Richard Reif is well-versed on the subject of health care reform — and he should be. He had a 13-year head start on the government.
In 1997, more than a decade before President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, Reif worked with the leadership team at Doylestown Hospital to build a strategic plan around a series of building blocks designed to promote many of the same areas of emphasis now outlined in the federal act.
Reif, the hospital’s longtime president and CEO who will retire in December, wanted to build an organization in which health care providers believe they have a duty to preserve health as much as they have an obligation to cure illness.
He wanted an organization that fostered alignment among all staff members who came in contact with a given patient — doctors, nurses and support staff all united with a common goal of providing a high-quality and seamless patient experience.
“We had a series of building blocks that I believed would be paramount to our long-term success,” Reif says. “I testified before Congress that year on the issue of how we needed to transform health care. It was the origin of a lot of things that were proposed in the (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). We have used those fundamental building blocks to help drive who we are, always coming back to what benefits the patient and the patient’s family.”
But building that kind of organization wasn’t as simple as posting a mission statement over the entrance door. It required Reif and his team to define what Doylestown Hospital stood for as both a business and a health care entity and what it meant to work for the hospital. He then had to focus 2,000 associates and 900 volunteers on those core beliefs, keeping the message in front of existing staff and introducing the message to new staff.
In short, it took consistent and tireless communication.
Know who you are
Every business has an identity. Defining that identity, however, can be a difficult and ongoing process. Organizations, like the people who comprise them, don’t easily fit into prefabricated molds.
But defining what you are as an organization is essential to developing your mission and core values.
At Doylestown Hospital, Reif draws heavily on the organization’s history to chart a course for the future. The Village Improvement Association, a local women’s group that still owns the hospital, founded the hospital in 1923. The hospital was founded as a product of one of the association’s missions — to promote health and wellness in the Doylestown community.
With that as a guiding beacon, Reif put his effort into preserving and improving the hospital as a resource for health and wellness in the immediate area, closely embracing that identity.
“We don’t do a lot of teaching and we don’t do a lot of research,” Reif says. “We do a bit of both, but that isn’t our primary emphasis. We want to stay focused on our patients and serving them to the best of our ability.”
Often, companies and organizations try to define themselves by the business they conduct instead of the people they serve. Your list of clients might be impressive, your product might be cutting-edge and your services might have helped you carve out a lucrative niche.
But if you can’t identify the positive impact your company makes on the people you ultimately serve, you’re not doing a good job of identifying your company’s reason for being, which in turn, could have a damaging effect on your ability to promote your culture and motivate your employees to do their best work.
“Whether I’m relating the concept to people in this area or outside this area, you tend to find a universal problem in that people can have a tendency to lose where their focus is meant to be,” Reif says.
“Sometimes, you worry more about the business scale of what you’re doing as opposed to what and who you are ultimately impacting. That’s especially important in our field due to the nature of our work. Hospitals and schools are two great examples of organizations in which you should know what you should be doing.”
Reif learned the value of developing and maintaining an organizational identity early in his career, when he worked at a pair of Quaker hospitals.
“I came to learn a lot about myself as well, as well as what you need to do to emphasize the importance and value of the people you serve,” he says. “I believe my job is to create an environment where those people can achieve their sense of inspiration.”
To build an organizational identity around developing relationships and serving your customers, you need to give your employees — especially the employees who directly face your customers — the tools and resources necessary to foster those relationships and maintain them over the long haul.
“One of the things we do and communicate is the whole issue of our values and our responsiveness and giving the people the tools they need to be successful,” Reif says. “It can be continuing education, it can be the right equipment, it can be the right work environment. It can be that you try to cultivate a sense of respect between departments or a sense of functional respect between doctors and associates. But you’re ultimately trying to focus on a series of things that are all related back to the mission and the core values.”
Live the culture
Reif couldn’t build an organization that promotes alignment and accountability without a strong culture to serve as its backbone. Building and maintaining the culture was an essential first step.
A company’s culture lives and breathes through the actions of its employees. But you don’t get the desired actions without employees who have a firm belief in the mission and values of the organization. It needs to start with the hiring process, when you identify the job candidates who you think have the personality and individual values needed to mesh with your organizational values.
