Spend time with your employees. They need to see and hear from you. It can be energizing for teams to spend time with you. They want to get to know you if they are going to follow you, trust you, and believe you. It’s amazing the stories employees would tell me about how important that was to them. When you’re part of a global business and don’t always have opportunities for face-to-face encounters, this can be hard sometimes so it takes flexibility and creativity.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Nole, CEO of Wolters Kluwer Health, a $1.3 billion global leader providing medical information and software that healthcare professionals use in learning, research, practice, and clinical point-of-care. Under her direction, the company’s research and development investments leverage AI and other advanced technologies to deliver innovative solutions that improve the quality and cost of healthcare. A passionate leader behind many health IT innovations, Diana’s view of the rapid evolution of technology is not one of a challenge but, rather a chance to unlock new opportunities.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Interestingly, I never set out to become a leader at a large organization. In truth, I thought I was going to be a computer programmer. That resonated with the core of what I like to do most, which is to solve complex problems. Perhaps that is why I chose computer science and mathematics for my undergraduate majors. To solve complex problems, I needed to have an ongoing passion for learning and a curiosity for the overall business.
With this as the backdrop, I was very open and willing to take on the risk of going into new areas. Over time, this allowed me to move into broader leadership roles. In 2006, I chose to move into healthcare and have loved it. Healthcare has undergone revolutionary changes in the last decade driven in part by many new technologies that support care that clinicians provide. This rapidly-changing area not only allows for constant learning but there is an incredible mission at the center of it. Our work every day is focused on driving improvements in the quality of patient care and in controlling costs so healthcare organizations can thrive.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting story surrounds our acquisition of Emmi, a company focused on patient engagement solutions. Prior to acquiring Emmi, we focused almost entirely on the providers of patient care. The industry as a whole has historically had a very clinician-centered view of care. We have really tried to re-orient that universe to be more patient-centric. Still, the challenges are abundant.
Now, as we all know, it’s tough to get “us patients” to change behaviors for the better. I was extremely intrigued as to how Emmi was doing this and achieving successful results for health systems. I think the time is right for this new approach to care that is really driven by empowered patients. If there is a chance of improving patient outcomes in the coming years, I believe this kind of approach will make one of the biggest impacts.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m not sure I’ve made a lot of funny mistakes but I have certainly made lots of mistakes. I think the most stupid mistake I made was early in my career, thinking that I “knew it all”. I came rushing out of college ready to show everyone how intelligent I was and how I could change the world.
Over time, I learned — sometimes the hard way — that in fact, I didn’t know everything. Far from it. But the real epiphany for me — perhaps a few years into my career — was that I didn’t need to know everything. Everyone can contribute and sometimes it’s more important to draw those contributions out of others and build collaborations than to try to impress everyone with your own knowledge.
That has really become the underlying foundation for me today as a leader — the best decisions come from a blend of experience, knowledge and thoughtful listening.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe our focus on the customer and the trust that customers place in us makes us stand out. We continuously solicit feedback from users, looking for suggestions and recommendations, such as the topics we should consider when seeking to identify the constantly expanding boundaries of patient information.
We have a rich portfolio of information resources that have significantly more value for clinicians, for students and healthcare executives when they are delivered through technology that makes it more accessible, more intuitive, more predictive, and more integrated in the workflows of our customers.
I think about a story that a Brazilian doctor shared on social media a few years ago. He said that using UpToDate, our clinical decision support resource, was like having a team of medical experts sitting on his shoulder. UpToDate was helping him stay current with new medical evidence and knowledge while broadening his ability to care for patients. One of my colleagues, Dr. Denise Basow who is the CEO for Clinical Effectiveness, of which UpToDate is a part, summed it up best by saying, “We have a tremendous responsibility to get it right.” That is the kind of trust we strive to achieve every day.
Behind the scenes, we’re trying to deliver a more efficient and effective exchange of healthcare data. We’re developing new ways to leverage available data to automate those aspects of care that can and should be automated — all without displacing the crucial human element that technology can never replace.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Much of what we are working on at Wolters Kluwer is around full accessibility of a patient’s information within the community of healthcare providers. Have you ever had a doctor’s appointment with a specialist and he or she is unable to access your medical records because they “are not on the same system”? It shouldn’t be so difficult.
This is considered a major challenge by many in the industry, because the standardization of different streams of data and their ability to interact, or interoperability as we call it, are so vitally important to working together in the same ecosystem and we are still not there yet. However, it’s also a huge opportunity for those of us who want to get the next generation of evidence-based, decision-making support that can tap these various data sources into the hands of clinicians.
In the short-term, we are continuously looking for ways to infuse new technology and advanced data science into our platforms. For example, adaptive learning technology like Lippincott’s PrepU is helping nursing students with digital education tools that are increasingly personalized to each student the more they use it. UpToDate® Advanced™ seeks to pull together a patient’s information from the medical record to inform the decision-making workflow with more precise, patient-specific decisions.
In the longer term, I’m particularly excited about how we are using artificial intelligence (AI) in a number of areas in healthcare. This involves applying technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to our products to help them solve complex or labor-intensive challenges.
