C-Suite Conversations

What healthcare leaders need to know now

Sticking your neck out: Servant leadership in practice

By | October 13 th,  2020 | women leaders | Add A Comment

NancyAgee_2019

With a style that is both flexible and nourishing without compromising her values, Nancy Howell Agee, President and CEO of Carilion Clinic, embodies the characteristics of servant leadership. Combining strength and humility, her leadership mantra takes a cue from nature, “A turtle doesn’t get anywhere without sticking her neck out.” Agee keeps a turtle figurine on her desk as a daily reminder.

 

Of course, becoming a great leader requires more than just sticking your neck out and taking risks. In an industry where problems are increasingly complex, no one person will ever have all the answers.

 

Placing similar importance on humility, Agee says, “If you’ve ever seen a turtle on a fence post, you know she didn’t get there by herself – none of us rise up in an organization or in our careers without the help of others.” As leaders, we often end up somewhere we didn’t expect, so leaning into the talent and expertise of others to work through challenges is imperative for problem solving.

 

Furthering Gender Diversity

 

Embracing and building up others is something Agee has always made a priority, especially when it comes to women leaders. Half of her leadership team is female, and she has been a dedicated mentor of women leaders both inside Carilion Clinic and beyond.

 

Yet Agee finds herself surprised by “[still] needing to be intentional about women leaders. It seems like something we went through in the 60s.” But continuing efforts to improve opportunities for women leaders is of extreme importance.

 

According to a 2019 Lean-In survey, “Over 60 percent of employees entering the healthcare industry are women, while across sectors in the United States, women represent an average of just under 50 percent of entry-level employees.” But when it comes to executive leadership positions, both women of color and women in general are underrepresented. Trends show that the higher up you look in an organization the less diversity you will see.

 

A recent Modern Healthcare article highlights that “the percentage of women leading Fortune 500 companies fell to just 4.8 percent.” Their stats show healthcare exceeds that with the percentage of female CEOs landing somewhere between 13-20 percent and women holding about 30 percent of the c-level roles. Some data suggests that there has been an overall dip in the progress over the last several years without any clear indication as to why.

 

Not only are we making slow progress, in some ways we are stalling—meaning fewer women executives and that’s just disappointing. Agee is surprised women don’t “say yes” or put themselves forward. “That’s why we need to be more intentional about encouraging and mentoring women along this path,” she says. “The fact of the matter is, none of us gets here alone.”

 

Agee thinks back to her grandmother who encouraged her and says, “It’s incumbent upon those of us who are leaders to give that back.” She advocates mentoring other women and identifying potential leaders to bring them forward. “Raise your hand and tell your story! Sometimes you’re going to fail and sometimes you’re not going to get where you want, but that’s okay.”

 

Leading through servanthood

 

Agee credits a colleague for giving her a book about servant leadership, with the note, “This is how I think of you as a leader,” that inspired her continued development. Since then she’s become disciplined and tries to apply those principles to all that she does. For instance, when asked who her most important constituency was, she said, “Of course we all say our patients. I think my role is to help others take care of patients. They are giving direct care and what I do every day is make sure they can do their job. That is the magic moment between a clinician and a patient. I serve those who lead so that they can do the work they do. And that’s perhaps the most distinctive piece. It’s helping others develop and get out in front rather than putting yourself in front.”

 

“Servant leadership,” is a term coined years ago by Robert Greenleaf, an accomplished AT&T executive and founder of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership (the first and only one of its kind in the U.S.). He defines Servant Leaders as managers that ultimately thrive by supporting others and directing them toward their passions. The word “servant” doesn’t appear to be as powerful as “boss.” But what it lacks in perceived power, it delivers in influence.

 

When a leader removes herself from the equation to focus on the organization and its success, the most important battle has been won—establishing trust. Being a servant leader doesn’t mean you don’t correct behavior or tell people what to do.

 

Servant leadership means:

  • Asking more questions
  • Actively listening and valuing others’ opinions
  • Helping others develop and get out in front

Really, these are qualities that all leaders should strive to employ regardless of their style.

