Humility could be Gary Olson’s middle name. As the president and CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital, Olson is under no illusion that he could do it all himself.
Olson says that in his 30 years of working for the Chesterfield organization, he’s learned that it takes a team effort to create a strong institution where employees enjoy coming into work every day.
“I’ve been given the opportunity, and if I use the talents of the people here, the skills that they bring to the table, that’s what moves this organization forward, not one individual whatsoever,” he says.
Olson leads his 3,000 employees at St. Luke’s with an emphasis on collaboration, and in fiscal 2007, the organization reported $363 million in total operating revenue, an increase of 7 percent over the prior fiscal year.
“Being surrounded with outstanding individuals makes you want to perform better with them,” he says. “Not for them but with them.”
Smart Business spoke with Olson about steps you can take to make your organization a great place to work.
Define your ideal workplace. For me, an ideal workplace would be a place where you can enjoy coming to work, actually have some fun and accomplish the specific goals that have been assigned to you. This is a place where you can be proud of what you’re doing your efforts as well as the results and it would be an A effort.
An ideal workplace here is an environment where people like to work with you and be around you, and you feel like you’re all working toward the right things for your patients. This work-place provides the resources and tools that a person needs to be able to do the things they’re trained to do. It’s an atmosphere where you can actually have friendships beyond the work-place, if that’s your choosing.
You’ll pull together if something unexpectedly becomes a challenge, and you’ll want to be a part of solving it. Employees will want to contribute to the success of the organization. It’s a place of teamwork as opposed to individual successes.
Start with communication. Business leaders can begin by going out into the different parts of their organization, visiting with staff and having significant amounts of communication accepting and receiving feedback and explaining to individuals why decisions are made so that there’s full understanding.
I want whoever brings me a concern to be able to state it clearly, and I ask that they also state the potential solutions to the concern, as opposed to just handing it to me. Their decisions impact others so, where possible, input should be sought before bringing the final recommendations to me. If they feel comfortable, I would let them make the decision and not have to bring a recommendation to me.
A title can define somebody’s authority, but more importantly, a person’s performance over time defines their authority. They know what they can decide on their own or with their staff, and they know what they should run by management for input before proceeding. When you allow employees to make decisions on their own, it demonstrates that you value their thoughts, their opinions and their potential resolutions to concerns.
Maintain corporate culture. Provide an atmosphere that allows your employees to use the skills that they’ve learned and let them apply those and feel good about them. They have to see results for others, more so than for themselves, and they have to know that they were a part of those positive results or outcomes.
In health care, it comes down to doing things not only with great care but with a caring attitude. Success can be defined as feeling good about what you’ve accomplished and knowing that you’re not done you need to do more each and every day.
Leaders should provide an environment that is constructive, collaborative, communicative, friendly, and all of those fall under the umbrella of high quality.
Solicit feedback. We measure these things through employee opinion surveys. We use an outside firm to do that every 12 to 18 months. When we receive feedback, we share the results with the employees. We priori-tize the results and then develop action plans to improve our performance where it’s appropriate.
If you’re going to ask employees for feedback, you have to be prepared to act on whatever it is. If it’s a positive, we want our fellow employees to know that these are the things we think we’re doing well. If there are some things we could do better on, we’re going to work on a plan with them to improve on those things.
Turn the negatives into positives. As concerns are identified, they have to be addressed. First, identify the employee’s concern and get a good understanding of it. Since the survey is anonymous, you want to give the concern back to the area from where it might have come, and if you can, bring in individuals that identified that concern and ask them to further elaborate on it.
Hopefully, the people identifying the concerns can be part of the solution, as opposed to them saying, ‘Here’s the problem. Now you fix it.’ Then, they’ll work with the employees who have the ability to help rectify those concerns.
Get that group to develop a game plan and identify expected results that everyone can be happy with ... and then monitor the success. You want to give that A effort. Sometimes you have great efforts and the results aren’t there, but the efforts matter.
HOW TO REACH: St. Luke’s Hospital, (314) 434-1500 or www.stlukes-stl.com