Guitar Hero Governance: Recruit Gen X & Y Health Pros for Your Boards

Lest I repeat myself and become exceedingly tiresome (too late), I'll let Graham at Over!My!Med!Body! do the intro on this one.

He's got some interesting commentary after watching Google's Eric Schmidt at HIMSS.

Although I'm not in full agreement with the rest of Graham's post (patients ARE consumers of health goods and services, whether or not they are the primary payers for such transactions), he is right on with this excellent critique of Google's Health Advisory Board:

"Dr. Schmidt talks about young people, and how we already see the future of what will happen with society, what changes will occur and how quickly and says that the older people like him need to be ready to change and adapt. But I’d guess no one on their Health Advisory Board, with the exception of Matthew Zachary, is under 40 or 50; few if any likely have a Youtube account or Facebook profile. If young people are so in the know, get our opinions!"

I could write a book on the subject of bringing Gen X and Gen Y Directors onto Boards (hmmm), but for now, let's titrate this future-of-governance thing down to simple solutions.

You. Need. Healthcare. Leaders. And. Thought. Leaders. Under 40 (Under 30). On. Your. Boards. NOW.

Recruiting fresh new voices to join your board is a big component of 'guitar hero healthcare.'

Here's one organization that deserves the Health Management Rx healthcare industry best practice award - Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago is recruiting young (20s and 30s) volunteer Associate Board Members here.

They're looking for "dynamic young adults" to fundraise, create events including the Annual Charity Bowl and local happy hours (of course), "connect with the community to raise awareness" at events, and participate in community service activities that help cement SCH's charitable vision in concrete activity.

SCH is using talents and skills many young workers will have (socializing, event planning and organization) and tapping in to our desire to serve community in a capacity that 'counts.'

This is a perfect way to break younger Board members into serving, working together to accomplish specific goals on limited timelines, and interacting with older, more experienced Board members and executives.

I joined my first Board at 26, as Vice Chair.

I was recruited not for my time in the field or the quantity of my experience (just 2 years out of my undergrad cap and gown), but rather the quality of my personal brand of professional verve (I can't help it, I love what I do) and ability to quickly analyze and synthesize best practices from other industries and translate those into potentially applicable models. Or so I've been told.

Despite all I bring to my Board, the relationship isn't equally reciprocal - I'm learning far more via my early involvment in the world of nonprofit healthcare governance than my colleagues are receiving from my term of service.

They have the grace and foresight to know I'll apply lessons learned to each new venture, and the patience to put up with my learning curve (and all the questions that go along with it!)

To young healthcare professionals interested in Board service, here are some ridiculously simple steps to get you started:

1. Learn your strengths. Be able to sell them.

2. Always be open to learning more about your weaknesses. You'll always know less about these than you think you do.

3. Commit yourself to being a work in progress.

4. Learn how to take a compliment.

5. Learn how to give honest, constructive critiques.

6. Learn how to fundraise and recruit.

7. Ask questions (of anyone and everyone).

8. Listen more than you speak, or speak more than you listen. Develop situational awareness and use it.

9. Seek out the Board of a nonprofit whose mission you're invested in and arrange an informational interview.

10. Don't be afraid to push the envelope, but keep in mind Board involvement is about service, not self.

If you want to take a quick look at what's out there, try searches on Boardnet, Idealist and Craigslist to look for local opportunities.

Remember, you don't have to take the giant leap into nonprofit governance by securing an immediate Board appointment.

Other ways to get involved and evaluate cultural fit include serving on committees for organizations like your local hospital, fire department, EMS/Rescue service, municipal services vendors, libraries, and small nonprofits.

And to the students, interns, docs, nurses, administrators, consultants, EMTs, patients/consumers and other medbloggers in our little world - go forth and seek ye boards to serve! They're out there, and they need us.

Hospital administrators - check out SCHs program. What's the value proposition for implementing a similar program at your hospital? Do you have a Gen X or Y Board member already in mind?

For those of you who want more detailed info, I'd be happy to chat over ideas on how to get Gen X and Yers involved in 'entry level' Board service. Leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

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