 

Greenleaf wrote, “The servant leader is servant first … it begins with that natural feeling that one wants to serve. The best test, which is difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

 

Humility creates space for others in problem-solving. A Catalyst study backs this up, listing humility as one of four critical leadership factors for creating an environment where employees from different demographics feel included. This held true for women and men in six countries.

 

3 Cs of women leadership

 

Although servant leadership style is commendable, as well as viable, it’s important to balance. Women have historically been hailed for their humility, but Agee points out that in addition to that inherent humility, women must apply the 3 Cs:

  1. Curiosity - ask the tough questions
  2. Courage - take risks and challenge ideas
  3. Confidence -stick your neck out and raise your hand

Curiosity plays a critical role in leadership, because it creates the opportunity to gather different points of view. Agee believes that diversity on teams leads to more well-rounded curiosity. She highlights a time when curiosity within her leadership team worked like peeling back the layers of an onion. “What if we did this? What if we did that? How would this play out? It’s taking advantage of a wide variety of perspectives, and the natural collaborativeness that women bring to the team. For me, curiosity is a way of really showing interest and respect for another person, while trying to inspire diversity of thought and varied opinions.”

 

Courage can be daunting, especially as the only female in a boardroom or group of business leaders. Many times, Agee has found that women are not taken seriously or that their role is minimized from the start. She doesn’t let that stop her. She notes, “You have to, in a very careful way, assert yourself, and I find that surprising.” This courage, or lack thereof, can mean the difference between making a place for yourself as a valued voice or being drowned out.

 

Confidence and courage seem very similar, but confidence is more about believing in yourself and your ideas, so that you can have the courage to speak up. Balancing this confidence with courage and taking the initiative to be curious make for great leadership. Agee summed it up best when she said, “Curiosity implies the act of listening and that’s much more than waiting your turn. It involves distilling what you’re hearing and actively being inquisitive to understand others’ points of view and then bringing that together. It’s not just what they’re saying, but what’s behind the words—what they are feeling. That’s what makes women natural leaders.”

 

All in all, Agee’s strong female leadership, combined with her passion for leading with gratitude and humility, has had a profound impact on her organization and the industry as a whole. Like the turtle, she is at ease in her own shell, sticks her neck out when she needs to and when the time and environment are right … she’s swift, nimble and takes action. Her courageous leadership has helped break down barriers and encourage growth that will have a lasting impact for years to come.

Download the Women Leaders Playbook

Making the Case for Gender Diversity: Women in Healthcare Leadership

By | January 30 th,  2019 | women in leadership, Modern Healthcare, Modern Healthcare Top 25 Women, women leaders, Top 25 Women in Healthcare, leadership traits | 1 Comments
women-in-leadership-image

Real-world advice: ‘As more women join boards and demonstrate the value they add, the system will become self- perpetuating,’ says Helena Morrissey

 

 

The American people have spoken. A majority want more women leaders in business and politics, even though they also believe women typically have to work harder to prove their skills and have more obstacles on their way to the top. In fact, 54 percent say gender discrimination plays a large role in why there aren’t more women in positions of executive leadership.

 

Those are some of the results of a fascinating new study by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Their implications are implicit: Pressure is growing for better gender and ethnic diversity in every sphere of public life.

 

As longtime sponsors of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare leadership awards curated by Modern Healthcare, we have seen the momentum and the drumbeat growing for this type of sea change. While challenges certainly remain – the number of women who are employed as CEOs of the companies in the S&P 500 is declining instead of increasing – we remain optimistic that transformation is in the offing.

 

The corporate world can be slow assimilating societal changes, yet society is clamoring for more women in leadership. According to Pew, Americans view women leaders as better than male leaders in:

  • Creating a safe and respectful workplace
  • Valuing people from different backgrounds
  • Considering the societal impacts of major decisions
  • Mentoring young employees
  • Providing fair pay and good benefits

While male leaders get the nod in people’s perceptions that they are better at negotiating profitable deals and taking risks, the value placed on female leaders does not end there. Asked specifically about gender and political leadership, for example, the Pew survey results reveal that women are perceived as stronger in standing up for what they believe in, being honest and ethical, working out compromises, and being compassionate and empathetic. Who wouldn’t want to work for leaders like that?

