In this episode of the Small Talk Big Topics podcast, hosts Matthew Whitson and C.S. Tse welcome back guest Dr. John Carethers, the current AGA President, for part 2 of his advice on career building. In today’s episode, they discuss career advice and learn about his important 80/20 rule in decision making.
To kick off today’s episode, Dr. Carethers discusses what he loved in his career opportunities, including having good mentors who advised him on what he should and should not do in his career. His first leadership job was the Fellowship Director, which was really a job for managing people. He says for most jobs, you focus on yourself and how you can get promoted. But this Fellowship Job was a job specifically centered around everyone else and it was something he had to learn. Dr. Carethers shares how he did not apply to the Fellowship Director or the Division Chief, but he was asked to do these jobs. He says people watch you and hopefully, for the right reasons. John shares a funny story in how his boss asked him 12 times to be the Division Chief, and then on the 13th time, he asked him to do a SWOT analysis and tricked him into accepting the Division Chief position. Before John accepted, he talked to all of the senior faculty and asked them two questions: 1) Could you see me as your chief? and 2) If there was one thing you could change in the division what would that be? He used that list as the Division Chief and the chair agreed to 75% of those items. He says this gave them a victory to build his colleague’s trust and in the first meeting, he started working through the list. Some items on the list included moving a lab, more money, applying for a certain position, etc.
Next, Dr. Carethers shares how you need to set a vision. He says you can’t be a leader if you have no followers. You have to motivate and inspire people. He describes something called the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time, you will do the right thing, but 20% of the time you will push the fringes. He says you will spend 80 % of your time on that 20 percent trying to make it right. If you’re the leader of the group, you will have to make a decision and you can’t wait. He says sometimes you don’t have every piece of information yet, so you have to make a decision without the whole picture. As soon as you get information that you’re going the wrong way, you need to correct the course and people will fix it. He says the worst thing as a leader is indecision because that causes people to go in different directions.
In addition, Dr. Carethers describes how he tries to do the best that he can, and that other people’s lives and jobs are at stake. Every time he’s moved up the ladder, the stakes and decisions grow larger. He describes how it is important to get out and get to know people. He does this by going to the division faculty meetings and sights once a year, along with quarterly meetings. He says you have to be out there to help build trust. He has done this at every stage of his career. People will look to you, so you need to set a vision and rearticulate that vision every year. He shares that he has a few ideas for his vision for San Diego, including creating another hospital since one will not make earthquake codes right now. He says there are many factors to consider in creating a new hospital including how to expand the old and imagine the new one, and utilizing it in the same or different ways to impact the community.
Also, Dr. Carethers talks about how you need to pay it back and how mentoring doesn’t stop no matter how long you have been in the field. He has trained over 60 mentees and has been a mentor, sponsor and role model. One of his mentors told Dr. Carethers to take his name off of a paper to create independence, and he has started doing the same with his own mentees. He says you have to allow people to develop independence. He says one thing mentors should be doing is helping the mentees network and get to know people. He also discusses mentor and mentee malpractice, and what both of those look like. He also talks about how his mentor used to have him correct his grants by fixing red ink. Over time, the red ink would fade, which showed he was learning. He recalls one time when he received a zero percent on his grant and he called the agency asking what that meant, and they said he received the top score. His biggest piece of advice is to surround yourself with good people who are highly capable and then their success will be your success.
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