But if you don’t seed and cultivate your culture within those people, all you’ll ever have is raw materials and a workforce full of unrealized potential.
That’s why Reif gets involved in the training of new Doylestown Hospital employees from their first week on the job.
“I am in my 24th year now in this position, and I do virtually every new associate orientation,” Reif says. “We start with the premise that we are all aimed in the same direction, and I emphasize our sense of responsibility to our mission and our values. We reinforce that in any way we possibly can, no matter what topic. Where we are, how people are evaluated, how we make decisions — it always comes back to the mission.”
Once new employees are up to speed with how health care and business are conducted at the hospital, Reif further reinforces the culture through the stories of patients — the consumers of the hospital’s end products and services. By putting a human face on the ultimate product of the work each employee does, you demonstrate the ultimate benefit that the work of each person has to the end consumer.
“We have a major fundraiser every spring, and this year, we had 80 to 100 women involved,” Reif says. “As I was thanking them for their involvement in the effort, I reminded them why we were raising the money. This year, it happened to be that they’re raising money for a maternity unit, so in my presentation, I put pictures of four newborn babies on the screen.
“Another time, at the end of our budget approval for the following fiscal year, we had a board meeting. I showed our board 10 pictures of patients living with cancer. They’re people who we are treating, who agreed to be photographed for this presentation. I put their pictures in front of everyone and told their story. In both cases, showing the babies we delivered and the cancer patients we’re treating, it reminds us why we’re here as an organization.
“We share stories of patient successes, and even the times when we fail a patient. We need to learn from those stories as well. It always comes back to who we are serving.”
Reif says the real-life examples serve as a means of showing empathy. Effective leaders need to foster a sense of empathy within their organizations. That includes empathy between employees and management and empathy between those inside and outside the company.
If management does a good job of instilling a sense of empathy within the culture, that feeling will trickle down to the relationship your employees have with the people you serve — be they customers, clients or, in the case of Doylestown Hospital, patients.
“You have to be empathetic to your people,” Reif says. “You have to listen. If I’m showing empathy to the people who work here, the associates and why we value that, they are going to be more empathetic with regard to their relationship with the patients.
“If I remember who is providing the patient care and I treat them with respect, they’re going to continue that relationship with the people they come into contact with, which includes the patients and their families. Again, it’s always coming back to who you serve and what you are as an organization.” <<
How to reach: Doylestown Hospital, (215) 345-2200
Richard Reif, president and CEO, Doylestown Hospital
The Reif file
Born: I was born in Baltimore. I actually went on to become the CEO of the hospital I was born in, Union Memorial Hospital.
Education: Zoology degree from the University of Maryland; Hospital administration degree from the Medical College of Virginia (now VCU Medical Center).
First job: My first real job was as a Good Humor truck driver when I was 18. The following year I started working in hospitals.
What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?
I learned to be genuine and be yourself, and find an organization that values you. Those are the two most important things: be sincere and fit the organization.
What traits or skills are essential for a leader?
Empathy, listening and consensus-building. Those are three things that Quakers do very well. In my time at Quaker hospitals, I learned to conceptualize, think long-term and be a steward to the community.
What is your definition of success?
It is a statement more than a set of criteria, and I can quote it from you. My wife and I both live by it: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness or abilities that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” (Attributed to William Penn.)
Many businesses aspire to maintain a culture of continuous improvement. Whatever happened yesterday isn’t good enough for tomorrow, because tomorrow is an opportunity to do it even better. But as a leader, do you really understand how to foster a mindset of continual improvement within your business? Can you push the right buttons and challenge your managers and employees to strive for better efficiency, more creative solutions and new ideas that can impact not just your company but your entire industry?
Over the past year, Smart Business Philadelphia has spoken with numerous leaders about how they push their people to achieve great things on a daily basis. Below, three area business leaders weigh in with their thoughts.
“You walk in every day and say to your employees, ‘I want us to be better and better.’ I’ve been here a long time, and I come to work every day trying to think of ways that we can better this business today. What can we do differently? What new thing can we try? How can we enhance what we do?”
