Rolling with the punches

HIROC Board Member Mike Nader shares his passion for making a difference

Friday, October 26, 2018 – Philip De Souza

Mike Nader brought the topic of leadership to life at a recent Canadian College of Health Leaders (CCHL) talk. As Executive Vice-President of Clinical Support and Performance at University Health Network, and one of HIROC’s newest board members, the audience was fascinated by Nader’s personal career journey which included moves across British Columbia and now to Ontario.
Nader shared how two words, “you’re boring” (which received a few chuckles from the audience) would provoke him to pick up and go to Africa – marking an interesting turning point in his career. There Nader worked as a teacher in a rural boarding school housing over 1,000 learners. This experience taught him to live every day to the fullest.
At each turning point in his career trajectory Nader discovered the importance of being flexible and rolling with the punches, so to speak. From his experience as Manager of Strategy at Vancouver General Hospital, to taking a risk and leaving a secure full-time role to cover a maternity leave, Nader never lost his passion for the work.  
“My father always told me, everything happens for a reason,” he said while talking about one of the major setbacks he faced early on in his career. “An early goal of mine was to pursue medicine,” said Nader, sharing that he actually missed the application deadline. “I remembered what [my dad] would always say, and shifted my focus – deciding to pursue an MBA instead.”   
During his talk, it became clear that Nader places a great deal of value in having a good leader. He specifically mentioned a former Vice President at Vancouver Coastal Health. “Barry’s coaching and mentorship helped me truly understand how critical it is to be present as a leader,” he said. Nader shared a story about how he would later swap jobs with his mentor, “that was an amazing and unique experience.”
A major crux of his talk revolved around how one can develop and grow as an effective leader. His toolbox analogy really got delegates thinking. “You see, the tools in your toolbox are essentially what you learn and absorb from the work you do day in and day out – how you lead, how you solve problems, and how you manage relationships,” he said. “And taking on new roles helps to offer you new perspectives, a new lens, and ultimately new tools to add to your box.”
Nader encouraged everyone in the room to never forget to look into their toolbox and identify what new tools they could possibly add or add to. “One way I added to my personal toolbox was by taking on a board position at an adult day care centre,” he said. “It was something I had zero exposure to and I learned so much!”
Tenacity and resilience aren’t just words to Nader, but rather a credo for keeping himself in check. “These attributes truly help me drive change – that’s what being an effective leader is all about,” he said. “And we need to keep that at the forefront of our minds, creating systems to help provide support to our dedicated staff.”
Nader stays connected to that way of thinking by taking time to shadow many of the staff where he works, whether it’s a nurse, physician, facilities staff, or a member of the administration team. “It’s important we walk in the shoes of our staff,” he said. “I want to see what challenges they face every day and offer any support I can to help solve their blocks.”
Nader closed his talk by stressing how good leaders should always be anticipating what’s next – being proactive rather than always being reactive.
“We know the demands on healthcare are changing rapidly so it’s important to ask ourselves, how we are responding to this,” he said. This was ever so clear at a recent HIROC Board retreat.
From a governance perspective, Nader and his fellow HIROC Board members have begun taking their brain path in a new direction. They’ve committed to engaging in healthy dialogue about disruption, big data, new technologies and also partnerships that will help HIROC live its vision of creating the safest healthcare system.
At the end of his talk, Nader brought it back to basics. “You need to be open and honest with yourself when determining what it is you ultimately want to accomplish with respect to your career,” he said. “But you must ensure you can remain grounded, I do this by always being conscious of making sure I’m there for my kids and also taking time to decompress and just be still.”
By Philip De Souza, Manager, Communications and Marketing, HIROC