In The Spotlight : Christina Fisher, The American Hospital Association
Christina Fisher, Chief Financial Officer of the American Hospital Association, has had astounding growth in her career in a short period of time. We am particularly impressed with how powerfully she shows up in all areas of her life, and were delighted to personally work with Christina in the Leading With Impact program.
Elizabeth Ruske, Managing Partner of Tiara International had this to say to Christina, “We are quite proud and feel privileged to have been with you on the path that you chose. I like to use the word ‘path,’ as it feels so much more intentional to me than the word, ‘journey.’ For you, it really was a path. There was a clear path – you saw yourself as the CFO and there were steps that you wanted to take. You really owned, embodied, and stepped into your strengths – in your own way. The woman talking to us today is very clear!”
Who are you? What are you known for?
I always answer that question first with the fact that I’m a Christian. I’m a woman of moral values and a woman of faith.
It’s important to me that I start with who I am at my core; it really starts with my faith, my values, and my belief system. It’s important because it really underlies all that I am, both personally and professionally.
What am I known for? I’m certainly known for being passionate about Finance, but I would say on a personal note, for loving basketball. I’m a big fan of cars. If I weren’t a CFO I would own my own car dealership or a women’s professional basketball team. Those are the things I think about on those long nights when I’ve had the 12-hour day, and I go off in the space in my head that makes me feel less stressed.
I’m also known for my communication skills. Why that’s important for me to note, is because I grew up as a shy kid. My grandmother would say that I was shy and timid, probably until later in high school and even college. Today, I am really proud of being a good presenter and communicator one-on-one.
Who are your role models?
The first person who always pops to mind is Dr. Maya Angelou. Obviously, she was a brilliant author and writer, but she also was a brilliant speaker. Her command of the English language, and how everything she said, even in common conversation, sounded like poetry. Her skills were tremendously impressive and she inspired me even as a kid.
I would also say Oprah Winfrey. She may be an obvious choice, but what inspires me specifically about Oprah, is that she started from very little.
She started from humble beginnings. She started from behind the ball and has soared and excelled just by hard work, education, business sense, savvy, and relationship building. All the things that make a successful person, she built from scratch. I’ve always found that to be really inspiring.
How did you end up where you are today? What’s your journey been like?
My journey has been an interesting one. I really benefited from many different industry trends that I just happened to be in the middle of. When I came out of undergrad my first job was in IT consulting. That was not my plan. I have always wanted to be a business person. I have always wanted to be a business executive. I had never put technology on my list. But in the good old days, when you started in consulting, everybody started by being a programmer. So, I learned how to do some IT programming and testing and all the basics, early in my career. From there, I went on to do audit and risk management consulting, which gave me a good opportunity to transition into the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, which I joined during the banking crisis.
The experience that I had as a consultant solving business problems for different types of clients, having to get up to speed quickly, work in ambiguity – all of those types of skills have been extremely useful for me in being a senior executive. It really helped me build a portfolio of skills that I have been able to leverage in my current role as the Chief Financial Officer at The American Hospital Association, and other responsibilities like information technology and overseeing the meeting and travel services department and facilities management, which I find incredibly fun. It really stretches my mind in different ways.
As a woman leader what are your unique strengths that help you and your staff/team succeed?
The first skill, that is as in most cases counter-intuitive for somebody in the C-Suite, is that my default is to collaborate and not to compete. My first inclination is, how can I work together with someone to leverage our collective skills and knowledge to be successful? How can I help other individuals be successful? How can we work together? How can I advise, and how can I consult? I think just the willingness to share the spotlight, to share value, to share power, and to collaborate, is a unique skill that I think comes to me, particularly as a woman. I think it’s just our nature to be collaborative, team players, and nurturing.
I like to say I care a lot about the hearts and minds of the people, which are so important because when you’re in professional situations, we come to work as a whole person, or ideally, we do, and we want people to.
I like to get to know people – who they are, about their families, what their dreams and aspirations are, and to make that connection right away. I let them know that the work they do is valuable to me, but I also value them as a person. In some cases, it’s helped me connect with folks that otherwise have been difficult to inspire or motivate. There are some folks we haven’t been able to get a full day’s work out of, but sometimes you’re able to make that personal connection, and it makes a difference.
Why did you join Leading With Impact, and how did it affect your leadership and your career?
Click below to hear Christina’s response in her own words.
It’s great to still have people like you, and others from the Leading With Impact Program in my life who’ve seen what I’ve grown to become. It was definitely a growing experience for me.
One of the things growing up with my grandmother, was humility, which is a big thing for me. It was a big lesson in my childhood and certainly, with my Christian faith. I think what I began to reconcile in my mind, which clicked for me during that year-long Tiara Leading With Impact program, was that I could be humble, confident, powerful, and influential, all at the same time. That’s the big epiphany that allowed me to really embrace what my strengths are and to leverage them in an even more meaningful way.
In 2015, I turned forty. Fortunately, self-esteem has never been a problem for me. I’ve always been comfortable being Christina. However, in the last couple years, I have been able to learn more about who I am, and embrace more of who I am – really dig deeply into myself – into my core. That has been an incredibly great experience for me.
Tiara really taught me that self-awareness is a key element to your success. Not only personally, but professionally as well, and that comprehensive self-awareness is very powerful to possess.
What are you grateful for?
My Grandmother! The important values she taught me are the foundation of who I am…as an individual and as a leader.
I’m also grateful for the opportunity that I’ve been provided, particularly with education. Starting with my undergrad education, it’s been a tremendous opportunity for me to be the first in my family to go to college. It was a tremendous blessing and opportunity. I don’t take that for granted and I’ve tried my best in every way I can, to maximize the investment that was made in me as a young person.
What inspires you?
Triumphant stories of individuals who work hard and excel, despite the odds. Nothing beats a good underdog story!
How do you recharge your batteries or nourish yourself?
I really enjoy a long weekend in the Caribbean. I say long weekends because I can’t always take the two weeks I’d love to take! So, in recent years, I have started a practice of taking long weekend trips that are five hours or less, like Mexico, The Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. It’s just an opportunity to get away for four or five days and just relax, recharge, and decompress.
If I don’t have to go to a conference for work, I’m in church on Sunday and then I enjoy a good afternoon nap. It’s a tradition I started with my grandmother growing up. We would have church on Sunday, then have a big dinner and we would take a nap. I find that it’s an incredible treat to take a Sunday afternoon nap!
The only way to make time for vacations or things you enjoy is to make them a part of your calendar, just as you do the business meetings.
My mentor always said, ‘You have to plan to be spontaneous.’ That didn’t make much sense to me 10 or 15 years ago, but a couple of years ago it hit me – blocking out the space to do something other than work is important to schedule.
What’s next? What are you committed to?
Taking over the world! One place at a time!
What’s next for me, is just digging the ditches and doing the tough work of business transformation over the next three years, which is the work I really enjoy. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of a leadership team that really appreciates the value I have to offer, and that I will also be able to learn from as well, along the way.