Evolving leadership Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2009

David P. Blom keeps a list of five or six people he has encountered in his life who have had the biggest influence on shaping his leadership style. It’s a big decision to put someone on this list since Blom holds the group in such high regard.

“I call them mentors or influencers,” says Blom, president and CEO at OhioHealth. “They have had a huge impact on my life.”

Blom says that out of all the people he has talked to and worked with that he couldn’t possibly pick just one person who had a greater role in determining who he is as a leader. The list continues to evolve, as does his leadership style.

“I clearly am still growing into it even though I have been here for 27 years,” Blom says.

This ability to work with others and learn from them has served Blom well in leading the regional health network that stretches across 46 counties in Ohio and has 15,000 employees.

“That’s a fairly significant responsibility that I take very seriously,” Blom says of leading the company. “How we do that is through some bricks and mortar and equipment, but it’s mostly through people. Just by the nature of what we do, we have a lot of doctors and volunteers and leading that is a significant challenge.”

The key to keeping it all straight is conveying a singular vision that everyone can get behind.

“If you work hard at a vision, it forces a degree of introspection,” Blom says. “You have to see yourself clearly and see where you are before you are able to paint a picture of where you want to go. A degree of introspection is healthy. It creates hope and aspirations of a better place and it motivates action and creates conviction. Until you have that, it’s hard to move an organization forward.”

Blom’s efforts have paid off over the years. OhioHealth was named a Press Ganey Success Story for 2006 for outstanding patient satisfaction and was one of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

He says it’s been a conscious effort to develop and maintain a positive workplace culture, starting at the top and working its way down through the organization.

“As we set the vision for the organization eight or nine years ago, it was that we wanted to be the place where people want to work, where physicians want to practice and where people want to go when they need health care services,” Blom says. “You have to have the people that want to work there and are engaged and passionate and have bought in to what needs to be done.”

When you get those key leaders to buy in to your company and get excited about working with you, they can play a more prominent role in strengthening your vision.

“You have to have a team that works with you that shares the same aspiration for having a base of employees that want to work there,” Blom says.

“It’s having a functional synergistic team of smart people that’s not homogenous but heterogeneous with the right values to recruit the people you want to work there. If you get that, you can work on the rest of the employee base.”

Finding the right people to fill out your company is hardly ever easy and mistakes will be made along the way.

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’ve made a lot of really good choices,” Blom says. “I wish I knew the formula. The most important things to look for are competence, values and chemistry.

“It’s about engagement. It’s about rewarding and recognizing people for a job well done. It’s about letting them know what’s really important and measuring it and sharing with people how we are progressing on this track of the vision that has been articulated.”

One of the ways you further the trust between you and your people in fulfilling this vision is by making it clear that yours is not the only objective that matters.

“You should always put other people’s agenda or the organization’s agenda ahead of your own,” Blom says.

That philosophy should also stand when a problem comes up.

“The first place I look when something goes wrong is in the mirror,” Blom says. “That’s the first thing I can do. You have to start there before you start looking for solutions elsewhere. What can I do to help?”

How to reach: OhioHealth, (614) 544-4455 or www.ohiohealth.com