CHA gathering explores future direction of leadership formation

January 15, 2016


CHICAGO — The work of those in Catholic health care ministry is no small task: "We're trying to provide quality care, and we're trying to change the world around us," said Fr. Charles Bouchard, OP, CHA's senior director of theology and ethics.

Mary Anne Sladich-Lantz, left, Providence Health & Services' vice president for ministry leadership formation, and Celeste Mueller, center, Ascension's vice president for spiritual and theological formation, contribute to a discussion at a CHA meeting in Chicago about the future of leadership formation.

About three dozen senior-level and mid-level mission leaders and chief learning officers met at a CHA conference on Nov. 12 in Chicago to discuss how to best ensure that leadership formation directly contributes to the essential work of the Catholic health care ministry.

They talked about the key elements and expected outcomes of leadership formation and emerging methods for measuring the effectiveness of formation. They also spoke about ways formation leaders can collaborate on common issues and share leading practices.

Fr. Bouchard gave a presentation called "Five Years to Get Formation Right?" He said much has been done in the past 10 years related to formation in Catholic health care settings, but he said he posed his title as a question to stress the urgency of the work and how Catholic health care systems, facing pressures from a rapidly changing health care environment, need to be strategic in the next few years about leadership formation for the future.

Fr. Bouchard discussed multiple definitions of formation, including the one that Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, senior director of CHA's sponsor services, uses, which says, in part, "Formation is the process of shaping one's perspective — or the lens through which one views life." Sr. Haddad heads CHA's Sponsor Formation Program for Catholic Health Care, which began last year.

There's a difference, Fr. Bouchard said, between leadership development, "which relates to what we do" and the skills and knowledge of a job, and formation, "which relates to who we are."

Formation for a leader of a Catholic health care system involves growing in spiritual awareness. Ministry leaders need to understand the principles of Catholic social teaching and to recognize the virtues rooted in that tradition, among them a commitment to justice and the common good, Fr. Bouchard explained. And he said it is not enough to know about these virtues; a ministry leader must embody the virtues.

He said those being formed for Catholic health care ministry from other faith traditions sometimes worry that a formation program or gathering is intended as a religion class, or as a means of conversion. In fact, he said, formation for a Catholic health care ministry, while rooted in Catholic tradition, often helps those of other religious traditions grow in their own faith and in their abilities to act on behalf of the mission of the health ministry.

He asked conference participants to think of those who work in Catholic health care as culture bearers, a perspective that can clarify the best approaches to preserving, developing and passing on a living culture. Fr. Bouchard said culture is a richer concept than identity. Identity, at its most basic level, could relate to the name of an organization. Culture is "the result of a group of practices and behaviors, beliefs and understanding" that form context and nourish a community, he said.

Drawing from the work of Melanie Morey and John Piderit, who have written about Catholic higher education, he said that culture involves the content of beliefs, values and norms; symbols with shared meaning; people who live and process the culture; and "catalysts," who are the knowledge experts or role models who enable adaptation of the culture.

Measuring success
Bill McCready, senior fellow of evaluation and strategic planning with the Roseville, Calif.-based Ministry Leadership Center, spoke about efforts to measure the outcomes of Catholic health care leadership formation programs.

The Ministry Leadership Center's members include Dignity Health, Providence Health & Services, PeaceHealth, SCL Health and St. Joseph Health. Since 2005, member systems have sent their management leaders, from c-suite executives to division managers, to the center. More than two dozen cohorts, with about 40 participants each from across the health care systems, have completed the center's three-year formation program. Each cohort meets four times a year on-site at the center, and works on collaborative learning through the center's website, McCready said in an interview following his presentation.

Catholic health care systems want to measure the effectiveness of their leadership formation programs in part because they want to evaluate a return on their investment, McCready said. He said while the effectiveness of formation is difficult to measure in terms of a health system's bottom line, the return on investment in formation can be seen in the continuation of the identity and character of the institution. Conference participants said many Catholic health care systems want a better understanding of the connection between formation and institutional identity.

"Evaluation in this context is in its infancy," McCready said. The Ministry Leadership Center developed an evaluation, the MLC Leadership Alignment Tool or M-LAT, with 20 questions evaluating a center participant's ability to synthesize 12 foundational areas of Catholic health care. These include knowledge of Catholic heritage and social teaching, care for the poor and whole-person care. McCready said health care systems outside the membership in the Ministry Leadership Center could use the M-LAT tool. On the M-LAT evaluation, a person self-reports his or her development after a formation program. McCready suggested systems could combine this evaluation tool with 360 degree evaluations, where those who work with the person being evaluated provide feedback on new skills and workplace approaches the person has used since completing a formation program.

During a panel discussion at the conference, Patrick Gaughan, vice president with Catholic Health Initiatives' Center for Formation and Organizational Effectiveness, suggested continuing focus be put on assisting middle managers and frontline care providers with formation that helps them understand the Catholic mission and how they can draw from that understanding in their work. He said if someone works for an insurance company owned by CHI, or does bill collecting on behalf of CHI, those employees need to understand CHI's mission and values and how they relate to the person's own work.

Brian Smith, CHA's senior director for mission integration and leadership, said CHA will consider forming small working groups, conference calls, or another in-person meeting this year to delve deeper into the topics raised at the meeting.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the year that the Ministry Leadership Center began offering formation training to member systems.  This version corrects that error. 


Copyright © 2016 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2016 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.