Listen for the Train

Last week I received one of those oh-so-familiar calls from a very strong HCIT leader who I’ve never spoken to before. He reached out (I’m guessing) to throw out a safety net as his organization is beginning the integration process of merging with another health system. We exchanged pleasantries, and he quickly got to the heart of the matter. He said “I think I’m OK for now and that my position should be secure. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.” I, unfortunately have heard that story/seen that movie time and time again and can almost predict the ending.

Wisdom prevailed, however, when he suggested it may be time to forge a relationship with a search firm because of his father’s decades-old advice to “Listen For the Train.” That immediately resonated with me. So many great and talented people never listen for the train – they see the signs of what could be coming but continue to go about their merry way thinking it’ll all play out fine. And it may. But my advice is to keep your network alive and active because, in the end, you just never know. In life’s highways and byways, if you’re a rider on someone else’s bus you are at the mercy of every twist and turn they choose to make – all because they’re driving and you are not. A good way to be ready for all possibilities – good and bad – is to make sure your options are open by maintaining your network, so when that train does come, you’ll be ready for it.

Keeping your network active is not that difficult, either. A simple phone call, e-mail or LinkedIn message to your colleagues on a regular basis will keep you “top of mind” if they start to see or hear the warning signs. Schedule regular monthly (or at least quarterly) touch-points to reach out to your contacts, and keep your network active and informed about what you are up to these days. I have a former co-worker (from many years ago) who ONLY calls me when he knows it’s time for him to move on and find a new gig. That’s not the way to keep an active network. Not at all.

So as we begin a new summer season and wrap up the first half of 2012, make it your plan to pick up the phone and contact the people you know can help you, or who you can help. It matters. Whether you reach out by phone, e-mail, social media or in-person over a cup of coffee, don’t wait until the house is on fire!

And do yourself a favor – always… and I mean always …Listen For the Train.