect people so much, right? And for me, it was application rationalization, which we call our apparat. And with that, 728 applications, $28 million, wow, we need to do something about that, right? So we were able to do an inventory of all those applications. Really did a lot of work around who’s the owner of those applications, because we need their input as to whether this application is valuable or not. Looking for duplicates applications like patient education, how many of those you have, things like that. So you need a team from it. We put together a supply chain, finance, legal, and we turn them loose. And over a two year period, we’ve gone from 28 million to 24 million, 4 million a year, and we’ve eliminated 100 applications. We actually found about 50 that were running on our system that nobody was using.
chuck podesta [00:10:59]:
And again, not just from a savings perspective, but that’s a vector for cybersecurity criminals, right? Absolutely, yeah, you’ve got probably old OS on those operating systems and things and really can cause you trouble besides savings. So we started down those paths. I also, in parallel to that, built my management team over time as well because I can’t do it by myself. And I did that by promoting the best and brightest within the organization, moving people out that weren’t a good fit, that were kind of part of the old culture and then bringing new people in. So it was a combination of all three. And now I have a very solid team that gets it. They can help you message the rest of the organization as well as you go through it. The other piece is team building was very important.
chuck podesta [00:11:47]:
We had a culture of no we had to turn that around with customer service. We were finding that people didn’t understand how their job related to the overall organization. You’ve got to fix those things. And I have a whole program around team building that deals with networking people, getting people to network together, giving them what I call a sense of security, which is in meetings, they can say what’s on their mind and, of course, in a professional way and feel there’s no retribution to that. I want to hear from them, and there can’t be a meeting after the meeting. Harry, why’d you say that in the meeting type of thing, you need to give them that sense of security, and then the last piece of the team building is what I call sense of belonging, and they need to understand the work that they do, connect the dots to the bigger mission of the organization. When you have organizations that have those three things, those are very strong teams, and so you need to really address that as well. So, basically, you start with the things that affect people.
chuck podesta [00:12:46]:
The thing you want to do last and least is reduction in force, right? Yeah.
Ben Hilmes [00:12:50]:
I mean, it’s probably the easiest, right? If you wanted to just go do a spreadsheet exercise, you could go find that 3%, and it could be all on the biggest line item, which is labor, but you find yourself right back in a year later. You’re probably bloated because you didn’t have what you needed to deliver against the demands of your organization. I love that you started with a goal. I love that you put in education to help people understand what drives that. I think that’s a gap that a lot of people don’t address in today’s world. I mean, you’re just understanding how the organization operates. I love that you started with not the people. So what are the things we’re doing we shouldn’t be doing? Let’s go fix that.
Ben Hilmes [00:13:32]:
And then you kind of move through. Okay, now we need to figure out how do we maneuver this organization from an It organization to a services organization? I love that. So you started building this rallying thing around your organization across the rest of Renowned Health. I’m curious, though. It’s interesting as people drive through change and inside of change, there’s a lot of hard decisions, and sometimes you just get paralyzed with making that tough decision. So I’m curious to see how you were able to keep or maintain or even accelerate your decision velocity as you were going through and making some really hard decisions.
chuck podesta [00:14:12]:
Yeah, I have a philosophy of 80% fast versus 100% slow, so that’s something that I’ve always done. I’ve got 80% of what I need to make a decision. I’m making it because what I found is the other 20% takes forever. And decisions the timing of decisions are actually probably more important when to actually make the decision is actually more important than the decision itself, right? So if you have a program in place, you start with the things that I just mentioned, then you’ll get to the point where, okay, we’ve got these things moving. We’re turning around our customer service. We’ve got some quick wins, people getting emails saying, thank you for your help, which is amazing in an organization. I remember some people saying to me, like, wow, I got an email from a user, a customer thanking me. I’ve never had one of those before.
chuck podesta [00:15:05]:
And you’re just like, wow, that’s awesome.
