Building muscle Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2010

Larry Heydon realizes he can’t do it alone.

Heydon is the president and CEO of Johnson Memorial Hospital, a health care facility with 850 employees and $83 million in 2008 net revenue. An organization of that size requires a great deal of communication, goal-setting and teamwork throughout its ranks. With that in mind, one of the most pivotal jobs for Heydon is to keep his hospital stocked with trained and motivated leaders.

Those in leadership and management positions help Heydon keep his messages consistent as they are cascaded throughout the organization. Heydon’s managers also aid in the decision-making process.

“In general, my leadership style is one that is participatory in nature,” Heydon says. “I value the input and ideas of others and group-based decisions for the organization.”

Finding the right leaders takes a keen eye for leadership talent and a training structure that is capable of teaching that talent to lead.

Smart Business spoke with Heydon about how you can develop leaders in your organization.

Build structure. If you want to build leaders within the ranks, No. 1, you have to give them structure. You have to allow them to be successful through a structured approach. What we’ve done here that has been very successful in bringing structure to the organization is we’ve gotten them to understand the goals of the organization through a structured format. We have five values that we call our pillars of excellence, which we have all of our managers and employees gear their efforts toward. The five values, which we kind of stole from a renowned health care consultant, are people, No. 1; service, No. 2; quality and safety, No. 3; growth and innovation, No. 4; and financial stewardship, No. 5.

Through a structured program, our managers are not only able to understand better for themselves but also communicate with the employees that report to them what the vision and goals are.

Building that kind of structure takes a commitment from the entire leadership team. It’s a situation where the program is only as good as the weakest link. Once you get that commitment, you have to allow for proper resources. There is much education and much training going on around this program, and we were very fortunate to identify one of our in-house managers who agreed to facilitate all the necessary training and other aspects of the program.

Education is No. 1. You need to make sure that the ideas and beliefs behind this program are properly shared with the management team. Four or five times a year, we allow for off-site retreats to emphasize the program. During that time, we also allow for in-depth training on how initiatives are being carried out by employees. The initiatives include customer service aspects, how do we hire the right employees and various other aspects to make our management team an overall better team.

That’s one side, the education and the retreats we have with our leadership team. The other aspect is that we go out of our way to promote these pillars of excellence across the organization. We have multiple display boards across the hospital, not only for our employees to see but also for the public to see how we make our decisions here at JMH.

Once you get the commitment and identified the resources needed, it’s a matter of being persistent, hammering home the ideas of the program and holding people accountable in the program. We can’t afford to have a segment of the management team continue to do things as they normally have. We need to have everybody involved in this, so we have accountable measures to make sure that we’re all on the same page.

Hire for attitude. How you identify the right people for leadership roles really depends on what area of the organization you’re looking for. More than anything, we’re in a service industry, so we look for people who possess the right attitude. You can tell those who possess the right attitude, those who are customer-service-focused and bring a positive attitude to the plate. Whether leaders or nonleaders, in any position, we want to make sure the attitude traits are there because, as you often hear, you can teach skills but you can’t teach attitude. The first review we do of candidates is on their attitude and customer service. The second is based on the skill sets they bring.

Our interviewing process is more laborious than maybe some others. We have a two- to three-phase interview process. One of those phases involves a peer committee. You want people who are willing to work alongside both managers and nonmanagers, so we have peers come in and participate in the interview process. That gives you more input, more people at the table to make a judgment call on a candidate. It also allows the candidate to get a better idea of the people that they will be working with. That peer process has paid dividends for us.

Ultimately, you want to make sure the people you are grooming for leadership roles are goal-oriented. We want people who are structured by goals, people who have their own visions and drive to be successful.

Achieve balance. When you do an interview, if you have an opportunity to pick Candidate A over Candidate B, and all other things are equal, you may have a lack of analytical types of leaders versus emotional types of leaders, and if everything else is equal, the tiebreaker would go to whatever the organization needs. You want to pick your leaders based on the overall traits and skills they bring to the table, experience included. The fact of whether they’re analytical or emotional, that’s a secondary type of function you consider.

We’re very fortunate to have a good pool of candidates in suburban Indianapolis. Our turnover with our leadership team is minimal. If we have one manager leave during the year, that is a surprise. It’s just far and few between that we have turnover. But when we do have turnover, we are able to fill the positions through our own internal mechanisms. We don’t rely on outside management search companies.

How to reach: Johnson Memorial Hospital, (317) 736-3300 or