Brenda J. Wolf didn’t feel too different coming into work at La Rabida Children’s Hospital as CEO instead of COO. But she couldn’t say the same about others whose path she crossed.
“They seem much more interested in me and also in hearing more about the organization,” says Wolf, who is also president at the 400-employee hospital. “Maybe I feel more empowered because I don’t hesitate to call CEOs of major foundations or other hospitals and say, ‘I’d like to get together with you.’ I would never have done that in a million years before.”
Wolf says there has been some adjustment, but her personality has helped to smooth any rough spots and reassure people that they’re all still part of the same team working toward the same goals.
Learn to delegate
Clearly define what responsibilities and roles you are delegating. Then you yourself have to use discipline to say, ‘I’ve handed this off to someone else and they need to take on the challenge.’ That’s for yourself personally, but it’s also for others who would come to you and ask you for things. You need to direct them to whomever else you are handing it off to.
By the same token, you need to provide support to the people you’ve asked to take on these challenges so that they don’t feel you’re second-guessing them, but that you are available to help them problem-solve.
I have to give folks the opportunity to take on new challenges, and I need to take the time to focus on other areas. So it’s being able to balance that.
Know your audience
You have to know them in terms of how you would present to them. One of the advantages I had was I knew the board and knew the people. I knew the issues that would be the most complicated and most difficult to introduce.
If was a new leader and new to the organization, I would probably say you need to do more due diligence and make sure the people you have who are your direct reports are of the same mind.
You would be doing more research and due diligence before you would make a presentation like that. The other thing is to demonstrate to whomever you are talking to that you’re doing these things because of your passion for the organization. I’m very fortunate to be part of an organization that is extremely mission-driven. As long as you can remind people of why you’re here and that you’re doing these things to carry out a very important mission, that makes it so much easier.
Do it your way
I still haven’t mastered the idea of someone writing for me and then speaking it. I just write down as I would say it and use that to put my thoughts together. I always want to make sure people understand the big picture first and the vision and what you’re doing before you go into the details.
Again, it’s knowing the audience. In certain situations, using Power Point is great. But I never use Power Point to read. I use it more to highlight the salient points, but that’s more a way to keep myself on track and keep the audience focused. One of my pet peeves is people who write out a whole presentation and then they put all the words on Power Point.
Maintain eye contact
I always start off by telling people, ‘I get on automatic pilot here, so please stop me if you have questions.’ But I need to be more sensitive to the audience and have that be part of it so it’s more of a conversation. That I have not yet mastered, but it’s a goal I have.
Size: About 9,000 children served annually
Fact: Earned an international reputation for its role in the eradication of rheumatic fever in the 1950s
How to reach: La Rabida Children’s Hospital, (773) 363-6700