Ben Hilmes [00:15:08]:
And you celebrate that, right?
chuck podesta [00:15:09]:
You celebrate that, and it builds on itself, right? And that’s how you turn that customer service around, with that positive feedback from your customers. And then the other thing we did too, was put in solid governance, because you got to stop the bleeding, right? Right. And so getting senior leaders involved in that governance process to make sure we use an SBAR approach, everything has to come through an SBAR to get approval. So that’s a situation background assessment, and then recommendation. And it’s a format that you use, and it comes through what is our President’s Council, which is all of our senior leaders, we meet on a weekly basis, and it has to be approved through that. And it’s the operations, bringing that SBAR with it, of course, supporting that to get approval. So it’s not an It project anymore. So those are some of the things you instill as you go, at some point, you will get to where you get from 7% 6%, right? How do you get the rest of the way? So the next thing I did was something called Span of Control.
chuck podesta [00:16:12]:
And you look at your organization, you really look at leadership, and you see how many people report to them, and you got to figure out, I mean, there’s no scientific equation there of one manager to seven or eight or nine or ten staff people. But you want to pick something, right? And you want to see where you are and see where you need to go. And at the time I was there, we were somewhere around one to five, and I thought we could easily get to one to seven. One to eight. Right. So you look at leaders that only have maybe two people reporting to them, right. And then you look at another leader that may have five. Well, is there a way that you can put those two groups together? And now you’re limiting a leadership position.
chuck podesta [00:16:54]:
Ideally, you’d try to do it through attrition, right? That works the best. Right. The person leaves, you don’t fill it. But sometimes you actually have to make the move and eliminate that position with the individual in it. But it’s a leader. It’s not a staff person. And from a morale standpoint, what I found in the past is when you have to get to the layoff stage, if you do it as part of, like, a span of control first. Staff get that and they actually appreciate it in a way that you’re not going after them for savings, you’re going after leaders, you’re going after managers.
chuck podesta [00:17:27]:
As you’re doing that, you’re communicating to the staff that you’re the people that do the work, you’re the front line, we need you. And if we’re going to remove people in this organization, we’re going to start with our own managers. That resonates morale. Right. That’s actually a morale booster in an organization for staff. Right. And yeah, makes leaders nervous but they’re in a leadership position.
Ben Hilmes [00:17:51]:
That’s part of being a leader. Right, correct. And you know that when you get to that level that sometimes that’s the consequence.
chuck podesta [00:17:58]:
Ben Hilmes [00:17:59]:
I’m just coming off of a really good few days doing some 24 and beyond planning and then start to think about a lot is we have to increase our focus on the things we do well, other partners or orgs, et cetera, to do those things for us. I know you have done some of that. Are there things we don’t do well? And should we just stop doing them or should we find an organization? And it makes people nervous to think about this means outsourcing, this means offshoring, this means consultants. But talk to me about where you’ve strategically and intentionally leveraged skill sets, capabilities outside of your own organization to help you achieve the bigger goal.
chuck podesta [00:18:44]:
Yeah. So one of the things you have to look at in your organization is where your core competencies are not just in it, but at Cross Health. Right. And when you look at it, running data centers, that’s not a core competency. Desktop support, help desk, things like that, not a core competency. And the way I view core competency, there are other companies out there can do it faster, better, cheaper. Right. If there are, then being a fiscal responsible individual, a leader in the organization, you’ve got to look at that.
chuck podesta [00:19:16]:
But there is a way to protect people in that process. And so what we looked at was like, yes, you can take all big groups of people and outsource them into some managed services environment and eliminate all those positions and outsource the work to another company. And yes, you can get some big savings. But one of the approaches we took was something called Revadging where we went to a company that could do it faster, better, cheaper, but we had them revadge our people into that organization. So for example, desktop support, we had 28 to 30 people in that group. They’re on site, they’re not kind of that remote workforce. So people see them, they’re up on the units and they have a face to face relationship with our customer. We didn’t want to change all that out and have all new people come in, so we rebadged them to the company.
chuck podesta [00:20:10]:
So they became employees of another company, in this case was called R Four Solutions. They actually have an overseas operation that can support, but they also manage and they manage it in a way with metrics. What we find in nonprofit healthcare, we don’t do that greater job as managing people by metrics. Right. And in this particular case it was very easy. How many help desk tickets were these people closing in desktop support per day? We had people doing ten and we have people doing one. And so they managed that and they were able to do the same amount of work with less people through Attrition. Certainly they also used their overseas support to help in off hours.
chuck podesta [00:20:51]:
Network support was another one. We did that way with Revadging and we’re getting a better service because we have SLAs, right? And we’re actually saving money. I’m saving between 15% to 25% per FTE, not 100%, but I’m still saving towards that 4% goal. People kept their renowned badge. We were able to do a deal with keep them whole. We actually did $1,000 transition bonus to them to transition to the new company. So it was difficult at first to make those. Again, communication, transparency, what we’re doing, but now it’s running, it’s working.
chuck podesta [00:21:25]:
We’ve got about, I think 45 positions rebatched over to the other company and network and asset management and desktop support, all those things that it’s just not a core competency of it. Right. So that’s one example where you can again cut into that 7% to 4%. Just another tool in the toolbox that’s again less impactful of people because they maintain their jobs.
