What has the COVID-19 pandemic taught you about leadership?
COVID-19 reinforced that we must never take our employees for granted. The pandemic exacerbated the ongoing shortage of healthcare workers. While employees have always had options, the labor shortage created a shift in leverage and an emphasis on culture. To attract and retain great employees, healthcare employers and leaders had to increase efforts to value, empower and engage their workforce in meaningful ways. This includes, but is not limited to, paying your people fairly and competitively, leading with empathy, actively listening to and understanding what is important to your employees, and acting on their feedback. Often there is a gap between what a leader and their employees think are solutions.
What has surprised you the most about yourself and your staff during the pandemic?
My focus is on our staff, the true heroes who delivered exceptional care and clinical outcomes to thousands of our patients during the most challenging and uncertain times many of us have experienced. Despite their fear, our staff showed up and gave our patients their hearts, skills and expertise daily. I will always be grateful to our fantastic team for all they do.
What are some questions you’ve learned to ask to improve communication?
Leaders can ask questions to improve communication, but before you ask those questions, you must build a culture of trust. As a leader, you build trust by being accountable, empathetic, positive, transparent and unafraid of having tough conversations. Those trust principles are essential to Encompass Health’s culture and my values as a leader. I encourage and empower staff to share conflicting opinions and we discuss them in a constructive tone and manner. I’ve also found it helpful to gain deeper insight into someone’s initial response to a question if I sense some hesitation or frustration through nonverbal communication.
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How do you work to elevate your staff and advocate for future leaders?
In reality, most of us don’t succeed professionally without the help of others along the way. That’s certainly been the case for me. I’m fortunate to have had great mentors and people who took chances on me, which helped pave the way to my current success. As a leader, that’s something I try hard to replicate.
Who is your role model within and outside of healthcare?
Many people have served as my role models both inside and outside of healthcare; it’s difficult to choose just one. In addition to my wife, who’s made my career possible, I have a deep level of respect and admiration for my twin brother. He’s a police officer who’s won numerous awards for his service, and I’ve always looked up to him. His internal strength, fortitude and bravery are a constant inspiration to me.
Meet the Emerging Leaders Class of 2022