For example, we are looking at ways to wade through volumes of patient information and make it more usable. A lot of it is messy and unstructured, think of doctor’s notes for example. Every doctor enters notes into a record in a different way. We are trying to extract unstructured data like that and map it with our Health Language terminology. This data can become much more usable, now more intelligently auto-populating fields like family and medical histories, as well as certain points in the clinical decision-making tree produced by UpToDate Advanced as mentioned earlier.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
To help your team thrive, you must listen to them. Take a genuine interest and really get engaged with them so you can help them develop and advance. To do this successfully, you have to first develop yourself and continuously expand your horizons. If you do, you’ll be better able to encourage others to do the same.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
First, you need to make sure your team is the right blend of people who are capable of understanding your customers and identifying their needs. With the right team in place, the most effective approach to management is to empower them by helping them understand that their success lies in knowing the customer and the customer’s unmet needs, complexities and challenges. Then find a way to understand how your organization’s goods and services can be leveraged to help the customer address those issues. Also, encourage them to leverage their own networks of co-workers and colleagues to really educate one another and unlock the potential of what they can do together.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been fortunate to have worked with managers and leaders who have supported and encouraged me to grow by encouraging my curiosity, by allowing me to ask questions without making me uncomfortable for doing so.
Wolters Kluwer’s CEO, Nancy McKinstry, is one of those leaders. She has led Wolters Kluwer for 15 years and is now the longest serving CEO in the Netherlands. She has created an environment of diversity in which everyone is encouraged to be curious and is given an equal chance at success. She herself is a testament to leadership committed to attracting and fostering great talent. During her time at Wolters Kluwer, the number of women in senior positions has risen from 20% in 2003 to 50% in 2018.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
One way I have used my success to help others is by sponsoring a scholarship at my alma mater, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Potsdam. The scholarship is focused on helping women get a strong start in technology careers. This initiative has been very important to me because it serves as tangible way in which I can help create opportunities for women to compete on equal footing with their male counterparts.
Volunteering is also important to me and I have tried to apply my work experience to support not-for-profit boards. I’m grateful to have been on the board of the United Way of Greater Rochester, NY and I presently serve on the board at St. John Fisher College in Rochester. As the college has evolved over the decades to include more female students, the college has sought to reflect that in their board leadership as well. I’m proud to serve the college community as the first female vice-chair of the board at St. John Fisher.
Through my work at the college, I have also been able to learn more about the needs and challenges of students in nursing, pharmacy and public health programs. This in turn provides me with substantive insights for our organization, Wolters Kluwer, which supports students in healthcare with digital learning tools and texts. In effect, my work at St. John Fisher College not only has offered me an opportunity to give back to my community and to education, it’s also been enriching for me by supporting my core tenets of continuous learning and curiosity.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- I really believe it’s important to surround yourself with a broad spectrum of people that are smarter than you and who bring different perspectives to help you solve problems with multiple vantage points. You don’t have to know it all. That’s not what the role of a leader is.
- You do however, need to have accountability for your own role and you have to “know your stuff” — really being at the top of your game — and that applies to men and women. A mentor once put it to me this way: “You need to walk into a room and know your job better than anyone else.”
- Have a passion for learning, always. Never stop learning about new technologies that are specific to your industry and more broadly that span across industries. Keep learning about new ways to help your customers and your team. And keep learning with avocational pursuits to nurture your curiosity.
- Build your time management skills. Don’t burn yourself out, we need you! Adopt a system that works for you. If you find yourself moving to the constant calendar drumbeat of internally focused meetings, it’s time to reevaluate how you’re using your time.
- Spend time with your employees. They need to see and hear from you. It can be energizing for teams to spend time with you. They want to get to know you if they are going to follow you, trust you, and believe you. It’s amazing the stories employees would tell me about how important that was to them. When you’re part of a global business and don’t always have opportunities for face-to-face encounters, this can be hard sometimes so it takes flexibility and creativity.
- Have a sense of urgency and a sense of energy — set the pace and role model it. Our CEO, Nancy McKinstry, has been a wonderful example of that remarkable combination.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
While it may sound obvious or trite to some, I firmly believe we need to value each other more. How do we achieve that? I think it’s important to listen, to engage, to learn, and to be grateful. In our workplaces and in our communities, we need to take more time to try to understand others through dialogue and openness, helping to find out what’s important to them. That dialogue and support can help them achieve their goals.
While you’re listening and engaging, take a walk with a person, get out of your office. You’ll get your steps in as well. Walk to the cafeteria and talk to five people along the way. Call someone on your commute. Find creative ways to engage. Both on the professional and personal, it can make a difference. The importance of connecting and engaging.
In my day to day, I’m reminded of the challenges we face in improving healthcare. If I could trigger a small movement, it would be focused on having patients listen to their doctors and engage. We always think of health-promoting movements that are themed around doing more or less of something, be it exercise or diet for example. We don’t see a lot of movements around the relationships with your care providers. Maybe that’s one area we can promote.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’d like to offer a three-part quote that I like to strive by: “Word hard, have fun, and be bold.”
Work Hard: Growing up, my dad always emphasized the value of working hard, delivering on your commitments and doing more than you were asked to do. This emphasis on integrity and perseverance can help you to muddle through in difficult times and to achieve results even in uncertain or adverse situations.
Have Fun: There’s so much value and fulfillment in enjoying the work you do each and every day. It took me about 10 to 15 years into my career to realize this and it’s been a great source of energy to me since. I confess that sometimes, having fun simply means not taking yourself too seriously. For me, this mindset can boost creativity in tackling challenging situations and I have found that it enhances both our personal and professional relationships.
Be Bold: Later in my career and in my life, I learned the value of stretching myself to a point of being uncomfortable. This has helped me grow as a person and as a leader. Making difficult choices sometimes requires resolute boldness and a steadfast spirit to realize results or to get others on board. I really try to foster this in my organization and instill it among my colleagues. Stepping back, it has been very gratifying to help a business and its teams achieve bold new milestones in their market.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
On Twitter, it’s @wkhealth. On LinkedIn, it’s https://www.linkedin.com/in/diana-nole-9065458/
Thank you so much for these inspiring insights!