Ben Hilmes [00:21:55]:
Right on the progress you guys have made, it feels like you’ve put in a very sustainable model in doing so. And this is where we can kind of pivot to talk about leadership because none of this happens without a tremendous amount of leadership. And I know you’re quick to credit your teams and other leaders in the organizations. It’s not about Chuck, but in some ways it is about Chuck. And you’ve done some tremendous things as a leader and I know you don’t want to work forever and so I’d love to hear kind of just one you’ve been doing this a while, you feel like you have an obligation to kind of figure out how do I bring the next generation along? I’d love to hear how you think about how you develop and grow leaders.
chuck podesta [00:22:39]:
Yeah, it’s really important. Thanks for the question, Ben. And this is where I mentioned earlier about wisdom and stuff. If you hang around long enough, you identify the things that work and the things that don’t work. And what you can do is help leaders avoid the minds that are out there and work closely with them. And I enjoy doing that in building a solid team within your organization. But also as CIOs, especially seasoned ones, I talk to a lot of them, I have a lot of friends out there is don’t retire yet. You have a lot of wisdom.
chuck podesta [00:23:13]:
This is the time to use it. But let’s bring up the next group of guys and gals that are the next group of CIOs and start working with them. One of the issues, I was at a conference, and I was going through some of this, and I started talking about how many times you go into a new organization, and it’s a complete mess, and all the hands were raising, and it’s like, we have to stop that. That’s our job. We have to get to the younger CIOs and have them stick to the knitting program. Teach them a stick to the knitting program rather than chasing shiny, bright objects, because what you’ll see we’ve all done it in our careers is chasing the shiny, bright objects is actually how you build your career. Right. If you have AI on now, you’ve implemented something in AI.
chuck podesta [00:23:59]:
Boom. You put that on your resume, wow, it’s going to be great for your next job. But what you’re missing as a CIO is that there’s a way better story to tell with a stick to the knitting program. You went from 7% to 4%. Right? Imagine that on your resume. You increased customer service by X. Your employee engagement went from bottom five in the organization as a department to top five in an organization over a two year period. These are all true statements, by the way, and you implemented governance process.
chuck podesta [00:24:32]:
You implemented application rationalization, and you’ve saved $4 million annually for two years. Gosh, I mean, there’s other things that we’ve done. You’ve reorganized your organization under a span of control model and gone from one to five to one to eight and eliminated layers where you’re getting to, yes, faster and no faster, which is part of good decision making, right? Yeah. You implemented managed services when it’s appropriate, using creative things like debadging and things like that, right. You don’t think you’re not going to get that job? No, that shiny, bright object stuff isn’t going to mean a thing. And then you also are going to go into an organization. And if I follow you say, I was following you in an organization, and you already had the things that I just did in the last two years, imagine now as my new CIO, what I could do. I don’t have to fix anything, right? I can build off of that.
chuck podesta [00:25:30]:
I can go chase maybe a few more shiny, bright objects that might pilot a few things maybe I wouldn’t normally do because I’m spending all my time fixing the mess that you left. And I tell you, it resonated with a lot of CIOs in the room. And even vendors were stepping up, and they’re like, Chuck, I can’t tell you how many CIOs we deal with that don’t know what they’re doing upon us as a seasoned CIO group to really start working with them and role playing however you want to do it, get a few of them and just start working with them on a regular basis. And that’s why I want to try to brand this model in some way, to stick to the knitting model, because I think it’s something you can do as a CIO. And, okay, I go into a new organization. Here’s what my 1st 60 days look like, right? And here’s what my first year looks like. And boy, if you can lay that out into Apparat and Spanish control, blah, blah, blah, blah, have your goal, whether it’s 7%, whether it’s 5% to 4%, whatever it might be, and have that laid out and get everybody focused around it, you can change an organization, culture and teamwork and everything in a very short period of time. So that’s the program I want to use to mentor other up and coming CIOs.
chuck podesta [00:26:49]:
And some of the ones that I’ve talked to are very eager. Again, they want to be led, right? They want the information. They’re eager to learn rather than going into the organization. It’s kind of on the job training. How do you develop a relationship with a CFO? How do you develop it with Legal and with HR and others beyond the clinical setting? Right. People you need on your team. So creating that package that’s repeatable, I think is extremely important.
