How to keep your cool: the secrets of one manager’s success

Malay.DanielDan Malay is one of the people who for more than two years has orchestrated the meticulous and monumental conversion of Upstate University Hospital’s medical records into a new electronic medical records system called Epic. His title is manager of clinical systems, but what Malay is really known for is unflustered professionalism in times of high stress.

Some of that may be explained by his Irish Catholic upbringing, the strong work ethic instilled by parents adept at managing chaos (his mother is a nurse; his father, a police officer.) He admits that the last few months have been “very, very, very busy” — at work and at home. He and his wife, Erin added a third daughter to their young brood just weeks before the Epic deadline.

So, what is Malay’s secret for keeping calm and carrying on?

* He strives to understand where people are coming from. When someone is contrary, he says, “most of the time it’s because they are worried about what you are proposing, how it will impact what they’re comfortable with.”

* He removes emotion, so people don’t feel threatened.

* He determines what is most important. “I try prioritizing the most important things, those that impact the quality of the care we provide and the safety of our patients, and knowing which things you can do something about and which things you can’t. You have to be able to accept the things you cannot change.”

* He realizes that some people are not easy to work with, and some have expectations that are not reasonable.

* He avoids dictating. “People usually don’t respond well when you roll in and tell them how it’s going to be.”

* He listens.

* He takes time to chill. Running, and spending time with his wife and daughters, are his favorite ways.

* He follows the habits ingrained through golf and running, high school sports he played. “Those are not traditional team sports,” he explains. “Those are sports where it’s pretty much on you to stay in control and to pace yourself to continue to perform. You’ve got to stay calm, cool and collected.”

What happens when he has a bad day? Does Malay ever want to jump up and down, pull out his hair, scream, throw something, melt down?

No, he says plainly.

“That wouldn’t do anybody any good.”

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