Charlie Scott wants to take a good organization and make it great. He’s president and CEO of Henry Medical Center, a solid hospital earning $399.7 million in total revenue in 2007 in an affluent county, which is also one of the most rapidly growing areas of the nation. While the situation certainly favors success, he knows that just because things look good doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way.
“You shouldn’t take anything for granted or relax for one second or become complacent because then things will deteriorate,” he says.
In a previous position at a hospital in Louisiana, Scott saw the aftermath of what happens when leadership fails its organization by not staying in touch or looking to improve, and it’s those memories of turning the organization around that help him stick to basic management principles in order to take Henry Medical Center to its next level of excellence. He’s prepared to stay focused on the center’s core competencies to communicate and to build trust with the doctors and his 1,550 employees and in doing these things, the hospital will strengthen and grow to new heights.
“Even if things are going great, you want to continue to do the things that got you to where things are going well,” Scott says. “Most organizations are not content with the status quo. No matter how good you are, you can always do better.”Focus on your core
At his prior position, Scott saw firsthand what happens when an organization gets away from its core competencies.
As a result, that’s one of the things he focuses on now to ensure Henry doesn’t lose its focus. The first step is defining your core competencies.
“The first question to ask is, ‘What am I really good at?’” Scott says. “Where is my expertise? What services do I feel I really have the intellectual capital, the expertise, the knowledge to do a really good job at?”
Once you ask those questions and identify your core areas, it’s important to ask what other organizations are good at or better at and identify their core strengths.
“What things have I gotten into that are really outside my expertise and looking at who else out there has more expertise than I do?” he says. “Where am I getting into services where I’m competing with somebody for whom that’s all they do or somebody who’s dedicated to that line of business?”
If you identify places that don’t contribute to your core competencies, you should consider dropping them, especially if they’re costing the organization money. For example, when Scott was working at the hospital in Louisiana, it was operating a collection agency and a home health care service. The goal of a hospital is to provide medical care, and a collection agency didn’t fit with that, so he got rid of it and contracted an outside company whose sole mission was collections. In the case of the home health care service, it fit with the mission of providing health care, but he found outside organizations that did only that, so he sold that segment so that someone else could run it more effectively.
“It’s a matter of trying to recognize as an organization we don’t have to be all things to all people,” Scott says. “It’s not a sign of weakness if we pare some services. The way I see it, then we’re focusing our resources both financial resources and management time on fewer things that matter the most, so we can do a better job on the things that we do offer and not get too stretched.”
Scott says that even if you’re not financially pressed, you still should evaluate your organization because it’s easier to make adjustments when you’re healthy than when you’re not.
Once you’ve evaluated what your core is and isn’t, create guidelines that help you determine if any endeavor strays from that core. Scott uses a concept called the five pillars, which is based on growth, service, quality, employees and finances.
“The pillars represent those aspects of strategy and activity that are important to the attainment of our mission and vision,” Scott says. “To the extent that certain things stray from our core, it is likely they will not align with the pillars. Since all of the five pillars are fundamental components of accomplishing our mission and are central to our core services, focusing on the pillars is a good way to stay connected to our core.”
Everything the hospital does or looks to do, it groups into these pillars. For example, when Scott has meetings, he groups items on his agenda by the pillars. Keeping this focus allows the medical center to improve and also decreases the likelihood of straying into money-losing endeavors like the hospital in Louisiana did.
“It’s something that you continuously need to have out in the forefront, interacting with people all the time,” he says. “That way it becomes a living, breathing concept that has meaning to the organization.”Communicate
Whether he’s cutting jobs and services in a turnaround situation like Louisiana or simply trying to improve customer satisfaction levels in Georgia, the key to leading any new initiative to success is communication.
“Communication is equally important when you’re not in a turnaround situation,” Scott says. “The reason it’s so important is that whether the organization is in a turnaround or whether the organization is just trying to enhance what it’s doing well, every organization undergoes change. Most are striving to do better. ... Change is a part of daily life in an organization.”
When you introduce new processes, services, programs or goals into your organization, if you can explain to employees what’s going on, what the purpose is and why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’ll increase the likelihood of these plans succeeding.