 

The situation in healthcare

 

Only 8 of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. have a woman CEO, according to a 2016 survey conducted by Rock Health, a venture fund dedicated to supporting “companies improving the lack of senior female leadership is not unique to healthcare, it is notable that nearly 73 percent of medical and health service managers are women. The largest part of the workforce in hospitals are nurses, who are predominantly women; and women make most healthcare decisions for their families — so why are women not equally represented at the board and C-suite level.

 

Yet, here too, there is hope. A national campaign entitled “20% by 2020” represents another push to get women on boards, with the goal of having women occupy 20 percent of board seats by the year 2020. Fortune 50 companies such as Kohler, Coca Cola, and more are targeting 20 percent women CEOs by 2020. The 30% Club started in 2010 in the UK with a goal of achieving 30 percent women on FTSE-100 boards and is now a global movement based on the recognition that “better gender balance leads to better results.” California also enacted a new law recently mandating publicly traded companies headquartered in the state have at least one female board member by the close of 2019, and more by close of 2021. This is no small task, but healthcare leaders must also be at the front of the line in the pursuit of more diverse and inclusive leaders.

 

Compensations laws are also gaining traction with several states embracing laws aimed at ending wage disparity. A recent Crain’s Business article shows that pay is the number one reason women in Chicago consider switching jobs. As these trends continue, we will also see a rise in additional benefits like flexible schedules, onsite daycare, and family leave policies targeted toward encouraging working mothers and their spouses to find a better work-life balance.

 

Although trends are headed in the right direction, effort and attention are still needed to embrace and embed these policies into common practice. We also need to continue exploring ways to support diverse talent and enhance inclusion at all levels of organizations

 

Why diversity matters: Gender balance in the C-suite

 

Why is it so important for your leadership and board to represent your patients/customers? In simple terms, diversity is a bottom-line issue. Even more specifically: For every 1 percent increase in gender diversity, company revenue increases by 3 percent. More proof: High levels of ethnic diversity increase revenue by a whopping 15 percent. What company can afford to turn away from increased profitability?

 

In my experience in the healthcare industry, I have witnessed that diversity can supply more competitive candidates, as well as more committed and engaged employees. The hiring and recruitment process is a two-way street: potential candidates are not just being evaluated, they are evaluating the company. A significant part of that evaluation includes observing and assessing company culture, diverse leadership and inclusion practices.

 

Job seekers find value in an organization that demonstrably places a high importance on diversity in the workplace. Employees in diverse workplaces also tend to feel a stronger commitment, experience greater collaboration, and, consequently, retention is higher. Statistics on business practice also highlight that improved hiring practices focused on diversity result in increased profitability, better candidate attraction, and more engaged employees.

 

Diversity and talent: 3 things organizations can do

 

Given the evidence of the essential role that diversity and inclusion play in corporate success, the healthcare sector needs to pay particularly close attention to accelerating change in the increasingly competitive talent acquisition environment.

 

Keep in mind that there is no single approach to diversity and inclusion; it must be part of a larger strategic plan that includes alignment of business and talent strategies. Another key element in driving change in diversity and inclusion is recognizing and acknowledging unconscious bias. Everyone has these biases, but companies need diversity and inclusion training and a plan to overcome those biases. To successfully impact these strategies, organizations should:

 