Ben Hilmes [00:27:17]:
Yeah, I think what I’m hearing here, and I love it, because what you’re giving these leaders is really a framework, right? That no matter what use case you throw against it, it’s something they can use to drive change. It services, CIOs, we’re change agents, right? We are constantly driving change. And so having a framework that no matter what I throw at it, I can use to help drive that change versus, well, I know how to deploy AI or I know how to get to the cloud, but if I’ve got a framework as a foundation to help drive that and continue to execute I love that CIO.
chuck podesta [00:28:01]:
You can go in with that framework and you can say, okay, where are we? Op XYZ. Right. We’re at 6% oop. Too high. Okay, here’s the three things we’re going to do in that area. Oh, what’s governance look like? Oh, that’s pretty good. All right. I don’t have to worry about that one.
chuck podesta [00:28:16]:
All right. What’s our Customer service employee engagement teamwork look like? Oop, some issues there, yes, we have networking seems to be good, but we’re falling down on giving them a sense of security or belonging. So you work on that, right. So you can take this framework, go into an organization and very quickly through your listening tour with your senior leaders because you want to get to know them and build those relationships. You can quickly find out kind of where you are within that framework and really pinpoint. I’ll tell you, it resonates when you go back to your senior leader partners and you basically say, these are the things that we’re going to be working on. It’s things. They understand.
chuck podesta [00:28:53]:
Right. The shiny, bright object stuff. A lot of times they don’t, but this stuff is nuts. They get it business.
Ben Hilmes [00:29:01]:
chuck podesta [00:29:02]:
They get that part.
Ben Hilmes [00:29:03]:
So, I mean, Chuck, you make it sound easy.
chuck podesta [00:29:07]:
Ben Hilmes [00:29:07]:
It’s not easy.
chuck podesta [00:29:08]:
Ben Hilmes [00:29:08]:
It is hard to drive change, but having the framework that, you know, is tried and trued and produces results helps you grow your confidence. And the other thing, and I’m not sure you have any of these, but I always focus on blind spots because I think every leader in some way, shape or form, as you grow in your career, maybe you’re eliminating some of those blind spots. But if you kind of go back in your career, maybe I’ve identified some of those. And how do you then use those and share those as you develop leaders?
chuck podesta [00:29:39]:
Yeah, I know. You need to it’s part of emotional intelligence. Right. You need to really understand yourself and kind of where those are. I can tell you I’m the biggest procrastinator in the world. If you give me two weeks to do something that takes a day, I’m going to do it the day before. Right. The way I am in the past, I thought, wow, I got to fix that.
chuck podesta [00:30:05]:
But then I realized I’m actually more creative when I’m at a deadline like that because you start to panic and you get creative and you work. I don’t know, I just get better results that way. So I actually use it to my advantage now. But, yeah, you need to understand where those are and fix them. Like, I remember 20 years ago, you might have to do a layoff reduction in force. I’m going to keep that secret. Right? No, that’s the worst thing you do, because people know something’s about to happen and when you have a void of communication, they make things up. That’s how the rumor mill starts.
chuck podesta [00:30:37]:
Ben Hilmes [00:30:37]:
That’s exactly right.
chuck podesta [00:30:39]:
So what I found it’s very hard sometimes to have those conversations, this is where we need to go, because you think, oh, my God, my people are going to hate me. But they actually respect you more because, like I said, they’re adults and they’re professionals and they want to know the truth. And so even within this framework, there will be a point where you might have to do a reduction in force, but you do all these other things first so they can see that you’ve done as much as possible to keep them. Right. And yes, you still need to do a little bit more to get to that last little bit. And it does affect them. They can understand that they may not be happy, you wouldn’t expect them to be, but at least they respect you for that. Honesty and transparency.
chuck podesta [00:31:22]:
Ben Hilmes [00:31:22]:
So trust, transparency, decisiveness. Because I think people look at leaders and they say, do they do what they say? So a lot of people call that the say, do ratio and keeping that really high is a really important thing as a leader. So, Chuck, you’re really accomplished. I can only imagine what it’s like to work for you. I imagine your teams, although I’m sure you challenge them every single day, you balance that with respect. I think you give them the tools and the information they need to make decisions. I think those are all important things. As a leader.