Bill Whitmore, chairman, president and CEO, AlliedBarton Security Services LLC
“The growth aspiration is the answer to the question of what it is you want to be. What are you holding the organization accountable for? If you don’t set that, you will get to wherever your product takes you, but that might not necessarily be the aspiration you have for the company or the employees.”
Robert Bazemore, president, Janssen Biotech Inc.
“It really is about starting out with those simple, boring questions — ‘Who are we?’ and ‘What do we do well?’ and ‘Why are we different from the competition?’ It could be asking questions of management, such as ‘Why are you here and not working for the competition? What makes us different?’ If you ask those simple questions, you’ll be amazed at the debates that ensue among the management team.
Richard Phillips Jr., CEO, Pilot Freight Services
Think about how to get better each day.
Figure out what you want to be as a company.
Know your company’s separators.
Few tasks are more central to effective leadership than communicating well and making sure your charges are doing so too. Communication pitfalls are rife in business. Maybe you have a tendency to rush through strategy sessions, or to be too subtle, to not spell things out clearly enough. Maybe you find yourself becoming so dependent on a PR person or group of PR people that you start to feel inaccessible. Maybe you have a manager who’s basically good at articulating his thoughts, but when his mouth opens, his ears snap shut. Here, from the pages of Smart Business Dallas, are some ideas from business executives on how to avoid such missteps and keep everyone in your company connected.
“When most people hear [communication], they’re thinking of transmitting, so we really tried to put the emphasis on receiving. It’s making it a part of the leadership culture to emphasize listening well and asking appropriate questions to enhance absorption of what’s really being attempted to be communicated. That’s not a natural skill. People typically default to being better at transmitting than receiving. You can see that in a variety of ways, but one way you can see that is when a discussion of reasonable intensity is going on and one party is communicating to another, you can almost see that other party stop listening to start formulating what their response is going to be on what they’ve heard so far.” — Carlos Sepulveda, President and CEO, Interstate Batteries
“Communicate early and often. You can almost overcommunicate. Make sure you’re sharing the vision — that it’s not just that there is a vision, there is a strategy behind this. …You overcommunicate and begin to share capabilities and really point out the most important thing to both cultures, and that is we’re a client-first organization. I try to compare it to something the group has been through before, if it’s possible. It’s not always possible, but if you can compare it, make it relative; I do find that to be helpful in many ways.” — Jeff Markham, Regional Managing Director, Texas Region, Merrill Lynch
“I don’t have a PR agent. I’m probably the easiest CEO in America to find and e-mail and get ahold of. It’s more efficient and takes less time to deal with things directly via e-mail than it does for someone to go through your e-mails and not know what you’re missing and then have them communicate to you and you communicate back to them. The time it takes for you to answer an e-mail or hit the delete key, if it’s not worth responding to, is probably about 20 percent of the time it takes to go through one, two, three assistants. I go into Hollywood and I see four assistants sitting outside somebody’s door, and I’m like are you [expletive] kidding me?” — Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks Owner and HDNet Chairman, President and CEO
- Emphasize the importance of listening.
- Don’t cocoon yourself with intermediaries.
- Hit the nail on the head; repeat as necessary.
It’s a moment everyone faces at some point in his or her life. That time when you’re not sure if you’re doing the right thing, but you need to make a decision and so you take the plunge.
Perhaps you’ve gotten past the anxiety that comes with such decisions. But your employees probably don’t have the same level of wisdom and experience. They may be looking for someone who has been through it all before and who better but you, their boss, to be that voice of reason.
Here’s what a few of the leaders we’ve spoken to over the past year had to say about being an inspiration to their people and helping them when they needed it.
“People are motivated knowing they have a boss who believes in them. I can’t think of a better way to be motivated myself than knowing my board has confidence and believes in me.”
--Jeffrey S. Davis, president and CEO, Perficient Inc.
“In the absence of open, honest and frequent communication and building trust through transparency and accountability, you’re not going to know what that other person is thinking.”
--John G. Peluso, president, Wells Fargo Financial Advisors Financial Network LLC
“If you don’t communicate the vision and you don’t talk to people regularly about how you are doing and what you need to do, then when you tell them something, it’s going to be as if it’s coming out of the blue.”
