Growth has been a constant companion in the 10 years MikeFencel has led Brandon Regional Hospital.
And that’s just fine with him.
He realizes that in order to succeed, you have to constantly stayahead of the competition.
When Fencel became CEO of the hospital in late 1997, it had 255beds. Now it has 367, and there are plans to add 40 more by thefourth quarter of 2008.
The growth has been a steady but crucial necessity at the hospital, which posted about $300 million in revenue last year.
“If we didn’t grow, that could encourage other competitors towant to seek a location somewhere in my primary service area,” hesays. “I think the fact that we have been able to expand so muchand commit so much in resources over those 10 years makes it aharder argument for others to say we aren’t meeting communityneeds. It would have opened the door for others to come in. That,we feel, is not necessary because we are doing a fine job ofaddressing those needs.”
In order to lead the hospital through growth, Fencel needed todeal with the challenges that came along with it. He had to formthe right management team, delegate authority and get buy-in fromhis more than 1,600 employees.
Form a strong team
When Fencel became CEO, there was already a senior management team in place, but within several years, many of them wouldbe retiring. That meant he would have to make sure the transitionwas smooth while finding members who would fit in to the culture.
Fencel also noticed there was beginning to be some resistanceto change from the employees. Having been in existence since1977, the hospital grew to a point where not all the employeesknew each other, and some were uncomfortable with the growth.Because of that, Fencel needed a management team that couldgenerate excitement about growth and help everyone understandthat it was for the best.
“You lost that sense of family that once existed, but that isjust the nature of the organization as it’s grown,” he says. “I hadto have people who could help me articulate and carry out reasons why continued change needed to take place. As we haveevolved and grown, the dynamics and the need to have a really well-organized, well-structured senior team have come tothe forefront to me.”
When first sitting down with a candidate for his team, Fencellooked at the interviewee’s past work history. More importantly, he looked for concrete examples of change-related situations, why there was need for change, what they did about itand how he or she succeeded in executing it.
He also wanted someone who did his or her homeworkbefore the interview, and wasn’t going to sit there and let himdo all the talking.
“I like to see people who have gone to the Web site, have donetheir part to try to evaluate and understand the organization thebest they can, and they are prepared to ask me as many questionsas I ask them, so they are fully aware of what those opportunitiesand challenges for that position will be,” he says. “If you come in,look great and have a nice resume but don’t know anything aboutour organization, that doesn’t show me a whole lot.”
After other members of the management team also interviewedthe candidate, the group got together, discussed all the informationand made a decision.
None of the senior management team, which is composed of sixmembers including Fencel, was promoted from within the hospital, but each member came from HCA Inc., the parent organizationof Brandon Regional Hospital.
“One other thing that is critical is having the right fit,” Fencelsays. “Someone may be extremely successful in a certain role inanother organization within HCA or outside, but their culture isdifferent from mine. That was another lesson learned. We’ve hadto make some changes because it wasn’t the right fit for the individual, the team or the organization. It actually turned out thatsome of the people on their own recognized that and sought otheropportunities, and got those in HCA, where it was a better fit forthem.
“If I feel the leadership team understands my approach and philosophy and will support me and are committed to do the things Ineed done, then I want to keep them here.”
Though he wants people who will follow his lead, Fencel alsorealizes it’s important to have diversity on a team.
“I’ve got a wide variety of years of experience from differentmembers, attitudes, enthusiasm, personalities, and you blendthem all together,” he says.
After Fencel’s team was in place, he knew he needed to delegateauthority because the growth of the hospital meant he could notoperate it by himself.
Fencel says his primary role is to develop, maintain and modifythe strategic plan and growth initiative and to be a liaison with theparties that will help move the organization forward.
He and his team developed their delegation process by readingbooks and looking at the ways different organizations handle delegation. They identified areas or activities that certain team members were more comfortable at doing than others were and cameup with certain types of philosophies they were comfortable withand could lead by.
When the senior team began to take more responsibility, Fencelintentionally stayed out of the spotlight, which led some to believehe no longer cared about the organization. If he could do it all overagain, he wishes he would have communicated the change betterto employees and let them know he would still be in contact withhis management team and be kept in the loop.
