Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Seize this very minute"

Sometime after he succeeded John L. Brown, the founding President & CEO of Community General Hospital, Jerry Harris presented each of his vice presidents with a poem, displayed in small plastic stand for desk or book shelf.

Jerry became President & CEO in 1982, and it was probably several years later when he handed out the short verse by Johann van Goethe. Here is a translation by John Anster:

Lose this day loitering - 'twill be the same story
To-morrow - and the next more dilatory;
Each indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting o'er lost days,
Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute -
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated -
Begin it, and then the work will be completed!
Jerry Harris was a key figure in my career. He promoted me to vice president and helped me return to college for an MBA degree. He also freely shared his hospital stories and his sayings about management. Among them was this challenge: "Sooner or later, somebody's gotta do the work!" That was an echo of Goethe's "Lose this day" eloquence.

One of the most impressive things about the leadership of SUNY Upstate Medical University is its action-oriented management team. Dr. David Smith, University President, and Dr. John McCabe, Hospital President, look for and expect results.

At a senior management retreat last fall, Dr. Smith passed out coffee mugs to his Upstate leadership team. "Get-r-done!" the cups read, referring to Upstate's acquisition of Community General Hospital.

To this day, I display in my office the Goethe poem Jerry Harris gave me. It is good to know that Community's work ethic will fit comfortably with Upstate's bias toward action.

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