--Bruce Neil, president and CEO, The Doe Run Co.
Summary: Don’t be afraid to be a role model. Make an effort to have regular dialogue. Share with people what’s happening in your business.
“One of the hallmarks of successful companies is being open-minded and receptive to ideas for improvement from the employees, who are closer to the work than the executives are. It’s kind of built into your DNA. Either you are or you aren’t receptive. You have to be curious and receptive and then be willing to work with it. Then you need to set up a pattern and a tempo of consistency on this topic. If you do it once, and it goes away — a flash in the pan idea — it becomes not effective. If you do it every year, you’ve been doing it for 10 years, people come to expect it, and it becomes part of the culture.” — Chip Perry, President and CEO, AutoTrader.com
- Be receptive to ideas for improvement.
- Foster a collaborative environment.
- Reward employees who suggest innovations.
Peace is a good thing, but it’s not always the best thing for your business. This isn’t to say that you want your employees shouting at each other in the hallways or across their cubicle walls. But if everything is too serene, you might wonder how hard they are actually working to grow your business.
With growth and change comes the occasional obstacle. Those obstacles may seem pretty daunting, but you can’t fear them. Embrace them for what they are, signs that your plan needs a little work. If you believe that problems arise for a reason and can actually help you be ready for what the future holds, they may not seem so scary. Here’s what some of the leaders we’ve spoken with had to say about unexpected problems.
“A progressive company that is managing change and constantly working to improve itself is hardly ever stable and orderly. There will be growing pains.”
--Adam Coffey, president and CEO, WASH Multifamily Laundry Systems LLC
“You have to be comfortable with a little chaos. Your job is to take all that chaos and turn it into order.”
--Zorik Gordon, co-founder, president and CEO, ReachLocal Inc.
“Quite candidly, you want to hear the bad news more than the good news because those represent the areas of opportunity within an organization.”
--Brett Good, president of Southern California district, Robert Half International Inc.
Summary: Don’t assume that every problem is really a problem for your business.
Train your people to be responsive when a project hits a bump in the road.
Make sure people aren’t afraid to bring you bad news.
Mitch Lowe found himself in an enviable position when Redbox Automated Retail LLC really began to take off. But the popularity also came with a few challenges. Namely, how do you sort through all the people who suddenly want to come and work for you?
“You start to have a lot of folks who are trying to get jobs there who are really good at presenting themselves, but are not so good at fitting in with the culture or the style of the company,” says Lowe, president at Redbox.
Lowe decided major changes were needed. In the end, he came up with a system that involves more people in the hiring process at Redbox. Here’s what other leaders we’ve spoken to recently said about what they look for when hiring.
“We hire people who are bright, inquisitive, have high energy and high integrity, and one of the most important things is what I call intellectual curiosity. They are interested in what’s going on around them.”
-- Richard A. Chaifetz, chairman and CEO, ComPsych Corp.
“We don’t care how much money somebody’s going to make us; if they’re going to make all of us miserable, we don’t want them here.”
-- Raj Fernando, CEO, Chopper Trading
“People do business with people that they like, trust and then ultimately respect. That goes whether you’re a customer, a supplier or an employee.”
-- Tim Jahnke, president and CEO, Elkay Manufacturing Co.
Summary: Look for people who are interested in what you do. Don’t underestimate character in prospective employees. Treat people the way you would like to be treated.
Most company leaders want everyone in their organization to embrace the idea that they are part of a team. People may have different job descriptions and different positions in the hierarchy, but in the end, everyone is a vital cog in the machine.
But in order to develop a sense of team, you have to develop a sense of trust that takes root at every level within your organization. Your people have to see that you are not only communicating, you are communicating the full truth on matters that affect their jobs. They need to see that you are engaged in the business, and value their input and opinions. Over the past year, Smart Business Orange County has talked to a number of leaders about developing trust with employees. Here is what three of them had to say.
