Scott Zimmerman | Crain's Miami

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Scott Zimmerman

Background:  

Greenway Health is a Florida-based provider of health information technology and services that connect providers with tools that help them improve patient care as well as navigate the continually changing healthcare landscape.

The Mistake:

Staying and trying to make something happen when the larger culture wasn't interested in that outcome.

I grew up, professionally, in organizations, and General Electric was one, where leaders were really motivated and aspired to have expertise in their areas, and they wanted to be in positions of authority. And that was great. These organizations had strong results. And they had traditional power structures, and they were really proud of their disciplines and processes.

Organizations like this were really focused on developing that expertise and leaders, and creating immersive experiences for them to practice in that. And those organizations had big expectations, big challenges. They created a lot of opportunities for learning, which was great for somebody like me because I was always a seeker of information and insight that could help me achieve my own potential as an individual.

[But] organizations like GE ... are struggling today with a new environment to produce leaders and teams capable of dealing with changes in the business environment.

Despite the fact that I was leading a whole business and had influence over that environment, the potential of our organization was ... really hampered by the larger organizational culture. And that really meant that our opportunity to actually deliver on that potential was low. There was increasing friction in the conversations around what our goals and strategy were for the organization and how we were going to do it.

I began to recognize that there’s a difference in my aspiration of what our business could be and what that organization was willing to let go of in order to swing to that higher ground. And it affected my personal joy and fulfillment. It also limited my professional learning. So, I left.

Thinking differently is really about broader perspectives.

The Lesson:

I wanted to make a bigger difference in healthcare. And in order to do that, I needed to be in a culture that really was committed to making that happen. For me, if you want to change what you’re getting then you’ve got to change your thinking and your choices. And that’s a part of what happened here. I wanted to be in a place where I was able to shape an organization that didn’t want to repeat its past by using yesterday’s solution and wanted to generate a more powerful future for itself.

For people who want to be a more powerful instrument of service to colleagues or their customers, it’s your responsibility to continue to develop and exercise your leadership in new ways. Thinking differently is really about broader perspectives, and I think being more successful is about having a different response than a habitual response to the challenge your organization is facing.

I think we have to be more strategic as leaders; we have to be more collaborative. We have to be more effective in navigating conflict. And we have to be more intentional in developing the people in our teams, versus relying on historical things like annual performance appraisals.

For me, until I slowed down and kind of recognized that the culture of a larger organization was creating a difference in what I aspired for the organization — and that there was a difference in values — I didn’t realize how much it was impacting my own joy and fulfillment, and our own ability to achieve that goal.

Follow Greenway Health on Twitter at @greenway.

Photo courtesy of Scott Zimmerman

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