  1. Set goals and develop a plan. Have a mission statement, as well as supporting objectives set around diversity and inclusion.
    • Ensure your company’s diversity and inclusion policy/mission statement is highlighted and easy for all to find.
    • Remember, boards and search committees must represent similar diversity profiles
    • Have measurable goals and timelines for what you want to accomplish.
  2. Implement the plan — launch your diversity and inclusion strategic plan with all-company meetings/town halls. Senior leadership must get behind the plan and “walk the walk.”
    • Project the image reflective of diversity and inclusion that you want to represent in your organization. Use diversity-rich images for your website and other marketing materials.
    • Look at where you recruit. By actively sourcing minority candidates in the right places — for example, participating in professional associations and groups with desired gender or ethnic characteristics — you will have a better chance of attracting and retaining diverse talent.
    • Standardize aspects of the recruitment process to minimize the effect of performance bias on hiring decisions.
      • Review and test job descriptions for gender (and other) bias.
      • Standardize objectives related to hiring (i.e., the competencies and skills needed/desired) in advance of candidate search. Determine what competencies are needed and stick to them. This will allow hiring decisions to be unbiased, because candidates will be judged on their skills, experience and qualifications.
      • Make sure recruiters/search partners standardize all shortlist resumes to remove any possible bias triggers.
      • Hire a Chief Diversity Officer — having a leader at the executive level and participating in strategic discussions signifies a deep commitment to diversity.
  3. Measure results — engage employees to report on activities and periodically measure progress and share results.
    1. Celebrate and highlight your organization’s success — this may include sharing anecdotal stories, awards/incentives or other recognition.
    2. Access benchmark information. The AHA’s Institute for Diversity and Health Equity is paving the way with data, tools and resources (including an ongoing publication of their benchmarking study of U.S. hospitals) that help you learn more about ongoing efforts addressing healthcare disparities and improving diversity management practices.

3 things women should do

 

We’ve talked about corporate best practices. What about individual best practices? To elevate their leadership status, we offer these suggestions to women leaders:

  1. Find a mentor and be a mentor. Having a strong female leader, role model, or mentor is often cited as the primary reason women got into leadership.
  2. Network with women healthcare leaders. Connecting with other industry leaders strengthens connections and an understanding of what it takes to become a leader.
  3. Ask for leadership roles. Potential leaders may be overlooked because the current leaders did not know about the person’s interest. Speak up and voice interest in leadership roles.

Conclusion

 

Have a plan. Set goals. Measure your progress.

 

Ultimately, developing a comprehensive diversity and inclusion program is an ongoing journey, not a destination. Nonetheless, it is time for action in the healthcare industry. If organizations can set clear goals and act on inclusive strategies, then progress can, at last, be made. Rather than revisiting this topic in future publications, we hope to read about the hugely profitable companies that have propelled their organizations into the modern era with resoundingly successful diversity policies and practices that are reflected in the C-suite.

 

With greater focus, we should strive to get to a point where diversity and inclusion are so much a part of an organization’s culture, that you no longer need to have strategic goals on diversity and inclusion. As Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management and 30% Club6 Founder said, “As more women join boards and demonstrate the value they add, the system will become self-perpetuating.” Organizations and leaders must make diversity and inclusion an expectation and an assumption. Only then can they reap the rewards together.

Download the Women Leaders Playbook

Decisive leadership: Baltimore Health Commissioner Leana Wen sees the ER as a valuable training ground for physician leaders

By | August 13 th,  2018 | Top 25 Minority Executives, women leaders, physician leadership, Leana Wen | Add A Comment

WenThe number of physicians and nurses transforming into administrative leaders capable of running major organizations is growing rapidly.

 

In the age of value-based care, organizations are leaning on clinicians to lean in to leadership. This opens new vistas for physicians and nurses, but health systems and insurers must do their homework. A physician who heads his or her own practice may have valuable leadership skills, but leading, say, a staff of 12 is different from overseeing a $2 billion budget and ensuring a board and a C-suite are in sync with your vision.