“It’s critically important in that situation that you let folks know that you are the leader, but you aren’t going to do this all by yourself. This isn’t Moses laying down the Ten Commandments. You have to let folks know that you’re there for them, that you’re here to serve them and that you want them to buy in to what you’re doing and trust you in leading them. But you can’t force it. You have to figure out a way to get them to want to believe in you and what you’re trying to accomplish. That’s the type of trust that helps you move a business forward.”
Matt Carter, president, Sprint Global Wholesale Solutions Group
“If you’re going to provide support to employees, you have to see what their needs are. Don’t guess what their needs are, go out there, talk to them and ask them. Feel it and live it. Don’t lose sight of the fact that, in business, it comes down to the customer interaction. So you always have to know what it is you do, and what you can do better in terms of providing guidance and support.”
John Fuller, president and CEO, The Johnny Rockets Group Inc.
“The questions and answers are important, because if somebody has a question, what it’s doing is bringing it to the forefront. If one person in the organization has a question or comment, undoubtedly others have it too. It could be as broad as, ‘Where are we going as a company?’ or as narrowly focused as, ‘I don’t like the food in the cafeteria.’ But in the end, by having anyone able to ask any question they like, when you answer it, it’s giving everybody in the organization the ability to recognize the rationale for what you’re doing. That is what builds trust.”
Steven Moreau, president and CEO, St. Joseph Hospital of Orange
Your employees need to believe in you.
Don’t guess about the needs of your people.
Solicit feedback, and then act on it.
Gender diversity in corporate leadership
If a woman wants to pursue a corporate leadership role, it might be to her advantage to be a fast walker. That’s the candid advice of Rob Falkenberg, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of Ohio.
“I look for fast walkers,” he says. “I find that fast walkers are fast thinkers; they’re fast doers. I want people who are really driven, energetic and passionate about their work.”
Falkenberg was one of three CEO panelists at the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Ohio Chapter discussion in October. The panelists were from leading Ohio health care organizations where women are clearly succeeding in corporate leadership roles. The panelists fielded several questions from moderator Shari Tordoff, and here is the top advice from the CEOs on how women can give it their best shot:
“First of all, I would say be assertive about your goals, and also be understanding that things don’t always happen on your timetable. Be very clear about your expectations, your objectives and career, work hard for it and be patient and very flexible.” - Rob Falkenberg, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of Ohio
“Do purposeful networking ? make a list of five people you want to meet or have lunch with. And consciously do it once every two months. It can be intimidating ? let them get to know you, and don’t make them all women.” - Pete Geier, CEO, Ohio State University Health System
“Women have to ask. Women will tend to wait to be asked to get to a leader position. Be a little more aggressive. Secondly, have a willingness to be coached. View feedback as a gift given to get better than a criticism.” - Mike Kaufmann, CEO, Pharmaceutical Segment, Cardinal Health
Summary: Be assertive while being patient. Network with a purpose. Show willingness to be coached.
Are you ready if some unthinkable disaster was to strike your business? What would you do? Who would you call? How would you rise above the pandemonium and be the leader that your company needs in order to make it through this calamity?
These are all important questions for any leader to consider, even if they aren’t very pleasant to think about. Your future depends on it, but perhaps more importantly, the future of your business and the livelihood of your employees hinges on how effectively you do prepare for the unexpected.
Smart Business spoke with a number of leaders about this topic over the past year and they revealed that it takes a combination of great urgency and steely resolve that helps you through the really tough times.
“A good leader has a sense of Zen or calmness even when it seems like chaos is happening. It’s really up to you to navigate through those moments and make it OK for everybody and begin to problem solve.”
Julie Smolyansky, president and CEO, Lifeway Foods Inc.
“Once you’re comfortable with the compass heading, you just have to charge ahead with it. The worst that happens is you get fired.”
Thomas J. Neri, president and CEO, Lawson Products Inc.
“You have to have your key leaders, functional leaders or divisional leaders participate and get involved. If they’re not part of it, they’ll fight it until the last breath of implementation.”
Tim Jahnke, president and CEO, Elkay Manufacturing Inc.
Summary: Don’t try to solve every aspect of the problem in the first five minutes.
Focus on what needs to be done most urgently.
Always keep the impact of your decisions on your people in mind.