“You have to gain understanding to gain acceptance,” Scott says. “In order to gain understanding, people have a right and a need to know why. It’s not sufficient for me as the CEO to say, ‘This is what we’re doing ... OK?’ Well, why? Without the why, then there’s more likelihood your organization is going to encounter a negative reaction and encounter resistance.”
When you communicate, be sure not to lie to people that goes for downplaying a bad situation or exaggerating the positive prospects of a new endeavor.
“You need to tell people the truth and level with them about what’s going on,” he says. “Don’t try to hide things or sugarcoat them. You don’t have to overly dramatize things, but it’s important to be open and honest in the communication.”
Don’t assume that just because you told people once, it stuck, and they get it.
“Communication is the sort of thing that oftentimes people have to hear or read multiple times before it settles in, and they really grasp it,” Scott says. “That’s human nature. The more you hear it, the more you see it, the more likely you are to remember and pay attention to it.”
Even if you’re repeating your message, you also have to say it through different channels.
“Different methods of communication will address different people,” Scott says.
For example, he has meetings twice a month with management, who then hold smaller meetings with their own departments to communicate the updates. He also has quarterly town-hall meetings with employees and publishes an employee newsletter on the hospital’s intranet.
“The town-hall forum meetings, those people that attend it’s a good method, but we obviously don’t get all employees,” Scott says. “Only a fraction attend, so we can’t rely on that as an exclusive vehicle to get all employees. Likewise, not all employees will read the newsletter on the intranet. With multiple methods, it increases our likelihood of reaching all of the employees, and we increase the likelihood that employees will retain what they hear.”Build trust
When things are going well, you may not be predisposed to look for trouble. But that’s exactly the time you should be building a rapport with the people who can help you find trouble spots before they become a major headache.
One way Scott does this is by eating lunch in the doctors’ lounge if he doesn’t have a lunch meeting scheduled. While there, he can get to know people, and sometimes, they bring up questions or problems for him, and he can address them.
“A successful leader cannot be holed up in his or her office,” he says. “We need to get out in the organization. We need to be seen. We need to interact with staff. We need to know what’s going on. We need the employees to know that we understand and care about what they’re doing and the issues and challenges that they’re facing.”
Aside from the doctors, he still has 1,550 other people whom he needs to build relationships with, as well, so he does that by making rounds throughout the building.
“Over time, it’s a matter of building trust, and in order to build trust, the staff has to get to know you, and the only way they can get to know you is through repeated episodes of communication,” he says. “It’s just a process.”
For walk-throughs to be successful, they have to be part of your routine.
“First and foremost is you have to schedule the time,” he says. “It just doesn’t work to say, ‘Well, I’ll make rounds when I have some spare time,’ because that spare time just doesn’t happen.”
Instead Scott puts it on his calendar, just as if it were an important meeting. When you get used to scheduling it, then it will become part of your habits.
“People are creatures of habit,” he says. “You want to make a habit of rounding and visiting departments, and the more you do it, the more comfortable it becomes, to the point where it just becomes second nature and part of [your] routine.”
If you don’t make it routine, then instead of building trust, people will get scared when they see you.
“If it’s not a routine part of your daily activity, then the tendency is, ‘What’s he doing here? What’s going on? What’s wrong? What’s the problem?’ and all kinds of red flags go off,” Scott says.
If you’ve never been one to interact with employees, this will probably be their first reaction, as well, but it builds their trust over time. He says once people see that you’re not there to drill them with tough questions or get them in trouble, then they’ll let their guard down around you, and your rounds become a non-event.
“They see you’re a real person and friendly, they get at ease, and then you develop trust over time,” Scott says.
As this continues, it helps make them feel more part of the organization and helps them buy in to your goals, and this is what will take Henry Medical Center to its next level of excellence.
“Employees are key in any organizational improvement strategy, whether it’s patient satisfaction or customer satisfaction or financial improvement,” Scott says. “Visibility of senior leadership and communication is key to the employees feeling motivated and feeling like demonstrating the values and behaviors that you want them to demonstrate to have high levels of customer satisfaction.” <<
HOW TO REACH: Henry Medical Center, (678) 604-1000 or www.henrymedical.com