chuck podesta [00:31:58]:
You can’t be a micromanager and it’s too complicated, too complex of an organization. Then you’ve got to have your leaders in place that are good leaders, but you show them where the goal line is and let them, they’re going to make mistakes along the way, that’s okay. They learn, but give them the guidance that they need to get to the goal line. And that’s really what it’s all about. But getting back to kind of you can imagine if we can get CIOs to do this, leave an organization where another CIO can come in and build off of it how far we’d be in healthcare. Now, imagine at Renown if I came in two years ago and we were at 4% and we were team, and what I could do with my knowledge at that point to take that two years from now the conversation we’d be having instead of what we’re having today. Right. And how far along Renown would be as an organization, utilizing it in a much better way because we’d have time to work on that enhancements and optimization as opposed to fixing things.
chuck podesta [00:33:00]:
Right. And that’s the shame of this, where we’ve got leaders out there that are chasing these shiny bright objects instead of helping their organizations and leaving something for the next CIO to build on. To me, it’s irresponsible for well, it’s incredibly profession to be letting that happen.
Ben Hilmes [00:33:25]:
Well, thanks for recognizing it. Thanks for leaning in and fixing it because I think a lot of people just would walk away. They don’t want to deal with the mess. And I grew up under the leadership of Neil Patterson. When I was at Cerner Corporation, he had this saying, when’s the best time to plant a tree? Well, the answer is 25 years ago, but the second best answer is today. So you walked into the organization, said, look, we can’t get where we’re going if we don’t do something about where we are today. So you planted that tree. Here you are a couple of years into that journey, you’ve achieved a lot of really good success, and so congrats on that.
Ben Hilmes [00:34:03]:
We’re going to pivot and land here just with some fun lightning questions and just get people to know Chuck a little bit or maybe some additional quick insights. But if you had to give and I’m sure you give advice a lot as you share your wisdom, but when you give advice to up and coming It associates, whether they’re leaders or staffers, what comes to mind. Off top of head. What’s the one or two things that you tell them that give them advice going forward?
chuck podesta [00:34:31]:
Be nice. Be nice. Be nice. It’s hard. This is really hard stuff. And you need to instill a culture of kindness in your organization. It goes a long way. I mean, in your personal life.
chuck podesta [00:34:46]:
Right. Be nice. Culture of kindness just goes a long way. Especially the way the world is today. Right.
Ben Hilmes [00:34:53]:
Oh, my. Yeah. It’s crazy over here when you’re in.
chuck podesta [00:34:56]:
Meetings and yes, you’ve got tough things going on and there’s tension and things like that. Be nice. You can still be nice. There’s a movie called Roadhouse, right?
Ben Hilmes [00:35:06]:
Yeah, I just watched it last week.
chuck podesta [00:35:09]:
Patrick Swayze. Right. And what’s he say when he takes over the bar is, like, a mess and fights every night. And he takes over the bouncers. Right? Yes. And he’s basically saying, when you’re walking somebody out the door, be nice.
Ben Hilmes [00:35:25]:
chuck podesta [00:35:25]:
When you pull somebody off a table because they’re dancing on the table, be nice. Right. So even in tough situations, you can be nice. And I think leaders who have that the bullies of the world right now are being forced out of leadership. That used to be the way, even when I was coming up, bullies in leadership got a lot a lot of things done, but I think in the wrong way.
Ben Hilmes [00:35:51]:
I love that. And I just watched that show last week, so it’s fun. Yeah. So, Chuck, you’ve had a ton of success in your career, but I know there’s a whole lot more to you outside of work. So what would you say is kind of your biggest accomplishment outside of Chuck the CIO?
chuck podesta [00:36:08]:
Yeah. I think it’s reinventing myself every couple of years. Yeah, it’s kind of interesting. I basically started that reinventing myself, I don’t know, maybe 15 years ago. Some of it is because you move around with different organizations that you’re working for and you’re in different parts of the country. So I try to embed myself. I’m in Nevada now. You can see the mustache.
chuck podesta [00:36:29]:
Didn’t have that before. Nevada. I ride horses now, and I’ve got the Western gear. And prior to know, I come from the East Coast, so that’s more buttoned up. I spent five years in Southern California and Huntington Beach. So I was a surfer dude and hung out in West Hollywood. So I had the ferragamo shoes, and I just tried kind of different things. I’m actually doing a photo shoot here in a couple of weeks.
chuck podesta [00:36:56]:
Western wear type of thing. I’ve never done a photo shoot before.
