The Indian Health Service is serious about leadership development and has invested in coaching its future leaders. One way the organization is doing this is through the IHS Leadership Training Program. I recently had the opportunity to participate in the program hosted by the Phoenix Area office.
The training focuses on professional development of future leaders through empowerment and inspiration. As a participant, I received three weeks of valuable in-class training followed by two-weeks of shadowing an IHS executive leader during their day-to-day activities.
Before selecting a leader to shadow, each participant was asked to research and develop goals that they would like to accomplish through the mentoring process. My goal was to shadow a leader who was knowledgeable in IHS management operations and program support. I was fortunate to shadow Athena Elliott, when she served as the director for the office of management services, located at IHS headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. The OMS director advises the IHS director and senior management on grants, acquisitions, management policy, and regulatory affairs. Through observation of Ms. Elliott’s day-to-day duties and responsibilities, I gained valuable insight about OMS’ critical role in contributing to the IHS mission.
The overall theme of my shadowing experience focused on becoming familiar with improvements for effective and efficient program support. Through attending multiple meetings with Ms. Elliott, I learned the importance of delivering a consistent message to establish priorities, identifying opportunities, and ways to manage performance objectives, measures, and accountability. I learned a great deal about goals for continuous strategic planning and expectations that have been set for OMS managers to take the initiative and implement improvements. Open discussions were encouraged, embracing different perspectives to help managers shape their plans into the overall OMS objectives.
I observed how tools and resources are used to make data-driven decisions and how solutions were developed by challenging current processes with new ideas. Most of us get into a reactive mindset when presented with problems, and it can be challenging to look beyond our current circumstances for proactive solutions. By balancing this barrier with encouragement and mutual support, opportunities are identified and solutions focus on progress.
My experience with the IHS Leadership Training Program provided the foundation I need to continue building my knowledge in management operations. The shadowing experience reinforced the training and necessary skills and showcased them in a practical setting. I had the opportunity to witness an effective leader who drove a consistent vision and demonstrated integrity when making strategic and critical decisions. It was truly an unforgettable experience.