“The way we’ve grown no longer allows me to have as much timeas I’d like to be available and in contact with all the employees, butI am still going to be in touch,” he says. “I know what is going to goon, and I am counting on these individuals to be my point peopleon a day-in, day-out basis. If and when the time requires me to beback out there, then I will. But, to try to continue and meet theemployees’ expectations and visibility is hard.”
By the time Fencel realized the impact the change had, it was toolate to try to go back and communicate it.
“But that’s one of those lessons learned,” he says. “If someonehas been in their role for a long time in a high-growth organizationand decided to make some fairly significant changes in their structure of management style, then I would certainly encourage themto try to communicate those things so people know that upfront.
“If someone has been in their leadership role for a long time andtries to change approaches, you really have to make sure youunderstand the impact that change will have on the organizationand be able to communicate if those changes are taking place andwhy they are taking place. In retrospect, I could have done a better job in that regard with the employees as a whole.”
While he could have communicated the change better, Fencelsays delegation is necessary to keep yourself fresh and on top ofyour game.
“It’s improved my quality of life,” he says. “If you have a better,happy, well-rounded, quality of life, professionally and personally,that just makes you more effective in your role as a leader. Overtime, (work) just absorbs you. It’s all-consuming. You’re not able toseparate and think strategically like you need to do.
“If you don’t have a way to break away from that, I don’t see howyou can possibly continue to be fresh with your ideas, objective inyour viewpoint and energized to help drive the organization forward.”
While building the right management team and delegating authority to them was important, he also needed to get buy-in from theemployees on the many growth-related changes the hospital wasgoing through.
One example was the move to create a cardiac surgery program.Before getting started on the project, Fencel needed to make sureeveryone understood why the hospital needed the service and whygoing through the process was worth it. Even if it was communicating the message through something as simple as e-mail or in meetings, the results would outweigh the simplicity of the method.
In addition, because previous attempts to start the program failedprior to Fencel’s tenure, it was important from the start he showedconviction in making the program become a reality, no matter whathurdles got in his way.
“Some of the people who had been here at the time those firstefforts were made probably had some doubts it could be done,” hesays. “It took us three attempts. I think if I had given up after thatfirst effort or second effort, I would have validated for some that itwasn’t beneficial for our hospital to go through all that. But, I wasn’tgoing to give up and a lot of other people weren’t either. Those people that doubted, we proved them wrong. That wasn’t our intent, butit helped validate that if you put your mind to it, work hard and worktogether, there is a lot that can be accomplished. Here is an examplewhere we went to a great degree to bring a much-needed serviceinto this community for the benefit of everyone.”
Fencel says leaders need to get buy-in to make a change happenbecause everyone in the organization will eventually have a part init.
“What I have to do in my role is to provide a vision and communicate the vision and what our strategic initiatives are and why,” hesays. “At the end of the day, I’m not the one making that happen. It’smy staff nurse, it’s our environmental service worker, and it’s theplumber or electrician in our plant operations department. All ofthem have a role directly or indirectly in making things occur. If theydon’t buy in and believe it, then we are less likely to be able toachieve the goals and vision that I think are so critical to our success. Communicating the vision, communicating the reason why weare doing it, communicating the challenges, allowing them an opportunity to ask questions in different forms, whether it’s with me orthrough their immediate leadership, we try to do it. Are we completely successful 100 percent of the time? No. That’s a process younever stop working on.”
Keeping employees informed not only creates buy-in, but it alsoserves as a great marketing tool for your company.
“At the end of the day, I have over 1,600 employees, and they can bemy best form of advertising,” he says. “You have newspapers, youhave direct e-mail pieces and TV spots, and you can do all sorts ofthings. But, the amount of people employees come into contact withat the ball field, in their church or a civic organization, and being ableto speak intelligently and with pride in what we are doing, that goesa lot of further than any other type of advertising.”
HOW TO REACH: Brandon Regional Hospital, (813) 681-5551 or www.brandonregionalhospital.com