 

One such physician who has made the jump is Leana Wen, MD, the Baltimore City Health Commissioner, who leads a staff of 1,000 employees. Since being named to the role in December 2014, Wen has shown a predilection for taking decisive action, perhaps unsurprising as someone trained as an emergency room physician:

  • She led the creation of Vision for Baltimore, which provides free eye exams and glasses to children in grades K-8 in all Baltimore City public schools. She created a partnership with the schools, Johns Hopkins, the glasses manufacturer Warby Parker, and a national nonprofit, Vision to Learn, to make it happen. “That’s an example of directly translating policy into action,” she says.
  • Wen was a pioneer as a public-health leader in issuing a standing prescription for all Baltimore residents to obtain and administer naloxone, the antidote that can save a person’s life in the event of an opioid overdose. “Since then, residents have saved the lives of more than 2,500 fellow residents in the last two and a half years,” she says.
  • She supported the expansion of a program called Safe Streets, which calls upon former felons to intercede and help defuse tense situations in Baltimore. She also employs people who are in recovery from addiction, others who are living with HIV, and still others who learned about lead poisoning from home visits from the health department and now are outreach workers themselves. “It is my obligation as a leader to ensure a workplace of diversity, equity and respect, and it’s my privilege to work with those who are using their lived experience to help lift up others in similar circumstances,” Wen says.

Decisive leadership is at a premium these days. Writing in Forbes, leadership expert Sunnie Giles points out that the increasingly complex world in which we live can be paralyzing for leaders. Those who can adapt, like Wen, and use the complexity as a positive catalyst for their team are poised for success.

 

Decisive leaders should:

  • Accurately define the challenge – gathering as much information as possible in a short period of time from a number of reliable sources, being sure to gain a better holistic picture from all sides of the issue
  • Encourage constructive discourse surrounding the challenge and possible solutions and alternatives
  • Act quickly to set a course of action
  • Support the execution of that action plan by breaking down hurdles and providing additional direction as needed

Download PDF

 

The ER as a leadership crucible

 

Wen’s transition from physician to leader had some elements of a baptism by fire. She was greeted with a measles outbreak erupting at the same time as several possible Ebola cases. Three months after she became health commissioner, Freddie Gray, an unarmed African-American man, died in police custody and riots ensued. In all, 13 pharmacies were burned down or closed. “We had to figure out how to get people food, and how to get seniors their medications because their pharmacies were closed,” Wen says. “We had to figure out how to get people to dialysis, chemotherapy and other life-saving treatments.”

 

Leading her team, in collaboration with city, state, federal, and private sector partners, she figured it out quickly. So quickly that, a year later, the American Public Health Association honored her with its highest award for local public work, the Milton and Ruth Roemer Award. Achievements have come through steely determination for Wen, who grew up as the child of Chinese political dissidents in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood.

 

Nonetheless, she graduated from college at 18, became a Rhodes Scholar and studied at Oxford, and completed her medical training at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital before becoming Director of Patient-Centered Care Research and an attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Wen sees three direct correlations between her ER work and her leadership role now.

 

“Working in the emergency department is all about doing what you can right now,” she says. “That bias to action is the same bias that is necessary in public health where there are so many urgent matters that demand our attention.”

 

The second lesson is “assisting those who are most vulnerable,” she says. The naloxone prescription that has saved so many people from opioid deaths is one example of this, as is providing something as basic as glasses to children who are in need.

 

Finally, Wen says she learned the importance of speaking up. “In the ER setting, you can never wait to speak up,” she notes. “If there’s something that you suspect is wrong, you need to speak up right now. And that directly translates into the workplace. There are many issues we need to speak up on right now, including issues of discrimination and harassment, health as a human right, the cost of prescription drugs, and evidence-based, science-based programs like teen pregnancy prevention.”

 

Even for those not in public health or policy-oriented roles, clinicians can sometimes underestimate the power of their voice in the age of patient-centered care. While it is true that healthcare administrators often have years of mentoring and on-the-job training for executive roles, physicians can be prepared for new opportunities through accelerated physician leadership training.

This type of training allows physicians to gain valuable skills and insights into leadership principles that challenge their core training. By working through real world scenarios, physicians can begin applying these principles right away. In our experience, many notice impactful outcomes within weeks with this type of leadership development and support.

