Jan Cetti, who serves as president and CEO of San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine, says good business leaders, like orchestra conductors, know the score, get the right talent in the right seats, inspire people to achieve their best and then ensure that all the applause goes to the soloists.
“The job of the leader is to make sure that we have a common, shared vision of what we’re trying to do in this business — what’s the purpose?” she says.
With a 2007 budget of $76 million, the organization’s 800 employees and 500 volunteers serve more than 1,000 patients a day throughout San Diego County.
Smart Business spoke with Cetti about how to adapt your management style to fit the issue at hand while maintaining a steadfast vision.
Be a situational leader. As a situational leader, you’re really mixing up the different styles according to what people need. It’s being able to be flexible — whether it’s a telling style, a selling style, a participating style or a delegating style — so that it’s not stuck in one style.
I’ve been with this organization for 12 years, but I’ve tried to develop that style over the past 20 years or so. I’m really interested in organizational theory and organizational development, and I read a lot about management and management styles.
Being a situational leader is a comfortable style for me, in that it allows me to stay on my toes in terms of what’s needed, making sure that I’m using the right style, getting the best out of people and keeping the business on track.
Balance flexibility with constancy. What keeps the situational style from being confusing is that there’s a great predictability around principles. It’s important for people to know what they can count on from the CEO.
The employees understand the principles of how the business is being led and how we deal with the people and the customers in the business. It becomes very predictable, and employees can be free enough to make decisions and know that those decisions will be supported because they are in alignment with the philosophy.
It’s having that constant, ‘This is what we’re going to do, and these are the principles by which we do it.’ All of that gets set out in terms of the organization’s mission, purpose, vision and direction — all of the common things that people can depend on.
Situational leadership works because you’re not just swaying all over the place without any kind of plan or boundaries. You’re trying to get the best out of people, depending on a particular task, and making sure that the direction that you’re giving is correct.
Stay focused on your goal. As the leader, you know what your destination is or what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re on the road and you run into traffic, you’re able to alter the route a little bit, and your employees don’t think you’ve abandoned the overall goal of where you’re trying to go.
You have to have that constancy around the purpose; that is a nonnegotiable skill for leaders in business. You’re just not going to get anywhere if you don’t set the direction right and make it known to everybody.
I’m a believer that your strategic plan needs to be very alive. It should be a very short document that clearly talks about these elements: the goals, values, mission and purpose of your organization.
What you have written down is one thing, but what you live is the most important thing, and that’s day-to-day and in every way. That’s the way you make your plan live within an organization. There’s that constancy around, ‘This is important, and this is why.’
Practice your art. The style issue is really the art of management. You can read about all the different theories — that’sthe science of management — but when you apply it, you’reable to be eclectic. You’re able to pick and choose the different styles in order to be effective. That’s sort of a continuous learning process for leaders.
So much of leading and management is learning. I’ve often said it’s a hobby of mine, but it’s also a passion — how people work in organizations, how people work together, how leaders bring out the best in people to accomplish the goals of the business. My advice to other leaders would be to constantly learn.
A lot of times, there’s some stretch in your vision. You’re not dealing with exactly what things are today; you want to have that dream able future of what you believe could be the maximum that you could achieve in this business.
You have to get your vision to where you can inspire people by talking about it. People have to understand the vision so they know what their job is and how it fits with what you’re trying to do for the customers, what you’re trying to do for the future and how to get the business to thrive.
Building the shared vision is communicating your goals, values and mission so they become so deeply ingrained and shared throughout the organization that it binds people together around a common identity, a common sense of destiny and a shared picture of the future.
HOW TO REACH: San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine, (866) 688-1600or www.sdhospice.org