Ben Hilmes [00:37:00]:
Wow. So you’re a model transition to be.
chuck podesta [00:37:02]:
A male model or something. Because Yellowstone is, like, the big craze now, so they’re looking for new, I guess, you know, older guys. But what I found is getting out of your comfort zone. All these things I just mentioned are a bit getting out of the comfort zone. I didn’t know whether this mustache would look good or not good, right?
Ben Hilmes [00:37:21]:
It’s coming pretty good there, yeah.
chuck podesta [00:37:23]:
People commented on a woman stopped me the other day and asked me if I was a sheriff of Brino. I had on and everything, but one of the biggest things, I started running marathons, lost a bunch of weight and had some personal cris and stuff that people do, and you change your life around. I lost about 40 pounds, started running, and I’ve got eleven or twelve. I always lose count of marathons. I’ve done I’ve done the six world majors. So Boston, New York, Chicago, London, Berlin and finished Tokyo in 2018. And that’s really changed my life as well, because one, I never thought I could do it right. Completely out of your comfort zone, running a marathon training, never think you can do it until you incrementally.
chuck podesta [00:38:09]:
You go 3 miles and 5 miles and 10 miles and all of a sudden you’re doing it. But I still remember when I crossed the finish line on my first marathon, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, training to get to that point, and then the actual run itself. And again, I thought I was only going to do one and done, but I used that because it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I bounce everything off of that now. And so in my personal life, professional life, whenever I’m faced with a challenge, big challenge, whatever it might be, I always say, is this harder than a marathon? Answer is always no. And so it’s know, stop whining and get it done, whatever it is.
Ben Hilmes [00:38:50]:
That’s awesome. Chuck, you’re an inspiration. I’m personally inspired and I love it.
chuck podesta [00:38:56]:
I aspire to guess, but you know, I did all these things for me. It’s actually very selfish when you think about it. I didn’t do it for anybody else. I didn’t run a marathon for anybody else. I ran for me. But what I didn’t realize, there’s an after effect. I noticed with my kids, they were older and on their own now, but they started working out all of a sudden and they’re like, what are you doing? And they’re like, dad, at your age if you can run a marathon, we have no excuse. And I didn’t run it so they would start working out.
chuck podesta [00:39:28]:
But when I tell these stories now, people start to do things and get out of their comfort zone. I tell people, hey, pick something you’re afraid of. Heights, jump out of a plane, put a parachute on, certainly. But it’s that kind of thing. Pick something that you’re afraid of and do it right, and it will absolutely change your life. And you’re not doing it to inspire somebody else. But what I find is when I do these things, it actually does inspire other people because of my age. I mean, I can tell you right now, probably hurting myself for future employment.
chuck podesta [00:40:01]:
I’m 65. I’ll be 66 in December. And my first marathon, I was 55 years old.
Ben Hilmes [00:40:08]:
chuck podesta [00:40:09]:
Ben Hilmes [00:40:09]:
I think the next commercial you should shoot is Chuck Podesta, The Most Interesting Man in the World. I’d love the stories, I’d love to spend more time we’ve got to wrap up, but this has been fantastic. I really, really appreciate you coming on to the program. I think there’s going to be so much incredible takeaways from this for our audience and others. And I think through that, you’re going to inspire so many more. So, Chuck, thank you so much. Have an awesome time in Tahoe this weekend and we’ll connect soon.
chuck podesta [00:40:42]:
Thank you, Ben. Now, I appreciate it. And again, I hope this is helpful to people.
Ben Hilmes [00:40:46]:
This is fantastic. This is fantastic.
Ben Hilmes [00:40:50]:
What a great conversation with Chuck. He had just a ton to say about leadership best practices. Here are my top takeaways from our conversation. One, building a sense of belonging within your team is critical for fostering a positive work environment and driving productivity. Two, leveraging proven technologies and analyzing their impact before implementing new tech can help senior leaders avoid risky solutions. Three, stick to the knitting, focus on core competencies and outsource the rest. Four, mentoring the next generation of CIOs is crucial for the continued growth and innovation in the healthcare industry. So, what did you think? What were your big takeaways from this episode? I’d love to hear from you on our social media channels or drop me an email from our website at healthcare itleaders.com.
Ben Hilmes [00:41:41]:
Until next time, I’m Ben.
Hilmes, thanks for joining us. For leader to leader. To learn more about how to fuel your own personal leadership journey through the healthcare industry, visit healthcare. It leaders.com. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any insights, and we’ll see you on the next episode.