 

The goal is to bring the physician from thinking in terms of their solitary influence on the goal to shift them into leading an enterprise, which takes a much broader perspective. An accelerated physician leadership training uses three phases:

 

Coaching and mentoring – which moves them through the leading self to leading others

 

Collaboration and change management – which transitions them into leading the business

 

Driving systemic change – which allows them to lead the enterprise

It’s no easy task to work through these phases, especially without the proper guidance. The accelerated nature of these programs helps physicians gain in months and years what may have been elusive in that solitary mindset within which they were trained to operate.   

 

Diverse voices matter at the top

 

As an immigrant, Wen experienced vivid episodes that crystallized for her the importance of speaking up.

 

Shortly after arriving in the U.S., Wen saw a neighbor die from an asthma attack; his grandmother was too afraid to call an ambulance because of their family’s immigration status. And the #MeToo groundswell in the last year refreshed Wen’s memory of watching her mother come home from a job at a video store sobbing because of an unnamed incident that occurred with her physically and verbally abusive boss.

 

“I have always thought from that time, that if I’m ever in a position of leadership where I can do something about these things, I need to speak up for her and for so many women who have suffered in silence.”

 

Wen has done just that. She’s proud to have recruited a diverse leadership team. Her Chief of Staff and all three of her deputies are women. She actively recruits from the communities the Health Department serves.

 

Commitment to diversity is a powerful engine to create organizations that are more profitable and thoughtful as they face the business world externally, and catalysts for employee engagement and leadership development internally. Leaders at the top of an organization should not underestimate the power they have to recalibrate an organization’s perspective, because many challenges remain, something Wen knows personally.

 

 “As a minority and a female, I have faced entrenched racism and sexism,” she says.

 

Some are mundane – patients requesting to see the “real” doctor, or CEOs calling her by her first name while addressing her male counterparts by their titles. Some are overt – “at one event, I was introduced as a ‘cute little thing’ and openly questioned on how a female person of color can lead 1,000 people.”

 

How to overcome that?

 

“We must foster a culture of diversity, inclusion and equity,” Wen says. “The key to doing that is for boards and management teams to have diverse leadership. We cannot expect for others to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.”

 

EXECUTIVE’S TOOLKIT: Strategies for physicians moving into leadership roles

 

Looking back, Wen sees several lessons that can help her fellow doctors if they choose to become physician executives leading the entire enterprise:

  • “Be intentional as you consider your move. Working clinically gives you many leadership skills. Channel these skills into leading on a different level.”
  • “Find multiple mentors from within and outside your organization who can help guide you and problem-solve. Gain management experience.”
  • And, finally: “Never forget why it is that you are here: to serve our most vulnerable individuals during their time of need.”

 Download PDF

Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Debra Canales: The best leaders put people first in the mission of healthcare

By | December 27 th,  2016 | Debra Canales, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Catholic healthcare, chief administrative officer, executive vice president, integrated talent, Modern Healthcare, Providence Health & Services, taking risks, women leaders, Blog, chief people and experience officer, diversity, human resources, leadership, medical assistance, mission, Trinity Health | Add A Comment

 

Classic content: One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare for 2016.

 

Shortly before making the move into faith-based healthcare, Debra Canales remembers giving her former boss the business book “Jesus, CEO” by Laurie Beth Jones. He was grateful for the gift – but hid it in a brown paper bag.

 

“He didn’t feel safe,” Canales remembers now. “It was a pretty revealing moment.”

 

Years later, Canales is earning bouquets of accolades for her bold, holistic leadership at Providence Health & Services in Seattle, where the spiritual aspect of healthcare and work is welcomed as a natural byproduct of being human.

 

“What continues to draw me to healthcare is being able to bring my whole self to work as I center myself and think about a bigger purpose,” she says. “Leadership is not just from the neck up.”

 

Canales’ heartfelt worldview is expressed in very tangible ways at Providence, where in just two years as executive vice president and chief people and experience officer she helped achieve a 50 percent increase in women in senior leadership roles. She also led efforts to provide monetary assistance for employees coping with the high cost of healthcare premiums.

 

“I came to Providence because, when I talked with Rod Hochman (Providence’s CEO), he put people as the number one pillar of his strategic plan,” she says. “That was significant. It was a deeply rooted commitment, and part of that was shaping our talent strategy to be reflective of our communities.”

