October 24, 2011 | last updated May 16, 2012 4:33 pm

Seeing Problems As Opportunities



Cheryl Lapriore

Vice President and Chief of Staff, UMass Memorial Health Care, Worcester

From Nomination Form: "Cheryl has definitely helped me become a stronger young professional by encouraging me to go above and beyond my expectations. She has demonstrated how to work collaboratively for a common goal, and to be unafraid to ask questions and seek support. I will take her guidance with me throughout my career."

Q: Who is your most influential role model, and why?

A: Perhaps this will sound a little cliché, but my most influential role models are my parents. Why? Because they are all about strong character, perseverance against the odds, hard work and achievement at whatever you are doing and building a legacy not on the luxuries you hold but on how you extend to others what you have.

The words "I can't," "too hard," "would rather not" were never words that had a lot of air time in the house when I was growing up. Frankly, they do not have a lot of air time today, and I actually get to talk back now! It was not that I (we) did not experience failure and frustration regularly, but it was the constant reinforcement that you need to pick yourself up and keep going until you get where you need to go that made the difference. Life was not going to stop by and tell you what to do.

Hard work in a principled and strong-values manner would win the race; even if you had to run it twice. And it did not matter what race you were running; just be in it with focus and determination. Be happy with the wins and the losses; they both build character.

Q: Why are you good at what you do?

A: I would say there are three things I always try to remember that support my being good at what I do. First, no one person can accomplish all things well; it takes a team of people with varied skill sets, competencies, knowledge and experience to truly support the success of an organization.Second, a mentor of mine from the very early part of my career used a phrase that I always keep in mind when I approach any business situation, problem, project, issue or challenge. He said, "If it was your money, what would you do?" In any real case, we are stewards of an organization's time, money and people when we come to work as leaders, managers and employees every day.

Finally, steady determination and always looking at the business problem as an opportunity are characteristics that I regularly employ in my career and in my personal life

Q: How does your organization give back to the community and what role have you played in those efforts?

A: I have the privilege of working in an organization that makes giving back to the community as important as saving lives in every one of our hospitals, physician offices and other entities of UMass Memorial Health Care. Guided by the leadership of our president and CEO, John G. O'Brien, who has been working in our community for close to 10 years, our health-care system contributed more than $152.9 million to positively impact the health and well-being of the communities that we serve. These contributions were associated with community health programs, partnerships and direct donations, to name a few categories of giving.

Q: When the stress level gets too high, what's your secret remedy?

A: Laughter and humor are my secret remedies. That's not to say I ever get the punch line correct on any joke and I am really bad with analogies. But, when the stress level gets too high, I do tend to revert to adding a little wit to the otherwise tense situation. And, poking fun at myself to help bring down the stress levels of others is always an option.

Q: How have you tried to balance your career and your personal life? Give an example or two.

A: Honestly, I am not a good balancer of career and personal life, but I never give up the the pursuit of success in this area. I think that's the most important ingredient for me in the constant balancing act of career and personal life — the pursuit of success. What I mean by this is that I never lose a day when I do not ask myself how better to manage the balance for my family, friends and my own personal space. With this constant pursuit in my subconscious, it forces me to stop and assess whether I am way off balance, just a little unbalanced or securely in the balance zone for the week, month or sometimes the year.

Q: What's your primary motivator, or if there is one thing that makes you tick or ignites a passion within you, what is it?

A: Opportunity to make a difference is my daily motivator. I truly believe that life and the opportunities within it are a gift. Some people were given the opportunity to raise beautiful children. Some people were given the opportunity to save lives with skilled hands and a trained eye. Some people were given the opportunity to build buildings. Some are great tradesmen and women that keep everything in our households and businesses running. I was afforded the opportunity for a college and graduate education in business that has allowed me to work with so many talented and terrific professionals that are securing people's financial future, insuring consumers against major home and auto catastrophes, manufacturing building products to build homes and businesses or, literally, saving lives. There is not a better feeling than to bring a team together, to set an agenda of expected outcomes (including those that arise from crises) and to see the success of achievement on the faces of those you work with to solve the business problem.

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