Face time Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2008

Edward Mirzabegian may be a perfectionist, but he doesn’t let that slow him down. On the contrary, the CEO of Antelope Valley Hospital was once chastised for going too fast.

Years ago, a former employer had to remind him that he could-n’t expect perfection from those around him if he didn’t take the time to set forth clear expectations in an articulate manner.

Mirzabegian has since adopted a charismatic style of face-to-face communication to get the most out of the health care provider’s 2,100 employees. By sharing the organization’s goals in person, he says, you’re much more likely to get buy-in and shed light on the little things that only like-minded perfectionists may notice at first.

Since Mirzabegian took over as CEO last June, he’s helping Antelope Valley Hospital continue its upward revenue trend, as it posted 2007 revenue of $251 million, up from $243 million the previous year.

Smart Business spoke with Mirzabegian about how to make yourself visible when communicating, even if you’re not physically present.

Articulate your expectations face to face. The first thing you have to do is make sure that people around you have your expectations. You have to let them know your vision and ideas and where you’re coming from. They have to be really given the goals and given the direction. They have to know who you are, how you think and where you’re going.

What works best is [communicating those expectations] face to face. A lot of companies that are very big corporations usually do it with memos and directives and all that. But honestly, in order to really know who you are and understand your direction, face-to-face [communication] is the best. It can be one on one or you and a group of them.

I go around the hospital in a lot of staff meetings, also. Once a month, I go to staff meetings to just let them know where we are going, who I am and what my expectations are from that particular group.

You can get their buy-in more with face-to-face. Why? You can see their body gestures. You can see their facial gestures and animation. That will give you feedback if they’re on the same page with you or no. If they’re not, you can sell them [on your ideas] more. If you sell them by memo, you don’t know when they read the memo what their reactions are.

Make yourself visible. Executives should be visible as much as possible. Visibility improves trust.

If you are an executive or a CEO of a bigger company and you have five branches in different states, you can’t be there all the time, but just being visible [to some extent] helps you to gain trust and understanding and helps things move overall.

Pictures do wonders, also. I do a lot of small flyers where we communicate our goals, and we communicate our accomplishments within the organization. Having a picture there with your message, it improves that letter. They know who you are, and if they see you in the hallway, they know, ‘OK, there’s the guy whose picture is on that particular newsletter.’

So if it’s not totally possible to be visible in person, pictures and videos and all that will help. For instance, if we have a town-hall meeting with a very important message that we want to send, we have meetings at 7 in the morning and 10 a.m. and lunch and 3 o’clock and 8 o’clock. But sometimes, people

who work at night will not see the message. Sometimes, we will video all of these meetings, and we just [set up a television and continue to replay it] in their break room, and people will see and hear the message. Using media is the best way if you can’t be physically visible.

Stir up competition. The status quo is a killer in any organization. I don’t care how successful that organization is. If you just keep it the status quo, that organization, in the long run, will fail.

Competition is a good way to keep people on their toes. Competition is good if everybody competes against the competition, which is outside. That ultimately is going to make or break the organization.

Benchmarking is the best tool. You always have to benchmark yourself with competition, good or bad. You always want to know where you’re standing. Communicating that benchmark, regardless of whether it’s good or bad, is an excellent tool to boost people’s energy and to push them to the right direction.

A lot of people really respond to that. Nobody wants to be a loser. When you show the benchmark, when you look at similar organizations and what they’re doing, that creates a little bit of competition and makes people’s temperatures go higher.

Use incentives to motivate. Stirring up that competition is not the only way. Rewards are very important.

Just like you have to deal with mediocrity, you have to acknowledge the good work, also. You have to acknowledge the people. You have to reward people.

This reward can be a pat on the back or a present or recognition. Sometimes, you just mention somebody’s name in your speeches, in your writing and in your memos. That goes a long way.

When you incentivize people and they reach their goals and you reward them, it always makes the employee happy. The happier they are, the better they work.

If you really emphasize those rewards as a group, it works even better. A group of people can get together as a team and really work for a mutual goal.

HOW TO REACH: Antelope Valley Hospital, (661) 949-5000 or www.avhospital.org