 

The medical assistance program offers free or reduced premiums tied to household income and the federal poverty level. Caregivers (which is what Providence calls all of its employees) who are at less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level pay no premiums or deductibles and are given seed money to cover out-of-pocket costs. Employees at 250 to 400 percent of the federal level get a 50 percent break on coverage.

 

“When we think about extending and revealing God’s love to the poor and the vulnerable, we need to take care of our own and extend that compassionate service to them as well. There has been an outpouring of gratitude and support, especially from a lot of single mothers and fathers,” Canales says.

 

On the practical side, she’s seeing reduced turnover levels as staff members choose to stay, as well as the highest level of employee engagement and satisfaction in a number of years.

 

“It goes back to our integrated talent strategy – we want to lift up our people as one of the most important elements in how we extend our mission,” she says, “We want to continue to build those enduring relationships with our caregivers and take care of what’s important to them so that they can, in turn, extend that experience to all who come through our doors.”

 

The mission of Providence is key to Canales’ passion.

 

“Mission is the number one factor for us,” she says. “In our engagement surveys, people say that is what brought them here and what keeps them here. It’s that yearning for something more in terms of spirituality and connectivity – the charisms of mind, body and spirit. That is certainly what differentiates us from a Fortune 50 company.”

 

Before she became a respected leader in healthcare, Canales had plenty of experience among such corporate heavyweights. She rose through the ranks as a human-resources executive in retail (R.H. Macy’s Inc.), food service (Yum Brands/PepsiCo), and high-tech (Hewlett Packard/Compaq). She moved into healthcare with Centura Health, then spent more than 10 years at Trinity Health, where she rose to chief administrative officer.

 

She’s become known for leading the charge to make human resources valued as a strategic partner for CEOs, for positioning corporate cultures for change management, and for facilitating resiliency. Yet while taking risks has paid off for her, it was not easy, she allows.

 

“A lot of my movement in my career has been to volunteer for the opportunities no one wanted to take,” she says. “I’ve worked for some very strong, driven bosses. I was always trying to work toward a shared understanding – that’s been my whole approach throughout my career.”

 

It’s an approach some would call courageous. In that, she says, she was influenced by her Aunt Trini, the sister of her grandfather, who was the provincial of a convent – a religious woman who had a lot in common with the Sisters of Providence, who began the health system where Canales now works.

 

“I keep her picture near me as an inspiration,” she says. “When things are hard, I look at her photo and it gives me that confidence to do what’s right. One of my hallmark traits is standing on principle. That’s not always been popular. But for me, that conviction and integrity gives me confidence and self-assurance.”

 

Canales says the woman she was in her 20s climbing the corporate ladder is far removed from the peace she now experiences, influenced not only by Catholic faith but also by the teachings of Buddhist nun and author Pema Chodron.

 

“Back then, I couldn’t take as many risks,” she says. “I could not be as vulnerable as I wanted to be. I followed the success pattern to get promoted and, for me, that was what was more important at that time. It was not always authentic. That’s not who I am now.

 

“In the long run, my wholeness is what I value. It’s a freeing sensation to be able to live life in this way, and to help set others free as well gives me such joy.”

 

 

Debra Canales strives to put people first in the mission of healthcare

By | August 17 th,  2016 | Debra Canales, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Catholic healthcare, chief administrative officer, executive vice president, integrated talent, Modern Healthcare, Providence Health & Services, taking risks, women leaders, Blog, chief people and experience officer, diversity, human resources, leadership, medical assistance, mission, Trinity Health | 1 Comments

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare for 2016.

 

Shortly before making the move into faith-based healthcare, Debra Canales remembers giving her former boss the business book “Jesus, CEO” by Laurie Beth Jones. He was grateful for the gift – but hid it in a brown paper bag.

 

“He didn’t feel safe,” Canales remembers now. “It was a pretty revealing moment.”

 

Years later, Canales is earning bouquets of accolades for her bold, holistic leadership at Providence Health & Services in Seattle, where the spiritual aspect of healthcare and work is welcomed as a natural byproduct of being human.

 

“What continues to draw me to healthcare is being able to bring my whole self to work as I center myself and think about a bigger purpose,” she says. “Leadership is not just from the neck up.”

 

Canales’ heartfelt worldview is expressed in very tangible ways at Providence, where in just two years as executive vice president and chief people and experience officer she helped achieve a 50 percent increase in women in senior leadership roles. She also led efforts to provide monetary assistance for employees coping with the high cost of healthcare premiums.

 

“I came to Providence because, when I talked with Rod Hochman (Providence’s CEO), he put people as the number one pillar of his strategic plan,” she says. “That was significant. It was a deeply rooted commitment, and part of that was shaping our talent strategy to be reflective of our communities.”

 

The medical assistance program offers free or reduced premiums tied to household income and the federal poverty level. Caregivers (which is what Providence calls all of its employees) who are at less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level pay no premiums or deductibles and are given seed money to cover out-of-pocket costs. Employees at 250 to 400 percent of the federal level get a 50 percent break on coverage.

 

“When we think about extending and revealing God’s love to the poor and the vulnerable, we need to take care of our own and extend that compassionate service to them as well. There has been an outpouring of gratitude and support, especially from a lot of single mothers and fathers,” Canales says.

 

On the practical side, she’s seeing reduced turnover levels as staff members choose to stay, as well as the highest level of employee engagement and satisfaction in a number of years.

 

“It goes back to our integrated talent strategy – we want to lift up our people as one of the most important elements in how we extend our mission,” she says, “We want to continue to build those enduring relationships with our caregivers and take care of what’s important to them so that they can, in turn, extend that experience to all who come through our doors.”

 

The mission of Providence is key to Canales’ passion.

 

“Mission is the number one factor for us,” she says. “In our engagement surveys, people say that is what brought them here and what keeps them here. It’s that yearning for something more in terms of spirituality and connectivity – the charisms of mind, body and spirit. That is certainly what differentiates us from a Fortune 50 company.”

 

Before she became a respected leader in healthcare, Canales had plenty of experience among such corporate heavyweights. She rose through the ranks as a human-resources executive in retail (R.H. Macy’s Inc.), food service (Yum Brands/PepsiCo), and high-tech (Hewlett Packard/Compaq). She moved into healthcare with Centura Health, then spent more than 10 years at Trinity Health, where she rose to chief administrative officer.

 

She’s become known for leading the charge to make human resources valued as a strategic partner for CEOs, for positioning corporate cultures for change management, and for facilitating resiliency. Yet while taking risks has paid off for her, it was not easy, she allows.

 

“A lot of my movement in my career has been to volunteer for the opportunities no one wanted to take,” she says. “I’ve worked for some very strong, driven bosses. I was always trying to work toward a shared understanding – that’s been my whole approach throughout my career.”

 

It’s an approach some would call courageous. In that, she says, she was influenced by her Aunt Trini, the sister of her grandfather, who was the provincial of a convent – a religious woman who had a lot in common with the Sisters of Providence, who began the health system where Canales now works.

 

“I keep her picture near me as an inspiration,” she says. “When things are hard, I look at her photo and it gives me that confidence to do what’s right. One of my hallmark traits is standing on principle. That’s not always been popular. But for me, that conviction and integrity gives me confidence and self-assurance.”

 

Canales says the woman she was in her 20s climbing the corporate ladder is far removed from the peace she now experiences, influenced not only by Catholic faith but also by the teachings of Buddhist nun and author Pema Chodron.

 

“Back then, I couldn’t take as many risks,” she says. “I could not be as vulnerable as I wanted to be. I followed the success pattern to get promoted and, for me, that was what was more important at that time. It was not always authentic. That’s not who I am now.

 

“In the long run, my wholeness is what I value. It’s a freeing sensation to be able to live life in this way, and to help set others free as well gives me such joy.”

 

 

Page 1/1